In a world of adversity, Liv Curtis stands as a beacon of courage and resilience, advocating tirelessly for ovarian cancer awareness and research. Diagnosed during the upheaval of the 2020 lockdown, Liv’s journey through the challenges of the pandemic was further complicated by her battle with cancer, making her an unwavering symbol of strength and grace.

As the Guest of Honour at our recent Frocktober event, Liv graciously shared her poignant experiences, leaving an indelible mark on all who had the privilege of hearing her story. 

Her unwavering dedication to raising awareness shines through her social media presence, @i_am_liv_curtis, where she fearlessly imparts crucial facts and figures about ovarian cancer throughout October.

In her insightful posts, Liv sheds light on the pressing need for increased focus and funding for ovarian cancer research in Australia, sparking a much-needed conversation about this often overlooked disease. Liv Curtis is a warrior – a fearless advocate, a testament to the power of resilience, and a woman we truly admire.

Can you share a little bit about your ovarian cancer journey and when you were first diagnosed?

It was during the first lockdown in May 2020 when I noticed something wasn’t right. Suddenly I was unable to get any food down, I was so exhausted that I was falling asleep before dinner. Initially, I put it down to working from home and entertaining kids stuck at home but It started to dawn on me that something was wrong when I felt a lump in my lower tummy. I went to the doctor the next day and everything got scary really fast. 

Could you tell us about some of the challenges you faced during your treatment and recovery process?

The physical limitations while trying to be an active and involved parent were the hardest. Trying to put on a brave face for the kids while still struggling with my recovery. In Christmas 2020 I was brought down by an infection and spent Christmas in intensive care. I was desperate to get home to give the kids a normal Christmas. I managed to negotiate a few hours’ leave from the hospital to do presents and eat lunch. I was sick as a dog but the kids were reassured.

How did you stay positive and motivated throughout your cancer journey?

My family and friends wrapped around me. They held me up. I can’t say I felt positive because there was a very real risk the outcome would be bad. I just got my head down and did it because that was the only option. I think I was just determined.

What advice would you give to women who are supporting a friend or family member through ovarian cancer?

People with cancer are exactly the same as they were before cancer. Don’t retreat because you don’t know if they want you around. They don’t know what they need… what my friends taught me is that they knew what I needed… I needed love and encouragement. They took me for half-hour coffees and knew it was time to go because they saw I was getting tired, they came and sat on the couch with me at home when I wasn’t up to going out. Don’t rely on a person who is going through hell to take the lead. You are her people.

Can you share any key symptoms or signs that women should be aware of when it comes to ovarian cancer?

Tummy cramps, frequent trips to the toilet, fatigue, sudden weight loss, and difficulty eating.

How has your experience with ovarian cancer changed your perspective on life and health?

Tomorrow isn’t promised, live, have experiences, and try and find some enjoyment in all things. Give yourself permission to slow down. Rest is productive.

Frocktober is all about dressing up to raise awareness. What does dressing up mean to you in the context of your journey?

Dressing up has been very important to me throughout my treatment. Even when I was bald and my head was too sore for a wig, wearing lovely clothes helped me get out of the house and see my friends or just enjoy the sunshine. I feel my body hasn’t been my own since my diagnosis. It has been shrinking and growing with each different treatment and most recently it has grown a lot. Dressing beautifully in clothes that fit and are easy to wear makes me feel confident and strong.

Are there any particular stories or moments from your journey that stand out as especially meaningful or impactful?

Being told what would need to be done in surgery had a profound impact on me. The extent of the surgery meant it would take multiple surgeons and a specialist anaesthetist to get it out. When they woke me up in ICU, I still had a breathing tube and my anaesthetist said “Boy am I happy to see you awake.”

What kind of support system did you have during your ovarian cancer journey, and how important was it to your recovery?

I had a great support system. Friends, family, and doctors who became like family… our local community Brought meals, gifts, and treats. My work colleagues stayed in close touch and dropped around to see me. I was very lucky. My husband was outstanding, he just took over. He cared for me for 7 months. He drove me to every appointment and all I had to do was follow his lead. My parents took charge of the house and the kids, and Kev took charge of me.

How can we, as a community, better support and raise awareness for ovarian cancer and its survivors?

Participating in Frocktober is a great way to raise money and spread awareness. Businesses and celebrities partnering with survivors through social media help get the message to a larger audience. The pink ribbon campaign has been a huge success and we need to push for the same funding and awareness for the teal ribbon.

What message would you like to convey to women about the importance of early detection and taking charge of their health?

We must advocate for ourselves. Many women are told, “You’re too young for cancer or for this to be anything serious.” So many women say their concerns are dismissed as “women’s aches and pains.” If you feel something isn’t right, speak up and push for further investigation. Ovarian cancer is a silent creature that can do its damage long before you know it’s even there. In my case, it had been lurking for nearly 2 years slowly growing.


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