Please wear a white shirt this Thursday

Nikki Parkinson Fashion, Life 72 Comments

My youngest was born six years ago this July.  He first met his Nana five days afterwards.  Fay and Paul had been holidaying in the UK when he was born, otherwise I’m pretty sure they would have greeted us as I walked out the delivery suite. Hell, she probably would have made her way into the delivery suite, given half a chance.  She was THAT keen to be a grandmother.

While she was in the UK, she’d contracted what she thought was a cold virus, symptoms that got worse when she got home, with her GP making a pneumonia diagnosis.   She couldn’t lie down, the pain in her chest was that great.  But it was only when the prescribed antibiotics did zip to counteract the pain – and get her better – that they discovered something else was very up.

The pain in her chest was actually fluid on her lungs, there as a result of cancer on her ovaries.  Within days of the discovery, she’d had her first round of chemo.  The plan had been to do a couple of rounds of chemo to reduce the size of the cancer and then go in and operate.  Take all the surplus bits out as well as the tumour.

Flynn was eight weeks old.

Nana Fay with Flynn aged 12 weeks

Nana Fay with Flynn aged 12 weeks

His babyhood – and Fay’s enjoyment of his babyhood – was lost to Ovarian cancer.

I hate the term “easy baby” because frankly it’s an oxymoron.  Babies are not easy. But compared with my daughter who had undiagnosed reflux and screamed 24/7, Flynn was a breeze.  It was as if he knew he just had to fit in.  Fit in with our weekly trips to Brisbane.  Fit in with sleeping in a different location every weekend.

By the time Christmas rolled around, things seemed be looking up.  The operation had been a success.  The chemo was working and that dreaded cancer count was down.  Fay and Paul even went on a cruise, with Fay switching between red and blonde wigs depending on her mood.

In March, we decided to have Flynn’s Christening –  a farce of a day when the priest missed the memo and left the four families waiting in the sun at the church while someone tracked him down so we could all go home and have a drink.  It would be the last time Fay would visit us in our home.

Flynn was eight months old.

Within weeks, the dreaded cancer count was up again.  It was back.  This time on Fay’s bowel.  More chemo; more surgery.

Flynn was one-year-old.

Fay was too ill to travel the hour journey in the car to his party.

The next month it was Fay’s birthday.  Her 54th.  We all gathered at their house for cake and fish and chips.  My father-in-law had had to go out and buy her new clothes as she had literally become a shadow of her former self.  Her cheeks were sunken; her skin pallor grey and it was a huge effort to even come down the stairs to join us.

Within a month, doctors advised there were no further treatment options.  She came home and a hospital bed was made up in the family room.  Stairs were no longer a possibility.

Flynn was 15 months old.

A month later, we were driving down the Bruce Highway, making our regular weekend visit, when I get the phone call.  A family friend – my brother-in-law’s mum – who’d been with her that afternoon tells me to ask Kester to come quickly but to take the kids elsewhere.  I knew what was going on.

My older children were nine and 10.  Flynn was 16 months old.

We dropped off my husband and headed for the nearest giant toy warehouse.  Me clutching my mobile phone.  Waiting.  Just wanting to hold my husband.  Wondering how I’m going to break it to my kids, especially my daughter, who had formed such a close bond with Fay in the short time they’d known each other.

After the longest hour of my life, my husband calls me to tell me what I already know.

The bloody cancer had won.


This is my family’s ovarian cancer story.  Sadly, there are so many similar stories unfolding in families all around Australia as you read this blog.

My story is why you will ALWAYS see blogs posts on Styling You that support ovarian cancer awareness and fundraising for a cure and an early detection test.  See, that’s why this particular cancer has the killer reputation.  There is no test for it.  Don’t stop getting them, but ovarian cancer will not show up on a pap smear, nor a mammogram.  Typically by the time a woman has been diagnosed, the cancer has reached an advanced stage, making it very difficult to treat and the prognosis poor.


This Thursday, May 19, is the inaugural Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) White Shirt Day.

