“I want to live in a world where cancer doesn’t take our family and take our loved ones. I want to live in a world without cancer full stop” said Ms Karen Livingstone, who was a Victorian Finalist for the Australian of the Year Awards.
The Australian of the year Awards honour an exceptional group of highly-respected Australians who ignite discussion and change on issues of national importance.
Karen created a national voice for ovarian cancer patients in 2001 and continues to work tirelessly to raise awareness of all gynaecological cancers.
“I want to live in a world where cancer doesn’t take our family and take our loved ones. I want to live in a world without cancer full stop.” said Ms Livingstone.
For ten years Karen has been a Director on the Board of the Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group (ANZGOG), which enables large-scale multidisciplinary trials in gynaecological cancers. In 2001 Karen co-founded the support organisation Ovarian Cancer Australia.
“Karen Livingstone has been involved with ANZGOG since its inception. She has been a tireless advocate for ANZGOG and for women with gynaecological cancer and their families” said Chair of ANZGOG, Associate Professor Alison Brand.
“We are exceptionally pleased that she is being recognised for her inspiring leadership in promoting gynaecological cancer awareness and specifically gynaecological cancer research” said Associate Professor Brand.
“We need to invest more in medical research, and we need to act more in prevention. They’re the things that will make a difference. So many inroads have been undertaken into personalised treatments and that’s going to be a major change agent for better survival and better quality of life” said Livingstone.
“We need to value prevention before illness arrives. Prevention is much simpler than cure”
Karen lost her mother and aunt to ovarian cancer and has since found that she carries the BRCA2 mutation, which significantly increases her risk of developing ovarian or breast cancer. It also has implications for breast and prostate cancer risk in men.
“I had my first ovary and tube out when I was 36 years old so to reduce my risk of developing cancer and allow my body to go through natural menopause. It’s time now for me to take out my remaining ovary. Having preventive surgery means one less thing to worry about.”
For women who have a BRCA mutation, removing their ovaries and fallopian tubes significantly reduces their risk of developing ovarian cancer.
“I want to live and have a healthy life without looking over my shoulder worrying about cancer. It’s really important to me that I try to do all the things we know to be very important to prevention.”
“Through Karen’s experience with her mother’s cancer and her personal increased risk of cancer she has become extremely knowledgeable and a passionate advocate” said Professor David Bowtell, head of the Cancer Genomics and Genetics program at Peter Macallum Cancer Centre and member of ANZGOG.
“Karen plays an important leadership role in ANZGOG the peak body for gynaecological cancer clinical research.”
Community representative Lisa McLean lost her mother to ovarian cancer and through that experience formed a strong bond with Karen and has nominated Karen for the award, “after losing her mother, father and husband to cancer, Karen Livingstone turned her personal tragedy into a force for public good”.