In a few minutes an episode of ABC’s Australian Story about a friend who is very dear to my heart will go to air.
The story – The Good Fight – is about Jill Emberson an ABC radio personality from Newcastle. Jill is an old school friend of mine who was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2016.
By that time, prompted by my mother and brother’s deaths, I’d started my work on the good death. It’s been hard to talk to Jill about this. I’ve been the death lady, while she has refused to concede anything to the grim reaper.
Jill and I talked about her ‘functional denial’ which has allowed her to not only deny the implications of her diagnosis but to fight it. Hard.
In fact she’s out-foxing the old bastard, giving it a good run for its money.
Jill shared with many of us her sense of frustration that research for Ovarian Cancer hadn’t got the attention that research for Breast Cancer has. Then she used her talents and skills as a broadcaster and went public on it.
Jill could have conceptualised this as a cat fight between two women who wanted the same share of the funding pie. But she didn’t. She’s way too big for that. Instead she has campaigned tirelessly to point out to the world that as the funds for Breast Cancer overflow in a cup, cupcake, cupboard full of pink, ovarian cancer has been left behind.
“Hey sisters, what say we do something about it?” she asked, before starting her Pink Meets Teal campaign (teal being the colour for Ovarian Cancer).
Today, interviewed by Wendy Harmer she pointed out that exactly the same surgery is still performed on Ovarian Cancer patients as was 30 years ago. This is not so with Breast Cancer, which benefits from new techniques, developed from new research. This comes from fundraising which comes from awareness. Which Ovarian Cancer just simply doesn’t have.
Jill talks about the moment she realised why.
“Ovarian is the deadliest of women’s cancers – each year in Australia 1,500 women are diagnosed, and 1000 will die,” she told Wendy.
This means that women don’t survive Ovarian Cancer long enough to go on to become advocates to fight for research into it.
So Jill decided to use the time she has left to change that. It’s no coincidence that today, the same day Jill’s Australian Story will air, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced $15 million extra funding by the federal government for research into reproductive cancers.
This follows an announcement of $20 million from Prime Minister Scott Morrison which can also be linked to Jill’s advocacy and lobbying work.
In the words of the ABC’s promo for tonight’s story:
In February, Jill was back in Canberra to give the keynote speech at the Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month launch. The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader sat in the front row, senior politicians behind them.
“Prime Minister, I’d like to thank you for the support you’ve shown us,” she said in her speech, fighting back tears.
“But I need you to know that all of the women like me feel we’re on our knees in trying to advance this cancer and fundamentally that means we need significant sums of money. Four times as much money is spent on breast cancer as is on our cancer.”
Two months later, the Federal Government announced the first substantial funding grant specifically targeted for ovarian cancer — $20 million for research, with a focus on early detection.
To see more on that, go to:https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-09/jill-embersons-fight-for-ovarian-cancer-research-funding/11377396
Her Australian Story tonight continues the campaign.
If you follow the links on that ABC’s website notice something else.
There are a wealth of important articles helping people to negotiate death – which is sadly, so much a part of the cancer story.
Starting with the link “Telling people you have cancer, and how to respond”, will take you through to a series of related articles on ABC Life.
This wonderful series of articles amplifies the way we can all have a good death by talking about death, grief and loss in a way which brings the story and some very important information into our every day lives.
With more information like this generally available, our whole society would be better at managing death. At the moment we tend to say, especially of the elderly, “Well she’s going to die anyway, it doesn’t matter.” But actually, it does. If we can ease pain and suffering right up until the very end, let’s do it.
Because a better approach to death makes for a better life.
Follow these links and many more on ABC Life to learn more.
Telling people you have cancer, and how to respond as a loved one, by Liz Keen:https://www.abc.net.au/life/telling-people-about-your-cancer-diagnosis-and-how-to-respond/10385738
Grief in the workplace: How to handle death, loss and trauma, by Carol Raabus:https://www.abc.net.au/life/how-to-deal-with-grief-at-work/9957264
Support after pregnancy loss, by Olivia Willis:https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2018-05-27/how-to-support-someone-after-pregnancy-loss/9803578
The grief that followed my sister’s sudden death changed me, by Stephen Wren:https://www.abc.net.au/life/the-grief-that-followed-my-sisters-shock-death-changed-me/11289434