Photography by Elle Geraghty
I Will Speak Up For Those Who Can’t
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Gill Stannard and I’m an ovarian cancer survivor, health care advocate and consumer representative for the Translational Cancer Research Network (TCRN).
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013. Although I’m a health professional myself, ovarian cancer wasn’t something I thought would happen to me. My GP sent me straight to the ER, where I was given a very blunt diagnosis – ‘You have ovarian cancer. Go home and we’ll call you for the ultrasound on Monday.’ Within seven days of seeing a GP, I’d had surgery and began chemotherapy a couple of weeks later. It was pretty remarkable. For me, I think that timing was really important as the tumour grew a couple of centimetres in that week. I’ve been very lucky to beat the odds and remain well with no recurrence for over six years.
I’m a member of the TCRN consumer advisory panel and also provide a consumer perspective on ovarian cancer for three different research teams. I’m also involved with Cancer Voices and the ANZCOG’s Survivors Teaching Students initiative. Consumers are usually people whose lives are affected by cancer, personally or as a carer. We are the voices of the people that cancer research impacts, rather than being the subjects of the studies. We play different roles, including giving feedback on the study design and critiquing plain English summaries to help researchers get funding.
What is your motivation?
Ovarian cancer has a very poor survival rate. Many women are diagnosed too late, and it isn’t necessarily because they haven’t seen a doctor. My job as a consumer is not just to share my story but to be a face of the end users of ovarian cancer research, and hopefully contribute to opportunities for early diagnosis and more effective treatments for this disease.
I didn’t expect my cancer story to be so valuable, but I’m absolutely amazed that the researchers I work with have actually found it important in helping them frame their research grant applications. There’s so few of us who have experienced ovarian cancer and are well enough and able enough to get involved in advocacy and research. As consumers, we can save women’s lives through our stories.
What will you do this World Cancer Day?
I’m a cancer survivor and a voice for cancer patients. I will speak up for those who can’t.
This article is republished with permission. View the original article here.