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.