IN THE two years since Jill Emberson left local airwaves to receive treatment for ovarian cancer, the radio presenter has been dealt some devastating blows, setbacks and disappointments.
But despite a terminal diagnosis, and being mid-way through another round of chemotherapy, Ms Emberson has returned to work at 1233 ABC Newcastle to record a podcast about the disease.
“It will be the first regional radio podcast for the ABC,” she said. “It’s very exciting.
“And it’s quite amazing and coincidental that I started back the day before World Ovarian Cancer Day on May 8.”
Major surgery and “brutal” chemotherapy followed Ms Emberson’s initial diagnosis, but the cancer came back within a year.
Her participation in a clinical trial of a new immunotherapy drug did not work.
Then in September 2017, Ms Emberson had emergency brain surgery after the cancer spread to her brain – signalling that it had progressed from Stage 3 to Stage 4.
A tumour was discovered after Ms Emberson was rushed to hospital after she collapsed on the floor.
“I was lucky. The Hunter health system saved my life that day. It was very scary,” she said.
“This chemo I am having now is nowhere near as heavy as the initial chemo, and that’s because they know they can’t save me now.
“What they are trying to do is knock the disease back so that it doesn’t grow rapaciously, but so I can still function.”
She does not know how long she has left, but she is making the most of it, and is hopeful of a cure.
“At the point I am at, they don’t like to give you a time,” she said. “I am not that unwell yet. The fact is, only 40 per cent of women who get this live beyond five years.
“But there is great research being done in this field. It is still desperately underfunded, and it is still the number one reproductive cancer that kills women, but there have been great strides forward in research – even right here in the Hunter from awesome HMRI researchers like Dr Nikola Bowden. I am hopeful that I could be on the first wave of women to take advantage of that new research, rather than the last wave of women that miss out on it.”
Ms Emberson will marry her partner, Dr Ken Lambert, later this year.
“I proposed to him when I came out of brain surgery,” Ms Emberson said.
“My beautiful daughter is going to give me away.”
As well as the podcast, Ms Emberson is spreading the message by speaking at various events and participating in information days such as the Survivors Teaching Students event at NEX Centre on May 23. She urged women to listen to their bodies.
“We shouldn’t still be having the same treatment for this cancer that we had back in the ’70s,” she said. “But until there is a cure, the best thing we can do is get diagnosed a bit earlier and hopefully have a better outcome.”
Ms Emberson has been walking 10,000 steps a day throughout May to raise money for ovarian cancer research and support.
After day one, she had already reached her fundraising goal of $5000, and has since raised the target.
“Doing that dovetails with me staying fit, and keeping my spirits up,” she said.
Ovarian cancer symptoms can include abdominal or pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating, the need to urinate often or urgently, and feeling full after eating a small amount.