When I was growing up it was more of a rarity to know someone who had cancer. Nowadays it’s a rare if you don’t know multiple people who have been touched by this ever prevalent disease.
For me, it was my mum.
Mum was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer (which means it had spread beyond the ovaries) in 2004 and sadly died two years later.
She was an extremely caring and thoughtful person, a passionate mother, loving wife, generous friend and a dedicated nurse. Mum was born and raised in Bendigo, Victoria. She graduated from St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne in 1972 and completed her midwifery studies at the Mercy Maternity Hospital in 1973. Mum ended up ”walking the wards” for 37 years.
Unfortunately, as there are still no early detection tests for Ovarian Cancer – and there is a lack of symptoms in the early stages of the disease, many women are diagnosed when the tumours have spread, making it harder to treat.
This means that the lack of survivors can’t share their cancer journey and advocate to make others more aware.
Also, due to the lack of training in the area of gynaecological cancers (cancers of the female reproductive system), many women are treated as a general cancer patient rather than with specialised care.
My two older sisters, Amy and Jo, myself and two of Mum’s dear friends Marita and Janet, thought women needed specialised support on their cancer journey.
So we established the Catherine Wotton Scholarship Fund. Our initial target to set up the fund was $100,000 (yes, my jaw dropped too when I heard this was our target!). We achieved this through various functions, breakfasts, golf tournaments, major sponsors, a now annual Cath Wotton Cup football match, bake sales, sausage sizzles, raffles and the greatly appreciated support of our generous network of friends. The comforting part is we now know this scholarship will be sustainable long into the future.
The scholarship provides registered nurses the opportunity to undertake further study and training in the area of gynaecological and especially ovarian cancers. The aim is to address the current shortage of gynaecological nurses, so that vulnerable women are supported and receive specialised care throughout their cancer journey.
Since 2014 the Scholarship Fund has had four recipients doing remarkable things for women with gynaecological cancers. You can see more about what our past recipients have achieved at our website.
It also aims to raise awareness of gynaecological cancers amongst women in the community.
One woman dies every 10 hours from Ovarian Cancer.
The ideal is for an early detection test to become readily available. This would enable women in the future to add a routine Ovarian Cancer test to their habitual pap smear or breast mammogram enhancing their chances of diagnosing it in its early stages. Until then, hopefully with the help of our scholarship fund, women will get specific care to treat their gynaecological cancer.
If you would like further information about this scholarship please visit our website www.cathwottonfund.org
Images: 1: Lou Wotton and her Mum Cath. 2: The Eastern Devils donning teal jumpers for the Annual Cath Wotton Cup. 3: Cath Wotton Fund logo. 4: The team that established the Cath Wotton Fund (from left) Amy, Janet, Jo, Marita and Lou.
By Lou Wotton
Lou is a 2017 Collingwood AFLW player, accomplished Ironman and triathlete. Lou is a She Science Ambassador and you can follow her on Instagram @wotto19.