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Support not high and dry

Saturday, 20th June, 2020

(From left) Sandra Gordon-Smith, Lee Johnston and Adrian Kent-Johnston display some of the magnificent prizes on offer at the upcoming fundraiser for ovarian cancer awareness. PICTURE: Annette Northey (From left) Sandra Gordon-Smith, Lee Johnston and Adrian Kent-Johnston display some of the magnificent prizes on offer at the upcoming fundraiser for ovarian cancer awareness. PICTURE: Annette Northey

A local high tea for ovarian cancer awareness, cancelled in March because of coronavirus restrictions, will go ahead as planned when guidelines allow.

The high tea, for which 125 tickets have been sold, is being organised by a handful of passionate and dedicated local supporters who are working busily behind the scenes to ensure the event is successful in raising awareness for this insidious disease.

Brendan Barlow has donated the venue, the Old Brewery, for the cause and the event will be hosted by none other than Shelita Buffet.

The organisers are just waiting for the government to lift restrictions so it can go ahead, and once they have a date will give ticketholders plenty of warning by advertising well ahead of time. At this stage, they are hoping the high tea can go ahead around September.

The venue will be humming with excitement with entertainment, multiple raffles, a lucky door prize, a complimentary glass of champagne on arrival and guests enjoying lovely home-cooked food.

A beautiful quilt, handmade by the cousin of a local ovarian cancer sufferer, Lee Johnston, will be one of the highlights of the raffles, alongside other generous donations such as artworks by John Dynon. 

There has been great support for the event with generous donations from businesses in Mildura and Adelaide, many local businesses, and food/cooking ingredient donations from Lee’s gym friends.

Guests will be treated to performances by two local singers, who will both sing two songs.

Locals will be familiar with local man Adrian Kent-Johnston, Lee’s son, who has swooned audiences on various occasions with his beautiful tenor. He will sing an Andrea Bocelli number ‘Champagne’, and Jazz/Swing number ‘One for my Baby’.

Philharmonic Choir member and Lee’s friend Sandra Gordon-Smith, will entertain with the uplifting and positively appropriate ‘On Top of the World’ and ‘Georgie Girl’.

Funds raised at the event will be donated to Ovarian Cancer Australia and will go towards supporting women living with ovarian cancer, to enable them to seek medical help.

Lee knows first-hand the importance of fundraising for support. When diagnosed in 2014, there were no (specific) known supports for sufferers of ovarian cancer and Lee was at a loss for where she could turn.

If not for a sheer stroke of luck earlier this year, Lee might still be in the dark. After being told in January that her cancer had returned for the third time, she was browsing the comments on the OCA page and happened to ‘like’ and comment on the post of another woman with ovarian cancer who said her cancer had returned. 

Lee’s comment to that post was that her cancer had also returned also, for the third time. 

Soon after, an OCA nurse who had been trawling the comments reached out to Lee via Facebook Messenger to offer support. 

Now, Lee is receiving incredible support from OCA.

“They are a great support,” Lee said.

“They call you every three to four weeks.

“They also keep in touch with your oncologist.”

Lee said OCA offers other services such as dealing with the psychosocial aspects of having ovarian cancer, and also support for family members affected by it. She said she hasn’t had to access those because she has wonderful, supportive family and friends around her.

Lee tries to stay on top of things by exercising regularly and was attending classes at the gym with friends before the shutdowns. She recommends that people with any sort of cancer exercise regularly, as it makes a difference when you go into treatment.

“Anybody with any type of cancer should exercise, it’s important,” Lee said.

Ovarian cancer is beginning to emerge from the darkness as more and more advocates push to bring the message into the light.

This month, the work of ABC Newcastle broadcaster Jill Emberson, who died from ovarian cancer in December last year, was recognised by being posthumously awarded an OAM for service to people living with ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer, also referred to as the ‘silent killer’ has few symptoms that are distinguishable from other complaints, and many women are not diagnosed until they are in advanced stages of the disease.

The Ovarian Cancer Australia website says there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer, so all women need to be aware of the symptoms. 

According to OCA, the most commonly reported symptoms for ovarian cancer are: increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating; abdominal or pelvic (lower tummy) pain; feeling full after eating a small amount; needing to urinate often or urgently.

Additional symptoms: changes in bowel habits; unexplained weight gain or loss, excessive fatigue; lower back pain; indigestion or nausea; bleeding after menopause or in-between periods; and, pain during sex or bleeding after.

OCA says it’s important to remember all the symptoms mentioned can be caused by other, less serious medical conditions. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, which are persistent and troublesome, you should see your doctor. They will be able to examine you and if necessary, do further tests to find the cause of your problems.

OCA advises if you are not comfortable with your doctor’s diagnosis or you are still concerned about unexplained persistent symptoms, you should seek a second opinion.

Lee recommends any woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer to get in touch with Ovarian Cancer Australia for support. They can do this via the website https://www.ovariancancer.net.au/, by calling the OCA helpline on 1300 330 664, or visiting their Facebook page.

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