In her own words, Marilyn shares her mum's experience with ovarian cancer and joins a Q&A about all things Frocktober.
Losing my mum to ovarian cancer
My mum was 76 years old when we lost her to ovarian cancer in February 2012 – a decade ago.
Like many others, mum was diagnosed late. While she had complained of many of the classic symptoms of ovarian cancer, other health issues including irritable bowel syndrome, masked the symptoms of the cancer.
Despite many specialist appointments, ovarian cancer was never considered to be an option. It was Mum’s GP that finally ‘cracked the code’.
The news in early 2009 shocked our family – there was no known history of cancer, let alone ovarian cancer, on either side of her family. In fact, Mum’s parents, aunts and uncles all lived until at least their late 80s. My maternal grandmother lived to be 100 years old - so they were tough bunch!
Marilyn's mum, Maureen.
The cancer had spread to the lining of her stomach and a section of the large intestine. After surgery to remove it and several months of chemotherapy, we thought we she might be in the clear. Unfortunately, as is the pattern for many ovarian cancer patients, mum’s cancer returned in 2010. The surgeon described the cancer as widespread, to the extent that he considered going no further.
Despite the odds, she gained another 22 months with us after surgery to remove her entire large intestine.
When mum did pass in February 2012, it was within a couple of days of the third-year anniversary of her original diagnosis.
Marilyn on her wedding day with her mum, Maureen.
This is why I join Frocktober.
We need to fund more research so that others diagnosed with the disease have a better chance of surviving than my mum did.
Q&A with Marilyn
Tell us why you love Frocktober
Frocktober is the perfect combination of fun, fashion and fundraising, all revolving around an amazing cause. I absolutely adore dressing up (I am a complete fashion tragic!) and finding the perfect location to showcase the outfit, PLUS I’m passionate about fundraising for OCRF given our family experience of ovarian cancer.
Frocktober is also a fantastic channel to reach women and spread the word about ovarian cancer, what they need to look out for and how they need to be vigilant around the seemingly benign symptoms of this deadly disease.
It is also amazing how invested people become in it even if they don’t want to dress up themselves and have their photo taken– my friends and family are often sending through ideas for shoot locations months before Frocktober itself.
How do you 'frock up' and how would you describe your style?
I’m a ‘let’s get all the wonderful frocks and shoes and accessories out and showcase a new ensemble every day’ kind of gal. I love to try and work in wonderful accessories, particularly vintage. I'm also (because this goes waaaaay beyond myself) big into trying to get the right backdrop for a photo to really make a lovely image.
For how many years have you participated in Frocktober? What keeps you coming back?
2022 will be my fifth year as a Frocker. I keep coming back because I want to continue to honour my mother and other ovarian cancer sufferers. I also return because of the fashion and the fun, and the connection it brings with my friends, family and community. Then of course there is the satisfaction of knowing you are helping make a difference.
What was your most successful Frocktober and what did you do?
It was in 2020. I decided to host a Frocktails event at the Gladstone Marina for ~120 women with the help of a wonderful gang of friends and family. Together with the guests, we raised ~$10,000 and had a huge amount of fun. That said, it was a stressful time given the daily Frocktober photo shoots were in full swing and it poured rain at the outdoor venue only a couple of hours prior! However, the weather cleared to provide us with a wonderful afternoon and sunset.
What was the style of your Frocktober event and how did you go about hosting it?
It was a picnic style event at the Gladstone Marina, on the grounds of a local café. The afternoon featured a tonne of multi-draws – which the women always love, silent auctions and a live auction or two. Other favourites we include are a ‘bling bling draw’; essentially a lucky draw with all the prizes being costume jewellery from the likes of Lovisa, Sussan, etc. I purchased these during sales or they were donated and charged a flat cost of $5 per ticket. It always sells out no matter how many items we have. It’s the luck of the draw what piece you get – it could be a $50 RRP item or a $10 RRP item. If ladies aren’t keen on their prize they often swap!
What are your top tips for fundraising during Frocktober?
1. Start with a realistic target – you can always reset your ultimate tally higher as the month progresses. That way you minimise the pressure on yourself and get satisfaction from achieving that first, more modest goal
2. Be a little shameless - don’t be afraid to ask people for help whether it’s to take a photo or help you at a fundraising event. Many people don’t want to lead the charge but are more than happy to support your efforts.
3. Balance – planning and hosting an event at the same time as doing photos every day can be a lot. Take a lot of breaths and sometimes there will be elements you have to just let go of such as perfectly matched napkins. Fundamentally, people don’t care and that’s not what it’s all about!
What advice would you give to someone joining Frocktober for the first time?
Have fun with it – involve family and friends and make it a group effort. Look at ways you can style up outfits to be a bit unusual and choose some great locations for pictures – it’s a great opportunity to show off your town or suburb!
Register for Frocktober!
Join Australia's most fashionable month-long fundraiser and raise vital funds.
Life’s too short to not stand up for the causes you believe in.
Life’s too short not to look fabulous while doing it.
No matter who or where you are – frock up and go all out for ovarian cancer research.
Life’s Too Short For Boring!