A Caregiver’s Perspective

Caregiver creates ‘nutty’ advocate to raise prostate cancer awareness

She was only 19 years old the first time she met Ray, but Linda Hoetger knew immediately that he was the love of her life. She vowed to love him in sickness and in health, and exactly 26 years after their first date, sickness arrived. Linda immediately became a caregiver, and fighting Ray’s cancer became the couple’s full-time job.

Prostate cancer is not just a man’s disease; it’s a couple’s disease, and we had too many questions and not enough answers after Ray’s diagnosis. We looked for co-ed support groups but didn’t have much luck until we finally found Us TOO International, a group that welcomed us both and sympathized with what Ray and I were going through.

I knew immediately I was going to need to get support if I was going to be of any help to him.

In 2009, doctors removed Ray’s prostate and found that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. He should have started radiation right then and there, but he wasn’t listening or just didn’t want to hear that he still had cancer.

As a caregiver, I had to keep reminding myself that this was his cancer and all I could do was just be there for him, not tell him what to do. So, I went with him to his appointments and organized all of his medical paperwork in a notebook that we took with us to his appointments. I basically just did whatever I could to make life easier on Ray.

Following his surgery he received hormone therapy, which never made him sick, but did come with a few side effects. He had some hormonal changes like hot flashes, but we just slept with a fan—even in the dead of winter!

A lot of men deal with a loss of bladder control after prostate surgery, so we joked that he just wasn’t housebroken yet! We also dealt with erectile dysfunction, but to be honest, sex doesn’t really matter to me. He’s here and he’s alive. I’d rather have my husband than an active sex life.

I’m so very proud of all that he has accomplished and endured during his battle with prostate cancer. He’s not afraid to talk to anyone about his ordeal, and I learned that we’re both stronger than we had ever realized.

Because so many people are comfortable talking about other types of cancer and no one wants to talk about the poor prostate, our goal is to help this disease get the attention and publicity it deserves—which is how Petey the Prostate Crusader came to be. A healthy prostate is the size of a walnut, so I got out the glue gun and started making these nutty characters that we send out to raise people’s spirits and awareness.

Over the years I’ve made and gifted hundreds of versions of Petey, who recently shared his Proclamation for Prostate Cancer Awareness month on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. In preparation for National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month this September, Petey’s been busy delivering proclamations to all of the mayors in Ohio in the hopes of making this a statewide event, and so far more than 100 cities and villages are on board!

Although we keep ourselves busy, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t worry about the cancer coming back. That’s the hardest part about this disease: the uncertainty, not knowing what’s going to happen next. Now that Ray is cancer-free, we go in every three months to take a PSA test and we both hold our breath until we get the results ... then we celebrate. We’ve been together for a long time, so I just continue to believe that everything happens for a reason and that we can deal with anything as a team.

Click here to read Ray’s story.

To keep track of Petey’s progress, find him on Facebook or visit his blog at: http://peteytheprostatecrusader.com.