Celebrating her ten-year survival milestone during #GynaecologicalCancerAwarenessMonth, Consumer Research Panelist, Lisa Finucane, advocates for ovarian cancer awareness and pioneering research to hopefully one day find a cure.

Lisa was diagnosed with Stage 3 Low Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer (LGSOC) in November 2010, aged 47. Slightly swollen ovaries at her annual check-up in July hadn’t seemed too significant, and she didn’t rush into the ultrasound her GP suggested.

“A couple of months later I realised that I was hardly eating – but, feeling good and losing a bit of weight, I didn’t take much notice of that. It was in November that I started paying more attention to what was going on – lying in a hotel room I was aware that not only was I really not eating (in Melbourne with foodie friends!) but I was quite bloated But even then, I thought I’m nearly 50 and have had completely issue-free cycles all my life – this must be menopausal payback. Back home I finally got on to that ultrasound and realised things were clearly far from right when the ultrasound operator said ‘I’m just going to get my supervisor’.”

A week later, she was in the hospital for a hysterectomy and diagnosed with LGSOC.

Thanks to four surgeries, two rounds of chemo, quarterly MRIs, and a daily dose of Letrozole, Lisa celebrates her ten-year survival milestone this year. Today, she continues her work at the University of Auckland in media and communications, as well as her interests in animal rescue, theatre governance, and advocacy and support for women with gynaecological cancers.

“Ovarian cancer stats aren’t flash and this experience taught me how easy it is to ignore the signs.”

“Ovarian cancer stats aren’t flash” she admits. “And this experience taught me how it easy it is to ignore the signs. Women’s bodies change, with our menstrual cycles, menopause and everything in between and afterwards. If I had known about ovarian cancer and its symptoms I would definitely have taken my changes more seriously and acted more quickly. If my GP had been considering that I think she too would have been more prescriptive with her suggestions.”

Lisa calls out to “other women in this rather unwelcome sisterhood, your whanau, family, friends and support people. I say kia kaha, stay strong. And in the words of our Prime Minister, be kind (particularly to yourselves). Arohanui, with love to you all.”

Engaging women in research: the Consumer Research Panel at ANZGOG’s Research Development Day in 2019.

Lisa found ANZGOG by connecting with other women affected by ovarian cancer, including co-founder of the NZ Gynae Cancer Foundation and champion and advocate Rachel Wilson, whose mother died from the disease, and fellow LGSOC survivor Jane Ludemann who is almost single-handedly driving international fundraising for low-grade research from her home in the South Island. She joined in 2018 and represents Aotearoa on the Consumer Research Panel.

Lisa hopes that before too long the research and clinical trials being done in Australia will be replicated in New Zealand.

“Research is critical to ensure women like me can have more years, more disease pushback, and hopefully one day, a cure. The awareness, education, research and patient trials that are central to ANZGOG are integral to our survival,” she says.

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