Lindy Spicer was 25 years old when she felt a lump on the left side of her pelvis. Apart from a slight unwell feeling it was the only symptom of what was to be a shock diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
That was 30 years ago. Lindy beat it.
She has gone on to raise about $30,000 for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.She has hosted morning tea fundraising events in her home while relatives have turned celebrations and birthday parties into donation opportunities.
“For my 50th I asked for donations, for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah I did as well and for my mother’s 80th,” says Lindy.
Being an OCRF Ambassador means she is regularly reminded of, and asked to talk about, a traumatic period in her life.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” says the now 55-year old. At her 2019 tea party, she was as passionate about awareness as she was about procuring money. “I had a lot of people who hadn’t been before and it was a real eye-opener. People didn’t know about the Foundation, didn’t realise about the symptoms, so this was very good awareness.
In 1989 ovarian cancer was the last thing on the newlywed’s mind. She had married Maurice, a young lawyer, seven months earlier. She was starting up a catering business, which was called, based on her nickname, “Lil’s Cuisine”. Awareness of anything amiss was a vagueness.
I just remember not feeling 100 percent."
It was only when she noticed the lump protruding from her pelvis that she saw a doctor. An operation for a suspected ovarian cyst revealed the cancerous tumour. Lindy thinks not only of the emotions she went through in the next 24 hours but also of what Maurice, also still in his twenties, had to bear.
“I didn’t know until the next day (after the operation) that I had cancer. My husband told me. Maurice came into the hospital. He was unshaven and looked drawn. I said ‘You look terrible, what’s wrong?’
“He was incredible. It was hard for him. He was the one who had to tell me. He was the one who had to be told.”
Lindy’s first reaction was fear of dying. “So my mother said ‘You’re not going anywhere I haven’t been.’ I’m still here and my mother’s still here too.” Ruth Sackville’s positive attitude resonated with her daughter, who emulated her mother’s spirit throughout her cancer treatment.
After one month of chemotherapy Lindy lost her brown shoulder-length curls but remembers continuing to wash and condition the tufts of hair which remained. She also recalls how a hairdresser obtained for her a wig. “I remember crossing the road and saying that if the wind blew this wig would go flying and I’m not wearing it again.
“I bought this fabulous bolero hat. I wore it everywhere. It probably didn’t match with anything but I loved it.” Her treatment involved four chemo sessions as well as surgery.”Because I was only 25 they wanted to save everything so that I could in time have children, which I have and I had them naturally.”
By the end of 1989 she was given the all-clear.
Her first-born, Zach, would be 25 now, but he died a week after birth from a condition doctors said had no connection to the cancer or its treatment. Second son Samuel is 24 and the couple’s daughter, 21-year old Tatum, has done volunteer work for OCRF.
In the past three decades, ultrasounds have not picked up any recurrence of cancer. Lindy underwent a hysterectomy two years ago after a benign tumour was found on her right ovary. Lymphedema, a condition causing significant and uncomfortable swelling on her leg (due to the removal of lymph glands during surgery) has troubled her over the years but is being managed with medical treatment.
The OCRF’s hopes that an early detection test will be found for ovarian cancer spurs Lindy on to pursue fundraising goals. It’s now 10 years since she became involved with the organisation. “It’s been fantastic,” she says.