Resilience Through Ovarian Cancer


Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation ambassador Catriona Rowntree knows a thing or two about resilience – much of it learned, she says, from the women she has encountered during her decade-long association with the foundation. “One woman in Australia dies every 10 hours from ovarian cancer,” says the presenter of the Nine Network’s Getaway program.

For many women and their families, a diagnosis of ovarian cancer – which has a lower survival rate than breast or cervical cancer – “is a position they never would have thought they’d find themselves in”, says Rowntree.

She says research funds are needed to create an early detection test as well as to find a cure. “With breast cancer, it might present as a lump in the breast but with ovarian cancer, there are virtually no obvious indicators that something is awry.”

To add its voice – and funds – to the campaign, Danish design company Georg Jensen has released a bespoke Jacqueline Rabun-designed pendant called Offspring, which symbolises hope. The company will donate $50 from each pendant, on sale in stores and online for $195, to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

Here, filmmaker Gracie Otto, actor Marta Dusseldorp, fashion designer Alexandra Smart and social entrepreneur Holly Ransom proudly show off the pendant and reflect on the importance of resilience.

Gracie Otto

Filmmaker, The Last Impresario

“When I was working on my documentary about [theatre and film producer] Michael ‘Chalky’ White, I saw him show great resilience. At 79, with so many health challenges, he’s still at parties – he’s out every day living life to the fullest. I think having determination and asserting yourself is as important as being around family and friends who support you. Our family is very close and I draw strength from my mother, who can multi-task a million things a day and never complains. Sometimes as a woman, you feel you do twice the amount of work for half the recognition.”

Alexandra Smart

Fasion designer, Ginger & Smart

“We describe the woman we design for as a woman of contrasts. She is, at any one moment, a mother, a daughter, a businesswoman, a lover, a friend and a wife. She plays so many different roles in her life, most often with grace and dignity and inspiration. It has been a 13-year journey for us and that’s taken a lot of resilience. We try to juggle it all but we are really lucky to have been able to grow a business and have children at the same time. [My sister] Gen and I were inspired by our mother, who showed incredible resilience during her battle with cancer. She showed so much courage, strength and so much fight. I think when you lose a mum or someone close to you, it puts a lot of things in perspective. As life gets chaotic, it’s important to take yourself back to those important times in life. Your family and friends are the most important things.”

Marta Dusseldorp

Actor, A Place to Call Home

“I have had a lot of cancer in my family and among dear friends; I don’t really know anyone who hasn’t. So I walk for them and I walk with them. I want to give them my strength, my resilience to help them go through what I think is one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to face in life. At 42, resilience has changed for me over the years. At first you think that nothing can touch you, that you are impervious to anything – not just mortality but you also have a sense that the world is your oyster. I think, as you get older, you realise that the shell you are given as a child serves to grow that pearl! For me, culture feeds my resilience; it gives me ideas, hopes and dreams. We need to be exposed to as much as we can as young as we can. Voltaire says that creativity is judicious imitation, so we need to see and feel and hear so we can copy it – and there is nothing wrong with that. Everything comes from something.”

Holly Ransom

CEO, Emergent Solutions

“My grandmother has lived through the Depression, war and raising four kids. She even made it through a scare with ovarian cancer. She has incredible resilience. I marvel at her ability to be positive, to always be focused on others. It’s an incredible attitude and character trait that I hope has rubbed off on me. I want to make the best choices I can by being around people who get you to focus on the upside. It’s all about attitude – keep positive and remain optimistic. If you can’t do that as a leader then the team working around you won’t. I am lucky to be surrounded by an amazing group of leaders who continually inspire me. We’re not an island; we need to know that one of the most important things is reaching out to others when we don’t know what to do and we’re feeling like everything is against us. As humans, we are meant to support each other.” 

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