Ovarian Cancer Australia

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Women with ovarian cancer have complex needs. Needs that cannot be addressed solely by their treating clinician. The support provided by OCA offers comprehensive and holistic treatment options, ensuring that no woman with ovarian cancer walks alone.

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest women’s cancer with a 5-year survival rate of just 48%. It’s estimated that this year, 1,720 Australian women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and approximately 1,042 women will die from the disease.

There’s no early detection test meaning women are often diagnosed at a late stage. As a result, very suddenly, women and their families are forced to deal with a poor prognosis, debilitating surgery and, due to the high recurrence rate of ovarian cancer, the fear that the cancer may come back. Women have reported that the mental health tolls of this disease can often be as challenging as the physical symptoms, and women having support in these areas is a crucial part of their treatment.

OCA’s current Psychosocial Team helps to address these challenges. The team is comprised of a Counsellor, Social Worker, a Psychologist, a Genetic Counsellor and an Allied Health Assistant, all specialised in ovarian cancer. Funds from Dry July will ensure these roles can continue to support women with ovarian cancer.

Dry July funding will also continue OCA’s Exercise and Nutrition program. Established in 2022, our Exercise and Nutrition program is a free online resource where women can consult an exercise physiologist and dietitian with oncology expertise to develop individualised plans suited to their needs.

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Nelly's Story

Nelly has always been a career woman. She started her first job when she was 14 and “hasn’t stopped since”. Her career in chemical and environmental management has spanned decades and seen her go from graduating from multiple diplomas to managing multi-million-dollar projects for global corporations – she thought there was nothing that could slow her down.

On top of this, her passion has always been her family, looking after her 3 children, husband and parents.

That was until October 2021, when Nelly was at the height of her career, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

“I’d been experiencing symptoms for over a year. I had a lot of trouble with my back; it felt like something was pushing against my back. The feeling then moved from my back to my stomach. I saw multiple different doctors and it wasn’t until my last doctor did an internal examination that I found out what was causing my symptoms. It was ovarian cancer,” Nelly said.

A week after her diagnosis, Nelly was sent into surgery and underwent a full hysterectomy, a grueling surgery involving the surgical removal of the ovaries.

“I’ve always loved working, so it was hard for me to take a break – you feel like you’re making a difference when you love your job and I was very lucky that I’ve loved every single job I’ve had. I also did not want to let my family down, I have never been sick, I have always been there for everyone. However, following my diagnosis, I had to take time off from everything,” said Nelly.

After recovery from surgery, Nelly underwent chemotherapy.

“Until I was hit with ovarian cancer, I was oblivious to it, I was always aware of breast cancer, but never in a million years did I think I would end up with ovarian cancer,” said Nelly.

“It’s a very lonely illness. Although my employer has been very supportive and I had the support of my husband, my three sons, and their partners – they have been my rock – I still felt isolated with my diagnosis,” said Nelly.

Unable to shake the feelings of loneliness, and desperate for information relating to her illness, Nelly turned to Google, where she came across Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA). She called the helpline and was put in touch with Bridget, one of OCA’s specialist ovarian cancer nurses.

“Bridget changed my life. It was like the sunshine had come into my house. You cannot underestimate her influence and her vitality. She understood exactly what I was going through and made me feel so much less alone,” said Nelly.

“I initially felt very embarrassed about my diagnosis. Now every woman I encounter I tell them about it. I urge them to be in tune with their bodies and if something feels wrong, go to the doctor. If the doctor you have seen does not make you happy, please seek a second opinion, I think that is why I’m still here,” Nelly said.

“There is very little information regarding this illness. It is so important for women to know and understand what a disease like this can do to your body. The changes are emotional, physical and sociological for yourself and for your loved ones,” said Nelly.

Funding from Dry July will enable OCA to continue to service the complex needs women like Nelly face, providing them with the specialist psychological, practical and emotional support they need and deserve.

2021 Dry July funding is helping OCA provide psychosocial support to women when it’s needed most

Your Dry July fundraising in 2021 is supporting our Helpline and expanding our Psychosocial Support Team which provides psychological, practical and emotional support to people diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The newly recruited specialist positions have been filled by Amy (Genetics Counsellor), Anna (Allied Health Assistant) and Margie (Psychologist).

Below is some feedback we’ve received from people who access our Psychosocial Support Services:

• ‘The compassionate, empathetic, knowledgeable team went above and beyond to help me in my darkest period of this journey.’

• ‘I think it is important to talk and it helps to talk to someone who is not family or a friend.’

