Cancer Australia has announced the recipients of the inaugural Jeannie Ferris Cancer Australia Recognition Award. Ovarian Cancer Australia Founding Director Simon Lee won the category of the award open to individuals with a personal experience of gynaecological cancers for his significant contribution to the ovarian cancer movement in Australia.
The award is named in honour of the late Jeannie Ferris, former Senator for South Australia who was passionately committed to raising awareness about gynaecological cancers in Australia. Senator Ferris was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October 2005 and died in April 2007. The award recognises outstanding contribution to improving outcomes for women with gynaecological cancers.
Simon has a long-term personal experience with ovarian cancer. His mother passed away from the disease in 1985 and his wife Sheila was diagnosed in 1999 before losing her battle with ovarian cancer less than two years later.
Following Sheila’s diagnosis, the dynamic duo emerged as the first campaigners for ovarian cancer in Australia. They began speaking out about the lack of recognition of ovarian cancer and the impact the devastating disease has on women and their families. Together, Simon and Sheila focused on bringing awareness of ovarian cancer to the community, through the development of the Ovarian Cancer Awareness (OvCa) website and staging the first ovarian cancer rally in the world.
In response to receiving the award, Simon Lee said, “it’s hard to believe that what started as a personal campaign has grown to receive national recognition. I know that Sheila would have been delighted by the progress and the emphasis that has now been placed on gynaecological cancers in Australia. It’s sad that Sheila isn’t here in person to see this.”
Along with four of Sheila’s friends and collaborators – Karen and Nicole Livingstone, Denise Hynes and comedian Lynda Gibson – Simon founded OvCa in 2001, which was renamed Ovarian Cancer Australia in 2008.
“This has always been a collaborative effort and I thank all of those that have shared the dream and helped me on this journey. To receive this award, named after the wonderful Jeannie Ferris, is an immense privilege and honour, and an important acknowledgement of the work done by everyone in this field” continued Mr Lee.
Mr Lee was the inaugural chair of OvCa, a role that he held for ten years. Under his leadership the organisation grew from its humble yet ambitious beginnings into a national charity to promoting awareness and research and providing support and information so desperately needed by women with ovarian cancer and their families.
He remains a board member of Ovarian Cancer Australia and has worked tirelessly for the past 14 years as a volunteer to reduce the impact of ovarian cancer on Australian women and the broader community.
“This award acknowledges Simon’s remarkable contribution spanning 14 years and is a testament to Simon and to the strength of the commitment he made to Sheila before she died. I am inspired by his courage, passion and determination – his work has been pivotal to getting ovarian cancer on the map in Australia” said Paula Benson, Chair, Ovarian Cancer Australia.
For more information about Ovarian Cancer Australia visit www.ovariancancer.net.au