February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of any women’s cancer in Australia – we’re working to change the odds.
Linda’s sudden and unexpected diagnosis
Three years ago, Linda Grebert had no indication of the journey that lay before her. One day, she started experiencing some back pain and stomach soreness.
As the severity of the pain quickly progressed, Linda’s husband took her to the hospital. After having six litres of fluid drained from her stomach, Linda was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer.
“I really had no symptoms, I was working up until a week before I was diagnosed.”
Coming to terms with her new reality
Linda has been on and off chemotherapy for three years and is currently trialling a new type: “I’ve now been told by the oncologist that I have probably 12-18 months to live. I am now trialling a different chemo, and if it doesn’t work this time then I only have six months.
“There’s a big variation there and it was very hard to get my head around. My head was there, but my heart and emotions weren’t coming with it.”
“It’s still very difficult to remain positive at times,” she says. “The main thing is how do I say goodbye to my family?” Linda asks. With 14 grandchildren, three adult sons, and her husband, she says it was a challenge to get her head around everything.
Linda is currently focusing on making memories with her loved ones, creating memory boxes for her grandchildren and planning weekends away with her girlfriends and daughters-in-law.
Linda is also part of Cancer Council’s tele support group alongside other people who are experiencing cancer. “They have been fantastic,” she says. “I would recommend anyone in the same situation to go through counselling through Cancer Council.”
Finding personalised treatments for women with ovarian cancer:
Currently, the survival rate for ovarian cancer is still down below 45%, which is far too low. We want to ensure that less women go through what Linda is experiencing.
One challenge in improving this situation is that there are many different subtypes of ovarian cancer – so, the same treatment doesn’t work for everyone. The exciting thing is that new drugs have been developed to target these subtypes, and they’re ready to be tested in clinical trials.
This year, we are awarding our annual $3.75M Translational Program Grant to Professor Anna deFazio, who is exploring how to better personalise ovarian cancer treatment for Australian women.
Professor Anna deFazio and her team will spend the next five years creating a process to identify the subtype of an ovarian cancer patients’ tumour to match them with an appropriate new clinical trial.
This will ensure that ovarian cancer patients receive treatments with the highest likelihood of success and improve treatment outcomes.
This February, help Cancer Council NSW change the odds for women like Linda by hosting a Girls’ Night In. If you’d like to support projects like this, you can sign up to host a Girls’ Night In this February. Money raised will help fund vital research into women’s cancers, cancer prevention and advocacy programs, and support services to help those affected at every stage of their journey. Visit www.girlsnightin.com.au or call 1300 65 65 85.