By Linda Dillman
A loved one with prostate cancer pushed Canal Winchester resident Linda Hoetger to work to bring awareness of the disease by soliciting proclamations and resolutions around the state.
In June 2009, her husband, Ray, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer at the age of 56.
“I never knew what prostate cancer was until we heard those devastating words, which are taboo to say in public,” said Hoetger. “When we first started on our journey you never heard men or families talking about prostate cancer. I knew we were not alone and there were other families out there that had this disease. I am grateful that Ray was one who wanted to share our journey in hopes that we could also help families on their journey.”
Hoetger said she saw proclamations and resolutions for other cancers, but when she started searching for ones for prostate cancer awareness in Ohio, she only found a few.
“There needs to be more education about the disease,” said Hoetger. “One misconception is that it is an ‘old man’s disease.’ That is not true. I did not consider my husband an old man at 56. We have friends in their 40’s with a diagnosis of prostate cancer. And have a friend who lost her son in his 30’s who died from the disease. Prostate cancer does not care about your age or race. It will strike at any time.”
In September 2013, she asked Governor John Kasich’s office for a Resolution for Prostate Cancer Awareness, but when told there were none, she asked what she needed to do to change the situation.
A year later, the first resolution was written. Hoetger continues to have one signed every year. She pursues the same official recognition with cities, villages and townships and shares her story in emails as the wife/caregiver of a prostate cancer survivor.
“Every time I found an email for an elected official, I had a letter drafted up and would send it to all the elected officials –mayors, council members and trustees,” said Hoetger. “The first couple of years, only a few participated, but now it is growing more and more with each year.”
The couple attends city council meetings for readings and proclamations, such as a recent proclamation read by Canal Winchester Mayor Mike Ebert on Sept. 4.
“We were one of the first to help you get this going,” Ebert told Hoetger.
According to Hoetger, Ohio now has over 200 entities supporting September as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
“Not only are the council members hearing the proclamation being read, residents in the audience are also hearing this and have come to us after and said, ‘Thank you’ and know they are not alone,” Hoetger said. “Some have said they are ready to share their journey now.”
Madison Township Fire Chief Jeff Fasone said he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015, close to his 50th birthday.
“I was devastated, especially after reading about it on the internet,” said Fasone. “There is some pretty scary stuff out there.”
Armed with information from a friend who had gone through the same situation and options provided by his surgeon, his prostate was removed on his 50th birthday in August 2015.
“The surgical team sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me as they were putting me under,” said Fasone. “Due to the nature of my work, I was off for a few months. A less labor intensive occupation could have returned sooner. There are three time periods that prostate cancer generally returns if it is going to, those being two, four and 10 years out. I have passed the two year mark.”
Fasone said a PSA test is a simple blood draw, which he strongly recommends to any male over 40. According to the National Cancer Institute, the PSA test measures the level of prostate specific antigen in the blood. The level is often elevated in men with prostate cancer.
Building on her grassroots efforts, in 2018, Hoetger started sending emails to county commissioners, House of Representatives and members of Congress asking for their support. Many times she received an email back citing the impact prostate cancer had on the
representative or their families.
“Other families across the nation have asked for my help in getting proclamations and resolutions in their states,” said Hoetger. “I hope that one day families across the nation will know the support that has grown for prostate cancer awareness.”
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the ZERO Cancer Website. Click on ZERO’s Heroes and scroll down for a video on the Hoetgers.