24 February 2016

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains): I support the matter of public importance and my colleague, the wonderful member for Swansea, in recognising that Wednesday 24 February is Teal Ribbon Day. I acknowledge the contribution of the member for Cootamundra. Today we wear a teal ribbon as it is the international colour for ovarian cancer. Teal Ribbon Day is a way to demonstrate our support for ovarian cancer research and awareness. It is also an occasion to recognise those affected by this disease. I urge members to get behind local efforts in their community and support awareness-raising events. In the Blue Mountains this coming weekend there is a disco for mums and kids, "Dancing for a cause", that will be held in Yellow Rock on Saturday and on Sunday the Blackheath community will host an "Afternoon Teal" at the Ivanhoe Hotel. I thank Rachel Evans at Ray White, Blackheath, and other amazing locals for their efforts in organising these events.

The personal stories of women who have ovarian cancer or who have a loved one with ovarian cancer attest to the significance of sharing words of wisdom. Today, due to the constraints of time, I pay tribute to one incredible woman, Sue Morrison from the Blue Mountains. Today her sons went to school wearing teal nail polish. Her daughter Kittani, full of love and positivity, regularly holds ovarian cancer awareness-raising events. Sue says:

I always expected to be a doddery old grandma one day but a diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer [OC] exactly two years ago took away that option. I knew recurrent OC was not curable, especially when it recurs within six months of treatment ending, but around a third of women live with advanced OC for five or more years. I have met quite a few of them.

Everyone's story and prognosis is different. It is a tricky cancer that is hard to diagnose and treat because it behaves differently to many common cancers, but its trajectory is somewhat predictable, if not all removable at initial surgery. You can expect multiple recurrences requiring second, third and more lines of chemotherapy, with shorter and shorter periods in between each recurrence, until chemo is no longer effective. Ongoing treatment is often hard on women and hard on their families.

I was recently diagnosed with my second recurrence and will soon start third line chemo. Median survival in this situation is less than a year, considerably less with no treatment, and so far I have been on the wrong side of the median. It is my 57th birthday next week …

That was yesterday.

… and I don't expect to see the next one after that. I am at peace with this outcome and my family is amazingly resilient, but in the limited time I have left I will do everything I can to ensure other women, other mothers, do not have to go through the same experience. Ovarian cancer can happen to any woman at any age regardless of medical family history; even in the absence of known risk factors. I had none!

If a woman in your life is experiencing vague but persistent abdominal symptoms plus unusual fatigue, don't panic, but don't delay getting it checked out because if it's cancer it could already be well advanced. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the prognosis. I put off GP visits because I was too busy. Please buy a teal ribbon this week or next at any Chem-mart Pharmacy to help fund research, support and awareness programs. I have still got plenty of fight left in me yet for online environmental campaigning and those politicians won't know what hit them!

Go well, Sue. This is for you and all the courageous women amongst us.