• ‘Your team were there for me when no else was. I am grateful.’

• ‘I know I’m not the only one to feel hollow and sad after loss, that many men do after losing a partner.’

Two of our wonderful ovarian cancer nurses share some thoughts on our Helpline:

Calling the Helpline can be a daunting prospect, but we are so thankful when people do. We know that this call may be during one of the worst times in a person’s life. Whether it is someone diagnosed with ovarian cancer or a concerned family member or friend, we know that by providing a warm and listening ear we can ensure that they no longer have to walk alone.’ - Georgie (pictured) and Bridget

On behalf of Ovarian Cancer Australia – and all the people that reach out to our Psychosocial Support Team – thank you for helping us to ensure that no one with ovarian cancer walks alone.

2021 Dry July funds has enabled OCA to implement a number of vital support services for woman affected by ovarian cancer

Your fundraising for Dry July has enabled Ovarian Cancer Australia to implement a raft of support services which encompass psychological, practical and emotional support to people with ovarian cancer.

The psychosocial approach looks at the combined influence that psychological factors and the surrounding social environment have on an individuals physical and mental wellness and their ability to function.

An OCA research collaboration found that psychological and social issues such as fear around the future and feeling isolated rank highly on lists of concerns for people impacted by ovarian cancer.

With your fundraising support Ovarian Cancer Australia can now:

• Add four new roles to our psychosocial support team: a Psychologist, Genetic Counsellor, Bereavement Social Worker, and an Allied Health Assistant to combine with our existing Counsellor and Social Worker

• Continue our Male Partners Program

• Implement a new Exercise and Nutrition Program

These new support services are filling gaps in our existing psychosocial services, enabling us to address areas of need which we know exist but until now have not had the capacity to deliver.

Michelle is taking part in Dry July for her mother Kim, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer earlier this year

"Every year I have always wanted to do it and I have always found reasons not to - traveling, parties, etc. But this year, the reasons TO do it far outweighed the reasons NOT to. My mum has always been strong and resilient, but this year she has really been put to the test. My Aunty and my uncle are also doing dry July for OCA, so it’s become a bit of a family affair!"

Read Michelle's story: 

The funding from Dry July this year will go towards expanding OCA's support services in allied health, helping people like Susan

Susan, 68, enjoyed travelling to destinations steeped in vibrant colours and cultures. With the trip of a lifetime, Susan spent Christmas of 2018 in Sri Lanka with her beloved husband, Gerhard.

After returning to Queensland in January 2019, Susan started experiencing chronic diarrhoea and a severe cough that she could not shake. The ex-public service union delegate dismissed her initial concerns as just having too much rich food. The cough became so severe that she experienced a bowel prolapse. Susan had been on several courses of antibiotics, but nothing was helping. After five months of specialist appointments, she finally went into surgery to repair the prolapsed bowel, only for the surgeon to discover something more sinister.

When Susan woke up from surgery, the doctor told her they could not operate because they discovered she had stage four ovarian cancer with tumours on her ovaries, lymph nodes, and the lining of her lungs. With a rush to have chemotherapy, it was not until another five months that Susan had surgical debulking to remove cancer and finally treat the bowel prolapse.

Other than the diarrhoea, Susan did not experience any other symptoms. After the initial surgery, she never thought she would wake to the news that she had ovarian cancer.

Knowing the poor outcomes of ovarian cancer can result in women's mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression. Susan now waits anxiously for each blood test and hopes her CA 125 markers remain low.

In the meantime, Susan has been able to seek help for her anxiety through Ovarian Cancer Australia's Support team. "Diane Kenneally from Ovarian Cancer Australia is absolutely amazing. She has been a calming voice, and nothing is too much for her.

"I was so scared and devastated with the diagnosis that it took me months before I could even say out loud that I had cancer. I knew if I said it, then I'd have to believe it," said Susan.

The funds raised during Dry July will help Susan and other women with ovarian cancer, including their families. The wraparound support provides assistance from diagnosis through to mental health and well-being. This support includes a counsellor and social worker, with expansion into three additional support roles: a psychologist, genetic counsellor, and an allied health assistant.

The funding from Dry July will go directly to expand our support services in allied health. Along with our counsellor and social worker, we will also add three new roles in this area, including a psychologist, genetic counsellor and an allied health assistant. These five roles combined will offer women and their families a comprehensive and holistic approach. This will allow OCA to provide support not only on the disease and on treatment but also support women and their families on their mental and social well-being. 

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