PAUL Crosbie was glad that November was a mild month - because instead of driving the 10km round trip to Broad Strand, where he swam every day, he decided to go the distance on his bike.
“I wasn’t climbing Mount Everest,” says Paul, who lives in Timoleague.
“Yet it still took some level of commitment.”
Paul did the daily cycle and swam every day in November to support and raise awareness for all men who are dealing with physical and mental health issues. He also grew a moustache to mark ‘Movember’.
“I did it for the lads,” says Paul, 57, father of Jody, 30, and Steve, 28.
“I have two great sons, who stay very fit and both played at a high level of rugby. They have been supporting Movember for a number of years, doing challenges, runs and swims. I never really got involved before.”
“I grow a really terrible mousy moustache!” laughs Paul.
But this year he pushed the boat out.
“In the last year or so, with lockdowns, my wife Sharon and I didn’t get to see the boys that often as they live in Dublin and Wicklow,” says Paul. “Lockdown was hard on everyone.”
Paul had a health scare too.
“Last November, a year ago, I was very lucky. I thought I had suffered a stroke, I lost my speech for 14 hours, it was really scary. I was diagnosed with migraine with aura - though I had never suffered from migraine before - a bad attack can have a serious effect on the senses, hearing and eye-sight, speech loss. It really shook me.
“I was always pretty healthy and had no health issues, but this shook me. I had all the symptoms of a stroke. I was in hospital for three days. It hit home that it could have been a bad scenario. It makes you stop and think… I was very lucky.”
Paul wasn’t out of the woods when he came out of hospital.
“I suffered for months afterwards with post trauma anxiety attacks and I couldn’t breathe properly. It was a horrible experience.
“I think we all know men close to us who have been ill or who struggle in some way. Since I got over my illness I got a bit fitter and got into a regime.”
Paul and Sharon began sea swimming in February last year and have been going every day since.
“It’s been brilliant for our mind and bodies,” says Paul.
“In September, the lads were talking about doing challenges for Movember and asked would I do a challenge too. So I decided to cycle to Broad Strand to swim every day instead of driving there. The bike was a bit of a wreck but I dusted it down!”
Was it a big ask?
“The swim was the easy part!” says Paul. “The cycle was tough some days, but when you think of what some guys go through with cancer and mental health issues, it really was nothing in comparison”.
Paul was motivated.
“I knew I was doing this to raise awareness for men’s health. I didn’t put up a donation link on Facebook, but when people started to enquire about how to donate, I directed them to Jody and Steve’s Movember links.
“There was a huge response. It was incredible. I was taken aback. There was over €1,000 generated to the lads’ fund-raiser link from people I know and even from school friends I hadn’t heard from in years.
“Steve ran his first marathon on the last day of November in the name of Movember. His business, Fad Saoil Saunas, and the Fad Saoil community, has generated over €30,000 and Jody did lots of sponsored runs himself. He had his own target. His aim was to raise €500 euro and I think I helped to get him over the line. That felt good.”
It was a family affair, then
“Sharon came down to the Strand to swim with me and she had my towel in the car,” says Paul. “She filmed me and took photos.
“She also dealt with my wet togs and my moaning about the up the hills wind! Sharon was a great support to me and is my rock.”
Halfway through the month-long haul came a special day.
“November 16 was my kid brother Philip’s birthday” says Paul. “He was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive cancer last December and has been battling his battle. He seems to be doing well, but has been through a really tough time. Philip lives in Germany and he was in my thoughts, he got me up the hill that day.
“November 16, ironically, was also the day I was admitted to hospital last year, so that was an emotional day on the bike.”
How does Paul feel after completing his huge achievement, helping raise awareness about men’s health?
“I certainly feel fitter than I was in October!” he laughs.
“I’m delighted I have achieved something. My boys are dead chuffed.
“November was an incredible month, the experience has been inspiring. Movember is all about the lads. I think the message to get out there for men is to get checked regularly, get your exercise in (if you can) and if you are experiencing problems… talk to someone. That’s key.
“Movember started out originally about getting checked early for testicular cancer, but I think it’s developed into something bigger than that now and it’s about all men being more active and open about their health issues.
“We aren’t great at regular health checks early on or even talking about any issues or problems we may have,” says Paul. “This is about high-lighting how men need to be more vocal about themselves and when things are not quite right, talk to somebody.”
“I am very lucky to have two brilliant men as sons. Jody inspired me to do this in the first place. He is a very brave and an Incredibly talented guy.
“Anyone can struggle with mental health issues, even though it may not look it from the outside looking in.”
Paul is grateful for all the love and support he received during the month of November.
“I want to thank everyone for the goodwill, generosity and support I received,” he says. “I know it was all about the lads, but I must thank the girls too, particularly my sisters for all their messages and donations. I have been really inspired by this.”
The last day of November was a special day for Paul.
“Not least because it was the last day of the bloody cycle!” he says.
“This time five years ago, we nearly lost our nephew, Jason Davenport. He was in a coma battling for his life with a very serious illness and he came out the other side. He’s a warrior, a fighter. Now he is fitter, healthier and a few stone lighter! He was lucky.
“Jason is living a fabulous, happy life in Maine, USA and November 30 was his birthday. “Jason got me up the hill on the last day. I said, ‘This one’s for you Jase’.”