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A terrible disease

Posted: 19th November 2021

“Ugly” is how Bernadette Dennis characterises ovarian cancer, the insidious disease that claimed the lives of both her mother and sister.

“In 1989, my mother was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. She passed away on Christmas eve that year. Then, in 2003, my sister Pauline was also diagnosed at stage four, with a different form of the same cancer. After several attempts at chemotherapy, doctors advised her there was nothing else that could be done.”

“What I realised at that time was that there was not a lot of support for research or new treatments for this cancer,” says Bernadette. “Although there was a 15-year gap between my mother and sister being diagnosed, it was clear that little had really changed.”

“I found it disturbing that not much was being done to help alleviate the burden of this terrible cancer. After Pauline passed away, my sister Trish started raising funds to support a clinical trials nurse. Some of Pauline’s friends and I joined in this ultimately successful campaign.”

This first determined foray into fundraising led Bernadette to become passionate about the potentially transformative impact of philanthropy. She is now a member of the SVI Foundation Board and of the Discovery Fund, which this year has enabled the recruitment of ovarian cancer researcher, Associate Professor Elaine Sanij, as a new SVI Lab Head.

“For the many families who have experienced the loss of loved ones to ovarian cancer, it is wonderful to see this specialist research happening at SVI,” says Bernadette.

“I know every member of my family will endorse the need for more awareness and discovery, with the ambition of better care, life-expectancy and quality of life for women like my mother and sister.”

IMAGE: Bernadette's sister Pauline (left) and mother Joyce, in happier times. Our thanks to Bernadette Dennis for sharing her family's story and images.

Read more about SVI's new dedicated ovarian cancer laboratory, established this year, thanks to the SVI Discovery Fund.

For more information please see: DNA damage & cancer therapy