Witchery White Shirt Campaign ambassador Pania Rose

Witchery White Shirt Campaign Ambassador Pania Rose

Fashion retailer Witchery has long had an association with the OCRF, fundraising through its White Shirt campaigns and signature Silver Gift collections.  This year, Witchery has a specially crafted capsule collection available of three shirts for men and seven shirts and a classic tote bag for women, with 100% of the gross proceeds from the sale of the capsule collection going directly to the OCRF.  The Silver Gift collection, which complements the White Shirt collection, raises funds as well by donating $5 from the sale of each piece directly to the OCRF.

Witchery Silver Ball Necklace $69.95

Witchery Silver Ball Necklace $69.95

At selected Witchery stores this Thursday, staff will play host to White Shirt Campaign ambassadors and offer photo opportunities for those coming in store wearing white and silver.

Where you can participate:

Victoria:  Chapel Street, Doncaster, Chadstone

NSW:  Bondi, Mid City, Chatswood Chase

WA:  Hay Street

QLD:  Fortitude Valley, Indooroopilly

SA:  Rundall Mall

NZ:  Nutfield Street, Auckland

If you don’t live near one of these stores, join in anyway.  Put on your white shirt and help spread the word.  I know my late mother-in-law would have wanted you to.

PS.  My blogging friend Sawhole – who’s back interning at Woogsworld – has also written a moving post about her mum.  Head on over and read that one too.  Take your tissues.

  • Hi Nikki,
    Your post is beautiful. Thankyou for sharing your story. I’m the editor of madison magazine and I’m determined to get the message out there to as many women as possible that we need to find an early detection test for this insidious disease. It has touched too many people and it’s simply awful.
    Thankyou for urging people to buy a white shirt this month – 100 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of the shirts goes directly to the OCRF. Such a great cause.
    Lizzie x

    • Thank-you so much, Lizzie – for commenting and for supporting this cause. Madison certainly deserves praise for its long-standing commitment to this cause – it’s a big reason why I continue to buy your magazine and support corporate businesses – like Witchery – that have a heart.

  • Nikki, thank you for bringing to life so beautifully, and with such passion, something so heartbreakingly awful. Two beautiful women in my life have had theirs assaulted by cancer; thankfully theirs has been kept at bay. I’m so sorry that you lost Nana Fay. Erica x

    • Oh, thank-you, Erica – for highlighting the campaign on your blog and for stopping by here. Assaulted is so the correct verb when used in conjunction with cancer. Sorry to hear about your friends. x

  • Georgina Symonds

    Thanks for your well written story – the tears are in my eyes as I read it, thinking of your family but also of my precious mum who we lost to ovarian cancer last April. She fought hard, without complaint and I just have so much admiration in how she coped with what was dished out to her. This is an incidious disease, and seems just so unfair that we do not have an early detection test for it, hopefully for my 2 girls this will be different in the not so distant future. I wore my Witchery white shirt with absolute pride today, and thanks to Witchery all the women in my office were talking about it being ‘White Shirt day’, so the word is getting out there, and hopefully together we can make a difference for the next generation.

    • Oh, Georgina, I hate how I know what that feels like. My husband also rallied his workplace today and did a fundraiser. I think it’s such a great initiative – and will be right behind it again next year.

  • Ami

    Beautiful post Nikki. Very hard to read without getting teary. I saw your tweet and wore my white shirt today. Such an important message to be spreading. I’m sure your Mother in law would be very proud. xxx

    • Thanks so much for wearing your white shirt – I’m truly touched by all the wonderful comments here and on Twitter and Facebook. We can make a difference.

  • Thanks for sharing, I didn’t wear my work tshirt today and wore a white shirt. Your written is so raw and touching.

    • Thank-you and thanks for posting those photos – love your son!

  • Thanks for sharing, I wore my white shirt all day and will pop a picture up now x

  • Beautifully written Nikki. I have nothing much to add, cancer, unfortunately has a tight hold on my family at the moment.
    White shirt going on here now.

    • Oh, Naomi, I’m incredibly sorry to hear that. Thanks for donning a shirt. x

  • You have inspired me! I blogged about how important today is and linked back so more people can learn too xx

  • Thank you for sharing your story I’m off to change in to a white t-shirt. Thanks for the reminder.
    My sister is a cancer survivor but I’ve unfortunately lost 3 family members to the horrid disease and I’m watching one of the Mums at school battle with it now. It’s just so scary and so sad.
    Your mother in law would be very proud that you’re spreading the word xx

    • Very scary, Rebekah … thanks so much for supporting the cause – and big hugs to you and your family.

