JILL Emberson is “overwhelmed” to be named Newcastle’s Citizen of the Year for 2019, saying she “would never have seen myself as the kind of person” to be included in the illustrious company of past winners.
“I’m thrilled,” said Ms Emberson, who was the morning presenter on 1233 ABC Newcastle and now works part-time as a reporter.
“It makes me very happy and humbled.
“To be included alongside people who have done great things – look at Sister Di [Santleben], she taught me as a girl at school and is a total legend – I don’t see myself or what I have done at that level.”
Ms Emberson has been recognised for her contribution to both journalism and ovarian cancer research advocacy work, which she said “makes me especially happy”.
“I’ve done a lot of advocacy around the cancer, but I don’t want my whole life to be defined by my cancer – it’s just a small and tragic part of a great life.”
Ms Emberson recorded a podcast last year called Still Jill about her fight with the rare disease.
She said about 1500 Australian women receive a diagnosis every year but the survival rate has been stuck at 45 per cent for decades.
“It has poor outcomes because not enough is known about it, therefore not enough money is spent on it,” she said.
“It’s a smaller number [than breast cancer patients] and we simply die too soon to form an army of advocates. I have a microphone and I’m still quite well – I was driven to do it.”
She received her diagnosis in February 2016 and underwent surgery and chemotherapy, but it returned.
She had emergency brain surgery in September 2017 after the cancer spread.
It has returned for the second time, appearing in her paraaortic lymph nodes, and she will meet with her oncologist next week to discuss treatment, which could include participating in a clinical trial for a new drug.
Ms Emberson has listened to only half her podcast.
“It’s too hard,” she said. “I live mostly in denial and my counsellor said ‘That’s how you cope, that’s how you keep living the life you’ve got’.”
But countless others have relished it. “I’ve had so many women track me down through Facebook, email and friends of friends to thank me for doing it,” she said.
“Some said ‘I sat and listened with my mother and it really helped us deal with what was happening in our family’. There is nothing like that about this cancer, that really humanises it.”
Ms Emberson would like to incorporate some of their experiences in a future second series. For now, she continues to call for better treatment.
“Back in the 1970s breast cancer was in the same boat, nobody was paying attention to it and then women started speaking out and saying ‘This isn’t good enough’.
“If it happened for breast cancer, we can do it for ovarian cancer.”