Woman faces fear to raise ovarian cancer awareness

Trust your intuition .. Karen O'Neill, of Pukehiki on Otago Peninsula, is set to skydive to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE


A Dunedin woman with ovarian cancer is set to do her first skydive to raise awareness of the deadly disease.

Karen O’Neill, of Pukehiki on the Otago Peninsula, said she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 2018 and had a hysterectomy soon after.

The surgery was successful, but she had not responded to chemotherapy, and every scan since revealed the slow progress of the disease, she said.

She was being treated palliatively by her oncologist.

“It sounds a bit scary – it is a one-way thing – but I’m doing quite well considering.”

She was set to make her first tandem skydive in Wanaka next month for two reasons.

The first reason was to raise awareness of the disease so women, “and their whanau”, could recognise symptoms and get treatment started sooner.

“Speed is of the essence.”

She urged women who felt something was wrong to trust their intuition and visit a doctor.

“However minor – don’t dismiss it.”

The second reason for the skydive was to raise money for charity The Graci Foundation – a gynaecological research trust working in Otago and Canterbury to find ways to improve ovarian cancer detection and advance treatment options.

“Finding a cure is the golden egg,” she laughed. “No pun intended.”

The prospect of the skydive was “paralysing” as she had a fear of heights, she said.

To give: www.givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/jump-to-it-tandem-skydive-for-ovariancancer

February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.


Ovarian cancer has the highest death rate of the gynaecological cancers.

One woman dies of ovarian cancer every two days in New Zealand.

Symptoms include:

Abdominal bloating, indigestion or nausea.

Changes in appetite, such as a loss of appetite or feeling full sooner.

Pressure in the pelvis or lower back.

Constipation or a more frequent or urgent need to urinate.

Changes in bowel movements; increased abdominal girth; tiredness or low energy; changes in menstruation.