13 December 2022
This month we caught up with PCFA Champion Mrs Elizabeth Allen OAM, member of the Dubbo Prostate Cancer Support Group and secretary of the Combined Prostate Cancer Support Groups (PCSGs) of Rural New South Wales.
Over the past 25 years, Elizabeth has dedicated countless hours to raising awareness of prostate cancer in the community and supporting partners of men diagnosed with prostate cancer through their journey.
In 2019, in recognition of her work, she was awarded a Max Gardner Award by PCFA for her distinguished service to the community.
Elizabeth said she first realised that prostate cancer was a diagnosis that no one could foresee when her own husband was diagnosed in 1996 and had a radical prostatectomy.
“Not long after our urologist at the time rang me at work and said, ‘Elizabeth can you please come to the surgery as soon as possible as I have bad news for a couple, and I would like you to support the wife’. This was not so long after my husband’s own surgery and from there I saw a great need for women to be involved and their need to be supported,” she shared.
“We recognised that a support group would be beneficial. There wasn’t a lot of support available for men or women, so we battled on and then became part of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
“We have reinstated a carers morning tea just for the women, which has been very welcomed by those attending.”
Elizabeth has spent 25 years supporting other women and raising awareness about prostate cancer, becoming an Ambassador, travelling more than 25,000km around New South Wales and doing more than 130 awareness presentations in regional, rural and remote towns.
She said her role has been to listen and provide support, and she now draws from many years of experiences when connecting to other partners.
“We listen to others and how they cope but are also there to help them through their journey from my experiences and others I have heard of,” she shared.
Elizabeth said she has observed that one of the biggest challenges that partners face is learning to understand and cope with the emotional changes that their partner is going through.
“It’s hard for partners/carers to cope with all he is going through, including changes in emotions, and possible changes to their lifestyle. This may include having to now make financial decisions, arrange travel, and feeling like they can’t go out and do the things they have been involved with like coffee, sport or shopping.”
Elizabeth’s continued support of partners and the Prostate Cancer Support Network is a true testament to how much she gives back to the community.
When asked what motivates her to give back, her answer was simple; “The feeling of helping your fellow man is why I do it”.
As for her advice to other women struggling? The first step is reaching out for support. From joining a local support group, to seeing a GP or phoning PCFA’s telenurses for advice – there is help available.
“Try and find a way to see your partner’s worry. You can ask, what is your greatest fear or worry? Then ask how you can help.
“But the most important thing is understanding that you don’t have to support them alone. We are here to help.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to Mrs Allen OAM as Dame Elizabeth Allen. This has now been corrected to reflect Mrs Allen's true title.