I freely admit my struggle to write a summation of Jane’s story. I can’t pinpoint why other than I genuinely believed this woman deserved to be treated with the same dignity and honesty that she herself presented. The image of her standing by a window looking at the life she imagined, seeing the years unfold, the joy of family, creating a family home with her husband, building on an established career while juggling the balance of family life as the children grow or simply in years to come, eating the produce from the fruit trees recently planted. Jane can see it, just can’t reach it. This was heartbreaking.

 

All of us have been touched by Cancer, know someone on the journey, have listened to and been inspired by those courageously and defiantly staring down the barrel of a life not of their choice. Why this story? We wake up every morning one day closer to our last day, we however, live blissfully unaware while Jane knows her time is finite. Yet here she was standing in front of us bravely telling us her story not looking for pity or sympathy instead asking us to learn from her  journey, be more aware, share the knowledge and offering a practical solution for education and research. At 32 when you are told you are slowly dying with 8 to 9 years life expectancy... that is a bitter pill to swallow. How much of that time will be healthy, active time? Jane has volunteered for Land Search and Rescue and Volunteer Ophthalmic Services Overseas in Samoa. She has run three half marathons and likes rock climbing and tramping.

She is is well aware that “we will remember her for one defining characteristic” a relatively rare type of ovarian cancer — low-grade serous 2C and how this diagnosis reshaped her future. 15 Doctor visits, misdiagnoses, made to feel like a hypochondriac, reassured it was not serious and finally emergency surgery at Christchurch ED driving from Wellington to Dunedin to start a new job to remove a 6 cm tumour that had caused her ovary to twist. A fortnight later the Pathology results provided the answer the GP had not seen, a slow growing Cancer associated with younger women, many in their 20’s and 30’s, that does not respond well to Chemotherapy. Jane relies on hormone treatment to try and slow the growth there is however, no cure. Often called the silent disease, Ovarian Cancer is the 5th most common cause of Cancer deaths, a staggering 80% of women are misdiagnosed. In Jane’s case a simple poster on the waiting room wall outlining the symptoms...her symptoms would have changed her fate. A diagnosis at stage 1, curative surgery and her journey would be very different. Jane’s advice demand the ultrasound, pay for it yourself if you have to, seek a 2nd opinion, talk about your ovaries. Her symptoms “initially changes in bowel motions then fatigue and frequent urination, followed by intermittent aches, reduced appetite, an occasionally spasming thigh – various and vague – I now understand it was dependent on what structure the tumour was pushing against.”

The world today for Jane in her own words “life is hard, you live in limbo.” She is a realist with a Maths degree to prove it, she knows what lies ahead, the strength required to just get out of bed, take one step, the vulnerable state her Cancer puts her in. Blissfully there are days when she can pretend it’s not there, enjoy a few hours of normality. As mentioned earlier Jane’s Cancer is a slow killer, no amount of time for research can save her life. This is a fact she deals with, how she has chosen to  deal with it has, obviously, left me speechless. On a positive note, with knowledge, treatments, medication and skills Cancer survival rates have doubled since the 1970’s. Unfortunately only 1% of research funding is given to uncommon Cancers such as Jane’s that affects 3.8% of women, half of these women fighting similar Ovarian Cancers to Jane’s are under the age of 40. Last year at the age of 33, Jane found herself at a crossroads. At an age where other women are are considering the yays and nays of Motherhood vs Career opportunities Jane had to decide what her path would be. How easy would it be to wrap herself in the world of her husband, family, career and favourite pastimes creating memories for those left behind to treasure. NOT THIS GIRL!!! Jane chose to look at the bigger picture, look beyond herself, leave a better place for women to be in...other words Jane chose to FIGHT. Her chosen path? To seek alternative funding, to be the voice for the other women who can’t. With an aversion to computers a website has been developed creating pathways linking to funding structures. Every cent goes to research. This Cancer could be curable. The path is not easy, in fact quite overwhelming, many days it is hard to find the energy never the motivation. The aim is to leave a sustainable financial legacy, the reality runs into the tens of millions, the realistic goal is to find 100,000 people to donate $1, find the $100,000’s first the millions later. Today for Jane this equals hope, gives young women a chance, gives her a reason keep looking beyond herself. Her plea to us as a Club and as an individual is to consider supporting her cause, make the seemingly impossible...possible. Together we can make a difference, get the poster in the Doctor’s waiting room, provide the funding for research, make a difference to the next generation of young women, dramatically increase their survival rate.

 

SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH OVARIAN CANCER:

The following symptoms, when frequent or persistent, are associated with ovarian cancer:

* Abdominal or pelvic pain

* Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating

* Needing to urinate often or urgently

* Feeling full after eating a small amount.

Other possible symptoms include:

* Changes in your bowel habits

* Unexplained weight gain or weight loss

* Bleeding in-between periods or after menopause

* Back pain

* Indigestion or nausea

* Excessive fatigue

* Pain during intercourse.