Camilla and Marc launches important campaign to raise awareness for ovarian cancer

In the last few days of my sister's life we took turns keeping vigil by her bed. We rubbed her feet and stroked her hair as she slipped away from us. Not peacefully, mind you. Not really. She was never ready to go. She hadn't had long enough. As bossy as ever, she made me promise I'd use any opportunity I had to write about ovarian cancer and its need for an early detection test.

Though it isn't easy to write about something that feels so close.

It's a similar story for Camilla Freeman-Topper and Marc Freeman, the sibling duo behind the Australian fashion label Camilla and Marc. 

Today they launch their campaign, Ovaries.Talk About Them, with two T-Shirts (one of them unisex) created in collaboration with the Perth artist Rina Freiberg.

All proceeds from the sales of the tees will be donated to Ovarian Cancer Research UNSW to support the work of associate professor Caroline Ford in developing an early detection test for ovarian cancer.

The siblings lost their mother to ovarian cancer 26 years ago. 

"It had been a long time coming, but it's only now that Marc and I have felt ready to talk about our mother's death publicly. Being vulnerable about a topic that is so deeply sensitive is something that has taken us time," says Freeman-Topper of the decision to launch the campaign.

"My eldest daughter Leudi turned 11 recently, which was the age I lost my mother, and so I've been able to feel a greater sense of just how deeply the loss must have felt for my mother and it has shone a greater spotlight on just how devastating it is for the millions of families that lose loved ones to ovarian cancer."

"Mid last year I found the courage to post a picture on Instagram of my mother and share more of my story, and the response was overwhelmingly beautiful - it made me realise just how powerful it is to share personal stories, especially when it comes to this disease"

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As Freeman-Topper notes, more than 75 per cent of women are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease. Each day in Australia four women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and three will die from the disease.

The five year survival rate for ovarian cancer is 45 per cent.

There is currently no early detection test. The symptoms can feel commonplace. Like many women my sister had thought she was just bloated. That she had an IBS. That it was nothing to worry about.

'[T]he biggest barrier to breakthroughs for ovarian cancer is underfunding, we wanted to donate directly to research - investing in people leads to advancements in medicine and that was something we are really passionate about," says Freeman-Topper.

The conservation they hope to start with a social media campaign is about awareness of the need for more research, yes, but also to break down stigmas around women's bodies in order to talk about things that matter.

For Marc Freeman it's essential that men are involved in this conversation too. 

'[T]his disease affects everyone. The rate at which our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are struck by this disease is terrifying. And men form a big part of that equation, we are the fathers, husbands, brothers and sons who are equally devastated by this disease," he says. 

"The idea that men might not be championing ovarian cancer because they are seemingly unaffected by it is inconceivable to me. This disease impacts millions and it is time for us all to band together to do something about it. We all come from ovaries, so let's get serious about this and give ovarian cancer the attention and funding it deserves."

The power of using fashion and a platform for good ought not be under-estimated. 

In April fashion brand Witchery will launch its 2020 iteration of its White Shirt Campaign. To date the sales from its special white shirt capsule collections have raised more than $13 million for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. 

Simon Schofield, Witchery managing director says the money the fashion chain has donated has targeted funding expert research scientists and essential research equipment.

"We are blown away by the ongoing support of the public and medical community and as the fight against ovarian cancer continues, so will Witchery's dedication to this charitable cause," he says. 

For Freeman-Topper the platform their brand has created means a responsibility to give back.

"We all want to leave the world in a better place than when we arrived and I really believe that means doing what you can with what you've got. Our brand is about celebrating and honouring women and in many ways that's exactly what this campaign is about. I care deeply about the women we design clothes for, so it only made sense that Marc and I opened up a more meaningful conversation with the women we dress."

The t-shirts, $160 for the 'Art' t-shirt and $140 for the 'Power and Solidarity' t-shirt are available at CAMILLA AND MARC boutiques nationwide from today. Hashtags for those who want to join in the conversation on social media are #ovariestalkaboutthem #powerandsolidarity #CAMILLAANDMARC.