Shaun, a 27-year-old product lead at Syngenta in Warman, Saskatchewan, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in February 2013; the longtime forward, who played for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants and Tri-City Americans before attending University of Saskatchewan and playing four seasons with the Huskies, was diagnosed on a Sunday and was under the knife Monday morning.
The husband and father of a 10-month-old boy avoided radiation and chemotherapy and remains cancer free today. He is now an advocate for men’s health and Shaun’s message has been heard loud and clear by Linden, who is hoping to pass it on to you.
“The key thing was that he caught it early,” said Linden, who is four years younger than Shaun. “That was a tough call to get when he told me he had cancer, but knowing that he caught it so early reassured me everything would be okay.”
The Vey family has a history of cancer with Linden and Shaun having lost their grandfather to prostate cancer in 2009. That served as a lesson to the brothers, who took it upon themselves to ensure their health was always a priority.
The stigma surrounding men’s health is that going to the doctor shows weakness, could result in shame and embarrassment, and displays vulnerability, which isn’t manly.
Shaun’s cautionary tale is proof that regardless of sex, one’s health should always be top of mind, even in the dressing rooms of macho hockey players.
“Nobody ever wants to find out they’re sick, but you can’t be afraid to go in and get checked,” said Linden. “Fear is what leads to a lot of treatable things going undiagnosed and maybe getting a lot worse.”
While Linden isn’t in favour of knee-jerk reactions for every hangnail, remaining active, living a healthy lifestyle and visiting the doctor regularly are vital.
Then, if a situation like Shaun’s arises, support from family and friends is as important as anything.
“Family is a huge thing and finding a great support system makes a big difference. We all stuck together when my grandfather was sick and I think that really brought us together as a family. My brother and I definitely got a lot closer and I think that experience helped us when he was diagnosed.”
October is Hockey Fights Cancer month in the National Hockey League with teams and players sharing stories similar to Shaun’s; the Canucks will support the initiative this Sunday, October 26th, while hosting the Washington Capitals.
The goal of Hockey Fights Cancer is to raise money and awareness for national and local organizations involved in cancer care and research. Together, the NHLPA and NHL will distribute more than $200,000 in grants to national and local cancer organizations in all 30 NHL markets, the Canucks will also donate $5,000 to the Canadian Cancer Society’s Camp Goodtimes, which provides a unique summer experience for children and teens with cancer and their families.
In-game on Sunday the Canucks will use lavender tape on their sticks and sport decals on their helmets, while management, coaching staff and team broadcasters will be wearing lavender Hockey Fights Cancer ties to show their support.
Around the arena, Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Movember, and Prostate Cancer Canada will have display tables in multiple locations on the concourse and Hockey Fights Cancer ties, socks, hats and practice jerseys will be available from the Canucks Team Store.
For more information on the league-wide Hockey Fights Cancer program, please go to www.hockeyfightscancer.com.