On Saturday 15th August, Bethany Ryan and Eve Yorke cut their hair to raise funds for ovarian cancer research, in the name of Bethany's mother, Mary-Anne. They never expected to see the immense groundswell of support from their friends, family and extended community, as they sought to "do it for all women, everywhere".
I decided to fundraise because, after my Mum was diagnosed, I learnt that ovarian cancer needed significant funding for research into new treatment options since they haven’t changed in 30 years, and to develop an early detection test to improve survival rates. I would do absolutely anything if it meant my mum could be well and stay well, I know all of our family feels this way too. I needed to act, to make a difference."
A shock diagnosis
In late November 2019, Mary-Anne Ryan was diagnosed with Stage 3C ovarian cancer.
A generally healthy, active woman who spent her leisure time playing tennis, going to the gym, running and practising yoga, she experienced a sudden and acute onset of abdominal pain over 48 hours.
Among her intermittent symptoms were:
- nausea and discomfort after a large meal
- painful bowel motions
- feeling heaviness and pressure in my pelvic area
- episodes of sharp right-sided abdominal pain; and
- extreme tiredness
Overnight one night in late November, Mary-Anne had constant pain on the right side of her abdomen that persisted, preventing her from eating and limiting her ability to sip fluids.
She presented to the emergency department, with A CAT scan and an MRI the next day revealing that she had ovarian cancer.
I had a pap smear one week prior which was clear, however pap smears do not detect ovarian cancer.
Since her diagnosis, Mary-Anne has had 6 rounds of chemotherapy, with a debulking surgery in between. With her most recent chemotherapy finishing in April 2020, she commenced Avastin in July as maintenance therapy and has recently undergone lymph node biopsies to review the progress of her treatment.
A FRIEND IN NEED
Eve Yorke was inspired to shave her head to support her friend Bethany, as she had returned home to help care for her Mum during treatment.
When Mary-Anne was diagnosed, it was such a big shock. I felt for her and her family and wished there was more I could do to help.
I was extremely saddened when I learnt the facts and figures about ovarian cancer and especially that there is no early diagnosis test."
Eve was made critically aware of the need for greater funding for ovarian cancer research, as well as the fact that women in her community and around the world, likely knew very little about the disease. This realisation inspired her to shave her head to raise awareness among her community, whilst raising money for research that can help all women, now and in the future, who are faced with an ovarian cancer diagnosis.
After exchanging a few texts with Bethany, a plan was made and the two committed to fundraising for the OCRF online, smashing their $2,000 fundraising goal within days!
Eve and Bethany live-streamed their hair cuts, giving their friends and family a chance to share in the event via Facebook and Instagram. The result was nothing short of breathtaking for the pair, with their fundraising page displaying before their eyes $12,830 raised for ovarian cancer research.
I feel incredibly blessed to have a friend like Eve. I have said many times since Mum was diagnosed, that the most positive and beautiful thing about someone being diagnosed with cancer is how amazing the people around you are, how they help and create a network of support. I think times like these bring the best out in people and I love that.
I have really learnt that a small amount of people can make a difference. I want other women living with ovarian cancer and their families to have hope and know there are many people out there in a similar situation who want to advocate for ovarian cancer awareness and research. I want those diagnosed in the future to hopefully find out via an early detection test, increasing chances of survival and to have better treatment options to also facilitate this. We had been thinking it would be amazing to get to one thousand; we are blown away and very excited and grateful to all those who donated and shared our posts."
The OCRF would like to thank Eve, Bethany and Mary-Anne for their incredible support, both in their fundraising and in their willingness to share their story with the community. We were especially thrilled to see Bethany and Mary-Anne featured on the front page of the Colac Herald newspaper, along with an eye-opening and informative piece written by Billy Higgins, raising the profile of ovarian cancer in Colac and surrounds.
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