March 8th, 2022 is International Women’s Day, and today we want to take a moment to celebrate all the wives, daughters, sisters and women who support their loved ones through prostate cancer. We also want to spotlight an inspiring leader at the Prostate Cancer Centre, Linda MacNaughton our Director of Resource & Community Development, who has helped carve the path for women focused on supporting Men’s health.
When Linda first joined the PCC in 2005, below-the-belt issues were not regularly discussed publically. The myth at that time that was circulating was that men need not to worry about prostate cancer as men would die with it rather than from it.
Working in her new profession and focusing on increasing public knowledge about the importance of early detection of the disease, Linda found that the most important message to get out to save lives was for men to get a simple PSA blood test.
Linda continued to survey our community to find awareness gaps from interviewing men, sending out surveys as well as speaking one-on-one. She realized that there was no real knowledge about prostate cancer or the importance of a baseline PSA blood test and she encountered how men were extremely uncomfortable speaking about it.
She believed that much of the reaction was fear of the unknown and how men were often occupied their entire time to work hard for their families rather than being proactive with their own health. Unless a man had physical discomfort they often avoided to seek medical help. However, the only way for man to get the PSA test was to visit their family doctors and get referral to do that.
At this time, the PSA blood test that costed $30. Linda believed that this life saving test should be accessible for all men and petitioned the government, gaining over 1000 signatures to present to a local MLA at the Legislature, to cover the cost of the test for all men.
Linda spent years advocating and hosting public education events throughout the city. She booked Community Centres, Hotels around Alberta to Flames Central. She focused her strategy in reaching men at local venues where they spent their time dining or watching sporting events. Events offered free food and beer to attract men who would then learn from top doctors as speakers during the sessions.
As she felt that they were not enough, Linda went on to the new direction to entice men and get them interested in knowing about prostate health. The idea to get mobile PSA unit that could reach to where the men were led her to get an approval for the first MAN VAN with its “get checked” boxer logo and shorts.
As the old words saying ‘when there is a will, there is a way’. MAN VAN took off and successfully became appealing within our community. Local groups became creative and developed many different fundraisers with our get checked boxers. PSA was becoming a dinner table topic. When the PCC decided to try and set a World Guinness record and hosted an in-house testing event in 2011, we managed to get over 1,000 attendees. Today the MAN VAN is still a success and has tested over 50,000 men. The program has expanded to include both a Rural Van and City Van, along with additional men’s health testing measures and a team full of dedicated professionals
Linda’s journey with men’s health did not stop there. While she was campaigning about the importance of PSA tests to the public, her husband, who was 50 years old, started to track his own PSA result. The numbers continued to rise until they could not be ignored. “This was an unsettling time for me as I worked with men and their families every day with prostate cancer and now it was invading my home life”, said Linda. With the excellent programs that the PCC had developed, her husband was able to get the support he needed and with surgery, he is healthy today and cancer free for 15 years.
As a wife of a prostate cancer survivor, Linda has drawn on her own experiences to provide peer support to many patients’ wives and partners over the years. She advocates for mental health services and intimacy counselling for couples to strengthen their relationship through the prostate cancer journey and believes that a unified approach is key to long term mental wellness for patients and their loved ones.
Linda’s dedication to Men’s health has been key to the success of the PCC and helped save lives of thousands of Alberta men. Her important work has changed the way we approach health care, breaking boundaries and demonstrating true leadership.
The Prostate Cancer Centre now has over 30 employees, 7 rapid access clinics and a multitude of community partners. “I feel very blessed to have worked at a place for 17 years with so many amazing staff members, Urologists, patients and my very special friends, our volunteers,” said Linda.
Please join us in celebrating and recognizing Linda’s achievements and thanking her for her impact to our community!
Learn more about our “couple’s cancer” services and click here.
To learn more about the MAN VAN program, click here.