Saturday, October 1, 2011

Frocktober - Day One

It is the first day of Frocktober, so the weather has helpfully put on a cold, wet and windy day, just what you want to inspire you to wear a dress.

But Frocktober isn't really about wearing dresses, it is about raising money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.  Choosing a charity to support was never an easy thing for me.  I'm pretty passionate about education, so that sort of inspired me as does support of human rights.  I've sold badges for Amnesty International, Jeans for Genes Day, Red Nose Day and Hawaiian Shirt Day, I've door knocked for the Red Cross, I've donated money to all sorts of charities and volunteered for charities and non-profit groups.  I did all these things because as someone who lives a very comfortable and privileged life, I think it is important.  However I must admit I never really felt really, deeply passionate about a cause.

What a difference personal experience makes.  Losing my Mum's best friend to ovarian cancer has made me really passionate about a cause.  For me Frocktober is about saving women from a terrible disease that I watched kill someone I love.  It is also about healing.  About dealing with Sue's death and just how much a part of my life she was.

This is the story of Sue's illness.  It is not a happy story, but it is an important one, so I'm breaking the happy only rule that runs this blog for one day.

In May 2010 my little sister got married. On the morning the house was full of excited women, there was the bride, bridesmaids, my Mum and her best friend Aunty Sue. Sue may not have been related by blood but she had been a part of our family my whole life and I don’t think you could have been more excited than she was. In fact Sue had spent more than twice as much on her dress than Mum had on her mother of the bride outfit.

Mum had been worried about sitting alone at the front of the church while we all did our bits in the ceremony. She needn’t have. Sue held Mum’s hand as Dad walked Jessica down the aisle, she was one of the first to congratulate the newly married couple and she danced the night away at the reception.

A couple of weeks later Mum and Sue had a week away at the coast to recover from all the wedding excitement. It was then that Mum discovered Sue was having some abdominal pain and when she had a massage the massuse suggested she get her ovaries checked out. It didn’t seem right, so Mum insisted Sue go to the doctor.

Doctor’s appointments followed. On the 6th of July Sue had a scan which showed metastatic masses in both ovaries. By 13 July we found out that she had tumours on her liver and in her stomach. On the 2nd of August she was admitted to hospital for surgery. She never went home, she never ate another meal. After several weeks in the hospital and some very difficult decisions about what treatment to have or not have, they moved her to Claire Holland House, Canberra’s hospice.

Sue died on the 17th of September 2010, just two months after she was diagnosed. She was laid to rest in the dress that she had worn to my sister’s wedding and danced the night away in four months earlier.

Before Sue was diagnosed I didn’t know anyone who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but since talking about it, I’ve discovered just how common it is, and just how hard it is to diagnose.

Frocktober is for me a tribute to the wonderful woman that Sue Gane was, and this is why Frocktober isn't sad for me. Sue was a talented dressmaker and made me some of my most memorable frocks. Through Frocktober I have a way to remember this fantastic woman and honour her memory.  So it doesn't matter what this weather throws at me, I will be rocking my frocks!


  1. Lisa, thank you. Thank you. A very similar story occurred with a good friend of my mum's, albeit with bowel cancer. Thank you for helping raise awareness. And I'm so sorry for you, your family, and Aunty Sue. xo

  2. This is a heart breaking story, but like Hannah said - thank you for telling it. I think we all need to be reminded that these things happen, and to people close to us. It's tempting to try sweep cancer (especially something as private as ovarian cancer) under the carpet, but that's the last thing we need - awareness efforts like yours are so important.