My beautiful friend Jill Emberson is dead.
Ovarian cancer took her life far too early.
Only a few short years ago I headed to her flat, which she had big plans to renovate. She said she had news.
Sitting in her lounge room, she said "F@#k, I've got f@#cking Stage 4 ovarian cancer."
Neither of us knew much about this hideous disease, but Jill had started to amass information.
She already knew that ovarian cancer took the lives of 1000 Australian women every year. That the five-year survival rate was just 46 per cent. She knew she needed to be very lucky for her treatment to be effective or a miracle cure to be discovered.
Her treatment was the same as it was 50 years ago - debulking surgery followed by brutal chemotherapy.
Jill quickly learned that the chances of a cure were slim, because ovarian cancer is one of the most under-funded cancers. It receives four times less funding than breast cancer.
Upon diagnosis of a terminal illness, many people, understandably, would retreat to focus on their well-being. Not Jill Emberson. She said she would not die quietly and was true to her word. You can see the archive of her loud battle on a new website - jillemberson.com
Jill was a woman of action who looked for solutions. She admired, rather than envied, the work done by breast cancer victims, survivors and researchers in achieving a 91 per cent breast cancer survival rate.
She wanted to work with, not against, other women to also gain those survival rates for women with ovarian cancer, but made no apologies in fighting for funding fairness.
She used her voice, her journalistic skills and connections to carry on the fight of other ovarian cancer victims.
One of the tragedies of this fight is that most advocates with ovarian cancer die and die relatively quickly. Their work starts to gain momentum but dies with them.
One of the tragedies of this fight is that most advocates with ovarian cancer die, and die relatively quickly. Their work starts to gain momentum but dies with them. And so Pink Meets Teal was born.
And so Pink Meets Teal was born.
It is a community of people who have promised Jill they will continue the fight for funding fairness for ovarian cancer.
Pink Meets Teal calls on all women, especially breast cancer survivors, to demand funding fairness for ovarian cancer.
It calls on governments and donors to look below the waist and give researchers the money they need to come up with a screening test, clinical trials and better treatment options for ovarian cancer.
There have been some wins.
The federal government is investing up to $15 million in funding for reproductive and gynaecological cancer clinical trials and announced $20 million for research grants. My understanding is this funding is one-off and will not all go to ovarian cancer.
So, in her hospital bed, a few days before her death, Jill wrote to the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, to ask for an annual allocation of $20 million for ovarian cancer. She died before she could receive his response.
Jill arrived in the Hunter just over a decade ago and quickly adopted it as home. She touched many people in her role as a radio presenter and was a passionate supporter of community initiatives.
In her fight for ovarian cancer funding she has done much to champion the expertise of Hunter-based researchers.
Jill's enthusiasm, sense of fun, courage and willingness to champion other people's causes is one of the reasons why there's such an outpouring of grief over her death.
What can you do to honour Jill and help local women battling ovarian cancer now and in the future?
- Support Pink Meets Teal via its website and Facebook page.
- Join the 40,000 people who have signed the change.org petition for funding fairness.
- Take a few minutes to learn about ovarian cancer symptoms.
While it predominantly affects older women, ovarian cancer kills young local women too. Kristen Larsen died this month aged just 27. She battled for six years. She was a great supporter of Pink Meets Teal and an advocate in her own right.
Two big Hunter voices in the fight for funding fairness are gone. But we can be their voices.
Jill often shared this painful statistic: Today four women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Three will die from the disease.
That could be you or someone you love.