B.C. woman cycling across Canada to raise awareness around ovarian cancer

Joan Thompson . Silas Brown/Global News

A British Columbian woman has spent the last two months riding across the country to raise awareness around ovarian cancer in honour of her sister, Sheila Rae, who died from the disease in November.

It was exactly two months ago that Joan Thompson left English Bay in Vancouver, B.C. with a bottle full of Pacific Ocean water, and now is just days away from Halifax, N.S. with a bottle from the Atlantic to match.

The goal is to bring awareness to the disease that her sister fought for three years.

READ MORE: Canadian researchers make important progress in distinguishing between types of ovarian cancers

“She went through a lot of the typical things women with ovarian cancer do. She was diagnosed late, misdiagnosed, she was in the advanced stages, which at that point is difficult to treat,” Thompson said.

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“It’s not responsive to radiation, and chemotherapy is often not the end of the road for this particular cancer.”

Ovarian cancer is often hard to detect or to treat and has a five year survival rate, compared to 87 per cent for breast cancer and 95 for prostate. Thompson is pushing to improve funding in order to research the disease so that it can be better understood and caught earlier in more women.

WATCH: Some women facing a deadly form of cancer are having trouble finding a doctor who can treat them. There is a shortage of gynecological oncologists in Canada, and as Heather Yourex-West explains, the situation has become so critical, specialists from other parts of the country are having to fly in to help.

Click to play video: 'Ovarian cancer patients fearful as Canada grapples with specialist shortage' Ovarian cancer patients fearful as Canada grapples with specialist shortage
Ovarian cancer patients fearful as Canada grapples with specialist shortage – Jan 16, 2019

“Just a greater understanding is needed. Not only in the medical community, but also individually. So this is the reason for sort of canvasing the entire country is to get the word out to as many people as we can to what they personally can do to avert this disease,” she said.

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“We are all proud of our medicare system in Canada but maybe there’s certain issues that aren’t getting prioritized and this may be one of them and I think it’s because people haven’t been talking about it. We want to raise the consciousness, we want people to have ovarian cancer in their vocabulary.”

Thompson is currently about half way through New Brunswick and is hoping to be in Halifax by Wednesday.

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