Dear St Michael’s College Community,
Today, staff and students at the secondary campus were involved in the Frocktober fundraiser, “St Michael’s College Formal Casual Day”, in remembrance of Jenna Crierie and to raise much needed awareness and funds for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. Jenna passed away peacefully on 8 October 2020, age 33.
Jenna was a much loved friend and valued staff member of St Michael’s College. Her beautiful, humble nature and determined spirit shone through in her life, work, and long battle with cancer, leaving a lasting impact on those lucky enough to know her or her story. Jenna is a true example of what ‘touching hearts’ can mean.
Jenna had just finished university and at the age of 22, the next chapter of life unfolding in front of her should have been the most exciting. Having completed her exams, she thought feeling sick from fatigue wasn’t necessarily an unusual experience. However, the fatigue lingered and when she sought medical care, there were no clear answers.
Jenna carried on with extreme fatigue until she started feeling strong stomach cramps. This prompted frequent visits to seek medical intervention. “I had no idea what was going on for a year and a half having seen numerous physicians and was misdiagnosed with IBS and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” It was crippling and unfortunately, an all too familiar story for many women in her situation.
Eventually Jenna was diagnosed when a physician tested her for CA-125 and noticed the markers were very high. “On its own an elevated CA-125 reading is not enough to warrant extra testing, but I pushed it with the gynaecologist and eventually, in combination with the other symptoms I was experiencing, she agreed to do exploratory surgery. I think she was looking for endometriosis.” During surgery, it was immediately obvious to the surgeon and the oncologist that they had found a primary peritoneal cancer in Jenna’s abdomen. “They took me into another room and told me I had ovarian cancer.”
“I felt a little bit of relief because I’d been sick for so long, but I certainly didn’t expect to have ovarian cancer. I didn’t know anything about it at the time but researched it and found it was a death diagnosis really. My sister was a bit of a mess, she was beside herself. Mum and dad didn’t let on at the time but looking back they were in shock.”
The Frocktober Project
“Absolutely any focus on ovarian cancer has to be a positive thing.”
During the month of October, Frocktober is the campaign that empowers women around Australia to channel their creative flair through their favourite frocks, all while raising awareness and urgently-needed funds for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.
Jenna was excited to learn that her cousin Jaimie had an idea to honour Jenna by designing and auctioning a special gown during the OCRF’s Frocktober campaign.
“I’m so grateful to Jaimie for starting this project to raise awareness and raise funds for ovarian cancer research. He’s a wonderfully talented man and thanks to Julie Bishop for being a part of it as well – they’ve created a stunning gown for Julie to wear during Frocktober. Ovarian cancer desperately needs more funding and I hope this helps draw some extra attention to the cause.”
“Ultimately I hope that the trail is a bit easier for women behind me that walk my path. I don’t want them to have to do what I did. It has been absolutely horrible.”
Jenna’s Dad adds that Jenna’s experience showed how ovarian cancer is such a hard cancer to diagnose. Anything which can help produce an earlier diagnosis will lead to a greater chance of survival. “The money that is raised for research can be used to find that early detection test or develop more effective treatments that increase a woman’s lifespan and quality of life.” Having watched Jenna go through what she has these past 11 years, the hope has to be that other families don’t live the ‘ovarian cancer experience’ as a matter of course, and that change comes quickly.
Again, any donations can be made through Jenna’s fundraising page:
Ovarian Cancer Facts
- Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynaecological cancer.
- There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer.
- Every 8 hours, an Australian woman dies from ovarian cancer.
- The average 5-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is just 46%.
- If caught in Stage 1, survival rates for ovarian cancer patients are as high as 92%. However, only 19% of cases are diagnosed early due to vagueness of symptoms and lack of an early detection screening test.
- The only way to confirm an ovarian cancer diagnosis is through invasive surgery and biopsy.
- This year, around 1800 Australian women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
- The number of women being diagnosed with ovarian cancer is increasing every year. It is projected that by 2030, 2200 women will be diagnosed per year.
Read more facts here.
Thank you to all involved in the planning of the St Michael’s event, to Jenna’s family for being involved on the day and to staff and students who dressed up, donated or contributed to the ‘High Tea’
Thank you also to all those in the wider community who donated, including Rory’s School Lunches and Lee from Devour Me Cakes for their support of this wonderful cause.