Twenty years ago, our daughter Lisa was studying at Charing Cross Medical School. She once wrote a letter to say that she had just been to an oncology lecture and was very alarmed by the high incidence of women’s cancer and at a relatively low median age.
In the letter, she said she looked around the lecture theatre and wondered who would not be around at the age of 40. Prophetically, and bitterly sad, but Lisa recently died at the age of 40 of Ovarian Cancer.
Lisa left behind her husband, her 2-year-old daughter, and heartbroken parents and sisters.
Lisa was a local girl. She went to Hiltingbury Junior School and Thornden School in Chandler’s Ford, and Barton Peveril Sixth Form College in Eastleigh.
One of Lisa’s final wishes was that any money raised in her memory should go to Ovacome: the Ovarian Cancer Charity. Generously a few thousand pounds were donated in a short space of time – a real tribute to a popular young lady and doctor.
We wanted the donations to be a meaningful legacy to Lisa, and so I called the CEO and asked for her thoughts on a suitable project. She told me about a USA program called Survivors Teaching Students (STS) that was proving successful in increasing the awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Survivors of the disease presented their symptoms to medical students and clinicians. This was leading to improved recall amongst these medics and leading to earlier patient diagnosis. If treated early, an ovarian cancer patient is more likely to have a good outcome. Misdiagnosis has been all too common putting victims of the disease at risk.
The CEO kicked off this project, in Lisa’s name, last year, and sent a staff member to Washington to pick up the program. Last week the inaugural STS program, in the UK, was launched at Lisa’s Medical School, Charing Cross.
There were several opening addresses including that of Ovacome CEO and the Patron of the Charity – the actress Jennifer Agutter.
Before the survivors unfolded their stories to the audience, a video, entitled LISA’s STORY, was projected showing photos of Lisa, including many with her baby daughter, and intertwined with an interview of us, her parents.
The background music was the Coldplay song The Hardest Part – with their express permission.
They had met with Lisa during a concert during 2012 and they did not forget her.
The video was a tear-inducing introduction to the disease and, of course, its impact on everyone of us in the family.
Three UK survivors shared their stories – all emotionally charged and were so different. In all cases their symptoms were graphically brought out as they spoke from the experience and the heart. Again it was not easy listening as they related to their pain along their respective journeys.
Not one of the cases had received an early diagnosis from their doctor which further underlined the point of the STS program. However the differences in each of their symptoms demonstrated how complicated the start of the disease was to diagnose. The tragedy and impact on their lives also really hit home.
There were differences in how they dealt with their situations. One lady kept the news from her husband for 7 months. Another had a Christian background and used her faith to cope with the pain. The third says she doesn’t make plans anymore.
In summarising the clear message from the CEO of Ovacome, to those medics in the audience, was always Think Ovarian first – last maybe too late.
The STS programme is expected to be rolled out to other interested medical establishments in the UK and Scotland. The funding will continue to be taken from money kindly raised in our daughter Lisa’s memory.
- Lisa Clark’s Legacy
- Roger Clark’s Quest to Antarctica to Photograph the Right Penguins
- Roger Clark: Trip of a Lifetime – My Antarctic Trip
- Richard Stock: Fundraising for Ovacome
- Richard Stock Raising Money For Ovacome
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