Those who know Shepparton’s Damien Stevens would recognise his familiar smiling bearded face.
But what they may not know is that when he was 26, Mr Stevens was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
‘‘It’s been 12 years since I had my bowel tumour removed,’’ he said.
The well-known Shepparton identity will reveal a squeaky-clean chin ahead of December for a good cause as he prepares to take part in Bowel Cancer Australia’s Decembeard campaign.
This December, men are being asked to either grow a beard or decorate the beards they already have to raise awareness and much-needed funds for the charity.
Mr Stevens encouraged locals to sign up for the initiative and said both men and women could participate in the campaign by making their own fake beards.
‘‘There are things women can get to stick on their face and there’s even a stubble option if you can’t grow a beard,’’ he said.
Mr Stevens said it was important to remember bowel cancer was not an older person’s disease, something he had not considered before his diagnosis.
‘‘It wasn’t for a couple of years before they found the tumour,’’ he said.
‘‘And it was the size of an orange.’’
After having the tumour removed, Mr Stevens said he did not require chemotherapy and now has regular colonoscopies every three years to check his bowel health.
‘‘The surgery was pretty simple but it did take me a full year to get my core strength and sense of independence back,’’ he said.
According to Bowel Cancer Australia, more than 8000 men will be diagnosed with bowel cancer this year, and around 560 (seven per cent) of them will be under the age of 50.
This was reiterated by Goulburn Valley bowel cancer support nurse Katie Emanuelli who said statistics have shown an increase in the young people diagnosed.
‘‘In 2003 there were 900 people diagnosed with bowel cancer aged under 50 years and in 2013 there were 1300 people under 50 years,’’ she said.
According to Bowel Cancer Australia, during the past four years thousands of men around Australia had supported Decembeard.
By raising funds for Bowel Cancer Australia, the charity can provide information and support services to the thousands of Australians affected by bowel cancer each year.
For more details or to register to participate, visit www.decembeard.org.au