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Want to show your support and help raise funds for women with ovarian cancer? On Friday 8 May, women from around Australia are invited to join in a special #FernwoodLive session wearing #overies4ovaries underwear over their active wear to help raise awareness for a disease that more than 1500 women are expected to be diagnosed with this year.   

There is currently no early detection test for ovarian cancer – a cervical cancer screening test does not detect ovarian cancer (Source: Ovarian Cancer Australia). According to Ovarian Cancer Australia, signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer most commonly include “abdominal or pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating, the need to urinate often or urgently, or feeling full after eating a small amount.”

“It is important to remember all the symptoms mentioned here can be caused by other, less serious medical conditions. However, if you have any of them, you should see your doctor, particularly if the symptoms are persistent and troublesome. They will be able to examine you and if necessary, do further tests to find the cause of your problems,” says Ovarian Cancer Australia.

As women, it’s important to show our support for women with ovarian cancer, and women who have sadly lost their battle, as well as those people close to them. Ahead of World Ovarian Cancer Day on May 8, Elsa Larsen shares her sister Kristen’s story and how her advocacy and actions will continue to inspire and provide hope for others for years to come.

Please be aware, this story touches on emotive and sensitive topics, including cancer and death, which some readers may find distressing. Always consult your GP, medical specialist, or mental health specialist, for health-related advice. If you, or someone you know, needs crisis support, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14. For urgent medical attention, phone 000 immediately.

“Sometimes it feels like yesterday that my little sister Kristen and I were boarding the plane and embarking on the adventure of a lifetime- we were moving to London. We had soon settled in and landed our dream jobs. We worked hard during the week and explored London and the rest of the UK and Europe on the weekends. 

Just months after Kristen’s 21st birthday, she began to notice that she was feeling somewhat bloated and fatigued and feeling full quickly after eating. She didn’t think too much of it, as surely it could be explained by her enthusiasm for food and leading a busy lifestyle. Subtle pains were also beginning to arise, and one morning Kristen felt an alarmingly sharp pain in her belly and decided to go to the GP. 

Despite administering two failed pregnancy tests, the doctor suspected it must be appendicitis and sent Kristen off to the hospital to have her appendix removed. We thought this was quite an exciting adventure, however, once Kristen awoke from her “surgery” everything changed. We were told the surgeon could not even see Kristen’s appendix, instead her entire abdomen was riddled with tumours. An MRI scan and biopsy pathology confirmed that Kristen had Stage 3C Low-Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer. 

To be told this at age 21 was a complete shock. Kristen had no risk factors or family history relating to cancer. We were also horrified to learn that there was no screening for this cancer. It meant her routine pap-smear exams, as well as her Gardasil vaccinations had no bearing at all. 

We learned that the cancer had spread well beyond her ovaries and womb, throughout her large bowel and abdomen up to her diaphragm and liver and that it was unlikely that Kristen would survive. 

Facing this news, Kristen was determined to do everything she could to stop this cancer from taking her life. She endured an 11-hour operation and months of chemotherapy. For a little while, Kristen was cancer free. However, like the majority of women with Ovarian Cancer, it came back and was then deemed incurable. For six years, Kristen tried just about every available treatment including more surgeries. 

With each new treatment regime, she knew that her time here on earth would be short and it was important to make her life count. Kristen found meaning by tirelessly volunteering her time to share her story to raise awareness and funds for Ovarian Cancer. She wanted people to be aware that there is no screening test and to know the signs and symptoms. She was also extremely passionate about raising funds for research so that women in the future will have better options for treatment. 

I am so proud of my sister and the person she was. Kristen somehow managed to turn the darkest of times into something positive and to help others. She became an advocate and role model in the Ovarian Cancer community, proudly wearing teal from head to toe. 

Kristen and I absolutely loved being a part of the Ovarian Cancer Australia/Bonds Overies for Ovaries campaign last year. We celebrated World Ovarian Cancer Day by sporting our Overies around all the iconic Brisbane landmarks and dressing Kristen’s chihuahuas up too! 

Kristen’s final advocacy project was to launch her own podcast, Ovarshare so do check it out to learn more about Kristen’s story and other inspiring stories of fellow young women with Ovarian Cancer.”

World Ovarian Cancer Day is on Friday May 8. It is an opportunity to create global awareness about ovarian cancer. Fernwood Fitness will be uniting with Ovarian Cancer Australia to hold a special, online workout on World Ovarian Cancer Day on Fernwood Fitness’s Facebook page at 7.30am AEST Friday May 8 and we’d love you to get involved.

How to get involved

STEP 1: Purchase your #overies4ovaries undies from BONDS, Jockey or Bras N Things who will donate 100% of the profits to help support women with ovary cancer. Head to Ovarian Cancer Australia's website to find out how to purchase.

STEP 2: Rock your #overies4ovaries over your activewear during our #FernwoodLive aerobics workout at 7.30am AEST to help us spread awareness for this important cause.

Always consult your GP, medical specialist, or mental health specialist, for health-related advice. If you, or someone you know, needs crisis support, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14. For urgent medical attention, phone 000 immediately.

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