Kelsey Watts Memorial Ovarian Cancer Research Grant

When Kelsey Watts passed away in 201 1 from ovarian cancer at only 33 years of age, her mum Heather was naturally overcome with grief. Cancer is immensely unfair; Kelsey was so young, not even half her life lived, and she presented with very few symptoms to assist with an early diagnosis and give her the best chance of survival.

“I wanted to curl up in a ball in bed, pull the doona over my head and never come out,” Heather sorrowfully recalls. “Everyone just keeps on with their everyday lives but I couldn’t, I couldn’t get past it and my life was stuck.’

As agonising and heart-breaking as it was for Heather, eventually she realised that Kelsey would want more from her mum so she resolved that Kelsey’s death would not be in vain.

“I guess we (Kelsey’s loved ones) were all in shock that ovarian cancer can be such a silent killer,” Heather explains. “In the early stages of the disease there is a lack of significant symptoms so I felt this overwhelming need to spread the word amongst women in our local community that you shouldn’t ignore any symptoms, no matter how small; have regular check-ups and get a second opinion if you’re not convinced about your doctor’s word.’

Ovarian cancer is one of the most serious forms of cancers affecting women. It is the growth of malignant cells in one or both ovaries, and is often accompanied by the spread of malignant cells to surrounding organs in the abdominal cavity. Whilst a small
number of cases appear to have an underlying genetic component, in most instances the causes of ovarian cancer are unknown. Currently there is no screening test to assist with early detection and shockingly, one Australian woman dies every ten hours from
ovarian cancer (source- Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, www.ocrf.com.au).

As a result, in 2012 Heather founded the Border Ovarian Cancer Awareness Group (BOCAG), and she and many other passionate
members of the group have rallied to raise funds for ovarian cancer research and make a real difference.

“In the four years that we’ve been active, BOCAG has raised over $150,000 for the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Border Medical Oncology Research Unit and the Albury Wodonga Regional¬†Cancer Centre,” Heather proudly conveys.

¬†Heather and the BOCAG team’s latest triumph is the announcement of the Kelsey Watts Memorial Ovarian Cancer Research Grant. The $100,000 grant has been awarded to Border Medical¬†

Oncology (BMO) Research Unit and will fund a Senior Clinical Research Nurse position for three years initially (201 6, 2017 and 2018), at 2 days a week to recruit patients to ovarian cancer clinical trials and contributing to ovarian cancer research.

Research Business Manager of the BMO Research Unit Fiona Tuthill is delighted with the funding. ‘Being involved in a clinical trial gives patients the opportunity to feel more supported during or after cancer treatment and many patients find the experience rewarding,” she explains. The project’s goal is to ultimately improve outcomes for regional ovarian cancer patients and we sincerely thank Heather and Border Ovarian Cancer Awareness Group for this outstanding research opportunity.”

“It could be your mother, your sister, your best friend, or in my case, my daughter,” Heather emotionally imparts. “I can’t change the past but I can shape my future and I will sleep well knowing that if we can save even one life then it has all been worth it.”

ABOVE: Fiona Tuthill from the BMO Research Unit accepts the cheque from BOCAG President Heather Watts and Patron Pieter Mourik.