EVEN when Jill Emberson was facing the cruel reality of her ovarian cancer prognosis, she "never wavered in her complete love of this life".
Her daughter Malia Emberson-Lafoa'i spoke at Ms Emberson's memorial service on Thursday - her 61st birthday - of her mother's ability to savour the gift of existence.
"This is my mum's first life," Ms Emberson-Lafoa'i said.
"At 60 she could gush over the smallest pleasure as if experiencing it for the first time, like a newborn.
"From big, beautiful things like her love of Ken, of me, of her family, her fights for justice, to small things, like a cup of really well made tea, a sunset swim at Merewether Baths or the ink flowing from a really great pen."
Ms Emberson-Lafoa'i said her mother had written to her in recent years that 'all we can do in our life is the best for good, our best for the ones that we cherish and our best for what we believe in'.
"Mum showed me that our best is not just the work we do for others, but the approach we have to life, to look at everything on earth as a fleeting miracle, to unreservedly love our family and friends, to fight injustices with raw, unabated ferocity," she said.
"It's a simple but profound lesson gifted over a painfully short lifetime."
When the much-loved 1233 ABC Newcastle broadcaster discovered ovarian cancer was likely to cut her own life short, she became an advocate, co-founding the Pink Meets Teal movement, enlisting breast cancer survivors in the fight for more funding for ovarian cancer research; speaking at the National Press Club, with federal politicians and at awareness-raising events; directing any donations to support Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Associate Professor Nikola Bowden's work in the field; and sharing her experience in her award-winning podcast, Still Jill.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced last April $20 million over five years for research into ovarian cancer with a focus on early detection.
Ovarian Cancer Australia credits Ms Emberson as doing more than anyone else to lift awareness about the deadliest of all women's cancers.
Six weeks after Ms Emberson's December 12 death and she continues to be the catalyst for change.
Associate Professor Bowden announced at the service that money donated to HMRI, Pink Meets Teal and other initiatives would fund the Jill Emberson PhD Scholarship.
"This will support a young researcher to complete their PhD... to work on treatment options for when everything else stops working," she said.
"I'm confident we'll see the [improved] survival rates Jill wanted."
Hundreds of people who love and had listened to Ms Emberson filed into Newcastle City Hall for the service, past a portrait of her in her purple Italian lace wedding dress, and were given Ovarian Cancer Australia teal ribbons.
She'd been announced Newcastle's Citizen of the Year 367 days before.
Speakers shared their memories of Ms Emberson as a vivacious woman who had an infectious laugh, befriended almost everyone she met and was fearless and formidable in standing up for what was right.
Publicly she was known as a storyteller and advocate, but she was, first and foremost, a mother and wife.
Ms Emberson-Lafoa'i said her mother had raised her alone in a small apartment, but created for her a "heaven on earth", and put her "at the centre of her bright and busy world".
She said she found it difficult to write about her mother, so did what she had done so many times before.
"I went to Mum for help," she said. "I started with her letters, beautiful cards written to me on my birthday, long letters dissecting earlier conversations or short silly notes sent just because she loved me.
"There's a wonderful futility in these words and the way neither of us could know how strongly I would cling to her written reflections on life and love just a few short years after they were sent."
Ms Emberson-Lafoa'i said she had read her mother's diaries and learned that while she knew she was likely to die soon, she wanted to protect her daughter from the horror of her cancer.
"On June 8, 2019 she cried inconsolably when she saw a young mum who looked so much like me carrying a baby girl," Ms Emberson-Lafoa'i said.
"On August 17, 2018 she felt a hungry, angry, jealousy at an older woman as she ran after her grandson.
"In September of 2017 she even took a call from me in the back of an ambulance and as I babbled on about unremembered events, she listened and responded intently, not mentioning once that she was on her way to John Hunter Hospital to get a cancerous tumour removed and cut out of her brain.
"Reading her diaries I learnt how desperate she was to answer every one of my calls with a cheery mother tone, no matter how dark she felt."
Ms Emberson's husband, Dr Ken Lambert, read aloud a story about their relationship called The First Kiss, featuring two characters called The Storyteller and The Medicine Man.
He told of them meeting through ABC Newcastle's Treasure Hunter program, falling in love, travelling, forming a family with his four sons and her daughter, receiving her diagnosis and marrying.
"Let us remember the storyteller, her passion, her curiosity, her easy forgiveness, her rawness, but most of all, her huge heart of love and compassion," he said.
"Remember her laugh, remember her stories, celebrate her joy for a good glass of sparkling mead made in a far away land.
"Remember to carry on her quest for a cure of the malady that took her from us.
"Remember most to try and live life as brightly as she did, taking no prisoners and to love recklessly not knowing what lies before us the next day."
Both Dr Lambert and Ms Emberson-Lafoa'i received standing ovations.
Jill Emberson studied communication and was "snapped up" by the ABC.
She co-hosted Triple J's first daily talk show, reported on ABC TV's Quantum, lived in France and served in New Caledonia as the communications officer for the Pacific Women's Resource Bureau.
She worked for Greenpeace Australia Pacific and as communications director for Mark Bouris and Wizard Home Loans, before joining 1233 ABC Newcastle in 2009.
Former station manager Phil Ashley-Brown, who hired her, said she was "someone who liked to name the elephant in the room".
"Jill always sought to make the world a better place."
Ms Emberson's friend of 41 years Amanda Collinge said Ms Emberson was born to a Pacific Islander father and Irish Catholic mother and felt the "sting of casual racism at school".
"As an adult she couldn't abide discrimination of any kind," she said.
"She hated injustice and would always call it out. She was genuinely, consistently, committed to fairness and truth to doing her very best for others."
Indigenous leaders Ray Kelly Senior and Sean Gordon said they met Ms Emberson through her Meet The Mob series.
"She did not just reach our community, she reached right into our community," Mr Gordon said.
"She spoke to people who would not normally get the chance to tell their stories.
"I've never met anyone so determined to go out and learn about us.
"Jill is a one in a million person and I don't know how we will replace or find people to step into her shoes... willing to stand on the edge of some of the biggest challenges and take them head on."
Ms Emberson stepped into a role she never applied for - as ovarian cancer research warrior - after her diagnosis in 2016.
She had major surgery and chemotherapy, but within 12 months it had metastasized to her brain.
Ms Collinge read a letter to Mr Hunt her friend had dictated two days before she died, asking for the $20 million for ovarian cancer to be made an annual allocation.
"I will look upon you from wherever and count those dollars you are investing in ovarian cancer," she wrote.
Timeless Textiles gallery owner and Pink Meets Teal co-founder Anne Kempton went one step further.
"If you consider breast cancer receives $115 million per year and prostate cancer receives $75 million per year, I think ovarian cancer should receive $50 million per year," Ms Kempton said at the service to thunderous applause.
Mr Hunt sent his apologies, describing Ms Emberson as a "tremendous advocate".
Ms Kempton said Pink Meets Teal has a goal of increasing the five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer from 46 per cent to 91 per cent, the same as breast cancer.
She said while local fundraising initiatives had raised $110,000 for Associate Professor Bowden and Pink Meets Teal had collected 47,000 signatures on a petition for fair funding, more support was needed.
The group, she said, was determined to "continue to be a thorn in the government's side".
Ms Emberson had organised much of the memorial herself and asked speakers to be a part of it, including emcee and ABC colleague Dan Cox.
"Once you met her, you very quickly moved from just colleague or just an acquaintance to friends," Mr Cox said.
"It was one of her best traits and just try stopping her. If she wanted to be friends with you, you had no choice."
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