  • Nikki, Your post has stirred something inside of me and now I am going to find a white shirt to put on. I think I will forever remember your Mother in-law on this day. I bet she is super proud of you for writing this post and drawing much awareness to this horrible disease.
    Big hugs to you, your husband, father in law and everyone who is missing her today. xx

    • Oh, Fiona, thank-you SO much. My husband has hosted a fundraiser at his office today too – and got them all to wear white shirts. We’ll be sending the $ raised to the OCRF.

      • Oh she would be super proud of you guys…I think I might be quite emotional for the rest of the day! tears keep welling in my eyes…I’ve got to get to Witchery to buy one of their shirts! I hope they don’t get scared off by red eyes 🙂 You are doing a wonderful thing x

  • Donna

    Nikki I am lying in bed not able to sleep (because I napped earlier cuddling my little girl when I got home after a big day out). Now I am reaching for the tissues. That was so moving not only because it was such a loss for you to lose Faye so young but also because i have met and know Flynn and have seen that smile that lights up a room and know he is a lovely little man with a great personality. She was blessed to know him even if for a short 15 months and she would be proud of all that you have achieved recently…and the leverage you now have to take this message to a bigger audience because of it. Thanks for sharing such a personal story. Xx Donna

  • Thanks for the reply to my comment Nikki, appreciated. You have a lovely site, and magic interaction. (I’m still learning!)
    Today is Wed, Tomorrow is White Shirt Day, will encourage my co-workers to all wear the white shirts..
    Regardz, Gabz

  • Wow Nikki, that is one of the most powerful and moving blogs I’ve read. Just shared on Facebook and Twitter. What a wonderful job you’ve done to help create more awareness around this disease. Fantastic work. I’ll be wearing a white shirt tomorrow for sure!

    • Oh, thanks Kellie … I really, really appreciate you sharing it.

  • Oh how sad this story is, and you articulate the pain and loss perfectly through your beautiful words. And that baby picture, ohhhh. Tears in my eyes instantly after seeing it!

    What an insidious disease, robbing the world of people we dearly love… I will definitely wear white in your (& Faye’s)honour xx

  • Venetia

    Having just lost my mum to breast cancer I feel your loss. Cancer takes beautiful people too young. I will be wearing a white shirt tomorrow.

    • Oh, Venetia, I’m so, so sorry. I hate that I know what you’re going through right now.

  • Oh Nikki. What a sad story. I’ve always donated here and there, but today You have made me want to go out and buy a white shirt.

    • Thanks Sarah … Witchery has really impressed me with their long-term, consistent commitment to this cause.

  • Hi Nikki,
    I just wanted you to know your story really touched me. I have made mention of your post in my latest post on my blog and yes, I’ll be wearing white tomorrow. Best wishes, Michallee

    • Really appreciate you helping to spread the word further – thanks Michallee

  • Cancer…an ugly disease that affects every family. Thanks for sharing your heartfelt story. White shirts tomorrow for sure!

    • Thanks Kirri – and yes, sadly too many families are touched – more like sledge-hammered – by cancer.

  • Oh Nikki, you have me all choked up. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. I lost my mom to cancer when she was only 52. It just sucks. I will be wearing white for Faye and for you and for all the women lost to cancer and the families they left behind. xx

    • Oh, Kristin – I hate it that we have such a tragic thing in common. Thanks for wearing white x

  • My sister wasn’t the only one to have cancer, it took my Dad, Probably my Mum, Several of my wonderful animal friends, and I had it too… I think I’m ok, but I’m having a colonoscopy on Thursday, if only for peace of mind.

    I know that cancer used to be a bit of a taboo subject, but I can’t see that locking up information is helpful to anyone. I have been very open about my cancer (rectal) and what I went through, and have written about My Dad going through his, and eventually losing him.

    I congratulate you for telling your story, I don’t know how you feel about doing so, for me it was just that I’m a writer and I had to get the story out of my head to somehow get some peace, and to get the info out too. It’s not about bravery or anything, the story just needed to be told.

    For months I dreamt of Dad groaning in pain, of tubes and smells… and then finally that cleared. I dream of everyone and they’re healthy. it was a long wait for that to happen, I suppose it was a healing.

    I hope you can heal too *Big hug to you*


    • The writing does help, indeed, Wolfie. I’m really sorry to hear about how cancer has impacted on you and your family. Good luck with the test.

  • Such an important subject to write about, but also a difficult one for you, no doubt.

    Thanks for sharing, Nikki.

    I’ll be wearing my white shirt on Thursday.


    • Thanks Jodie. Was tearing up all afternoon writing it but feels good to get the message out.

  • Such a beautiful and relatable post Nikki. My mums currently battling cancer which was written off and misdiagnosed as nothing 3 years ago and finally detected and diagnosed as caner only 3 weeks ago. I’ll definately be wearing my white shirt on Thursday. I hope your families doing well Xxx

    • Oh, Phoebe, that’s so, so awful. Thinking of you and your mum on Thursday and every day.x

  • Anja mew

    Heya nik touched my heart till it ached my mum has ovarian cancer
    Again……to far gone for treatment
    The silent killer
    Love ya babe
    An xx

    • Oh, Anja. Enough already. I’m crying at hearing this news. Your mum is so, so precious. Sending you big, big hugs. xx

  • This is such a beautiful post. With tears in my eyes from reading your story, and remembering ours. I love my Nan (my soul mate) to Ovarian Cancer (this disgusting disease as I call it most of the time) just over 6 years ago. I promote Ovarian Cancer awareness in any and every way I can – and I thank you so much, because I actually didn’t know about this Thursday. You can bet that everyone I talk to in the next 2 days will hear about it though. Can’t wait to be proudly wearing my white shirt on Thursday! x

    • Oh, Danielle, my heart goes out to you too! So glad you can join in on Thursday. x

  • Such a sad story, and yet so important. Thanks for sharing and reminding us to be vigilant. And I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. Bless Nana Fay. xo

    • Hi Bronnie, yes, as women we let those niggling things go on … we need to be vigilant and we need funding to create an early detection test.

  • Your article was very moving, you shall have my support in fighting cancer with proudly wearing a white shirt!!!

    I hope you contuinue with this wonderful blog and continue to help raise awareness of cancer. Gabz

    • Thanks Gabz, I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. Thanks for your support.

  • I will be wearing white. Bless Nana Fay x

  • SawHole

    So sad. Your poor family, especially Kester.
    The upside is that due to new treatments most women are living up to five years, as opposed to three when my Mum died.
    I also had an easy baby, whom my Mum never met.

    • Oh, Sawhole, it’s so sad your mum never got to meet Miss Charisma. x

  • Liz See

    Such a sad story Nikki… well written and coming straight from the heart….I just had to keep on reading. Thank you for sharing this…I for sure will be wearing a white tshirt on Thursday and remembering your mum in law and the many others that have battled with this dreadful disease.

  • I imagine she would have found so much joy in being with Flynn, even if she couldn’t do the things she wanted to do with him. xxx

    • So true, Glowless. Even in those last weeks, Flynn would play with blocks and toys on the floor in the room where her bed was set up. His smile could light up a room then – as it does now. x

  • Nikki,
    Thankyou for sharing such a personal story. It is a horrible, horrible disease, and yes, it is tragic that there is no early detection for it. My mum also had it.

    For anyone who is at high risk of breast or ovarian cancer like me, can provide lots of support and information.

    Hope that helps!

    • Oh, Andrea, thanks for sharing that sight and so sorry that you’ve been touched by cancer as well.

  • The pneumonia, yes, it was the same with my sister. She had trouble moving her arm, then there was the diagnosis of pneumonia, and a course of anti-biotics. She then went away for an outback trip, which had been planned months earlier, thinking the dry and warm air would help. But she blew up like a balloon with fluid… The story is much the same from there, Jan died last September.

    • Oh, Wolfie. I so sorry. I hate that I know what you and your family would have been through – and continue to go through.

  • Nikki, this is such a moving story – thank you for sharing it and for reminding us of why we need to support this campaign.

    • Thanks Michelle. Up until this time I had sailed through life untouched by cancer in our immediate family. I miss my mother-in-law very much.

  • Oh Nikki this is so beautifully written and so unbearably sad. It’s a cause very close to my heart as well and you bet I’ll be rocking a white shirt this Thursday xxx

    • Ah, thanks Sarah. It’s a great initiative and an easy way for everyone to get involved.