A tribute to Bev Gray, by her husband Tony Gray

Bev always had a strong desire to help others and decided she wanted to inform as many friends and contacts about this “silent killer” cancer, so she composed a letter which ended up being sent around the world and was also posted on the Ovarian Cancer Australia website for all in the ovarian cancer community to see.

She wrote....one year before she passed away:

Everyone has a story to tell.



My name is Bev Gray & I would like to share my story with you.

In 2003 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was 56 years old. The diagnosis came as quite a shock, as up until this time I would have classified myself as fit & healthy. My diet was good & I exercised daily. Unfortunately with ovarian cancer the physical signs are subtle:

• Feeling uncomfortable & bloated, especially after a meal.
• Lower back ache.
• Unexplained changes in bowel habits – constipated or loose.
• An urgency to urinate.
• Weight gain.
• Gastrointestinal upsets, eg. indigestion, gas, heartburn.
• Tiredness.
• Cramps.
• Pain & discomfort during intercourse

Some or all of these symptoms may be experienced. I experienced them all.

Of course quite a number of these symptoms can apply to women going through menopause, & one can easily dismiss them. I did.

However I did see my GP to discuss the bloating, bowel & urination changes. I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (I.B.S.) & given instructions to strengthen my bladder control.

Who would have thought that these were the tell-tale signs of something more sinister – not me!

By the time I was officially diagnosed I was in early stage 3 of ovarian cancer. The cancer had already started to metastasise. Nevertheless I consider myself lucky. 

I have undergone quite a journey – both medically & spiritually. 

Here I am still alive 8 years later, & my husband & I are looking forward to our first grandchild. Life is sweet.

From my shattered dreams I have emerged as a stronger person.

This is sent to you in the hope that you will send it on to as many women as you can. It may save lives. It is also a means for me to reach out to help other women to receive an earlier diagnosis. It can strike females in all age groups.

At this time there are no tests available to specifically detect early ovarian cancer. 

I sincerely therefore ask for your help. If your friends & acquaintances email this to all the females they know & then they do the same, we may reach hundreds or even thousands of women. I already have this circulating in every State (except N.T.) and also in N.Z. the
U.K. & the U.S.A.

Thank you so much for your help.

During the latter stages of 2011 and after an emotional family discussion, Bev made her decision not to have any more treatment and to let life take its course. We, her family, and her oncologist accepted this decision and it was arranged, with the help of Eastern Palliative Care, for her to spend the rest of her days at home.

In October 2011 our daughter Miranda gave birth to our first grandson Ryan. Every day for the last four months of Bev's life, she was able to hold this new life in her arms and sing nursery rhymes to him. A truly beautiful memory for us to keep.

As Bev’s health declined – the organiser she was – she planned her own funeral, going through photos and music she would like t her service, she made lists for us to follow and wrote letters to her family and friends to say her last goodbye.

Then, thanks to our daughter Katya, who works at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Bev had a meeting with Associate Professor Clare Scott. Bev's desire was to continue to help other women even after her time had passed – she wanted to donate her body to science. Clare arranged this and Bev was proud to be able to sign all the required documents herself.

She also requested that we were to arrange donations to Ovarian Cancer
Australia rather than flowers at her funeral.

Since Bev’s passing, the Gray family has been on a roller-coaster ride – trying to raise more money and awareness for ovarian cancer in honour of Bev; our much loved wife and mother.

Thanks to Katya and Clare, I was introduced to the Director of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Professor Doug Hilton, who offered to establish the BEV GRAY SCHOLARSHIP from the donations so generously given by our many friends. The first recipient of this scholarship, Valerie Heong, is now working in the ovarian cancer research laboratory under Clare Scott's guidance. Katya is also now working with Clare as part of her job at the Institute.

After raising in excess of $1700 for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in February and having an Afternoon Teal at her work place, Miranda approached her Director David Gillham at Noel Jones Real Estate in Camberwell as well as Corporate Manager Gail Mitten-Glavin to discuss the possibility of donating annually to Ovarian Cancer Australia and becoming a sponsor. This would enable the Noel Jones Real Estate Group’s staff members to wear the teal ribbon and also have the teal ribbon on all their branding – giving Ovarian Cancer Australia more exposure, raising funds and also raising awareness. This partnership will commence in August 2013 and will be ongoing.  

I have participated in the Cancer Council's Relay for Life and, as a family we participated with friends in the Brazilian Butterfly Queen of the
Lake event supporting Ovarian Cancer Australia.

Last but not least, I have volunteered to Ovarian Cancer
Australia and am looking forward to being involved in their Consumer Advisory Committee.

As Bev said to me in her final inimitable way...

“Remember – life is for the living and I give you the part I never used up.”

I think she would be very proud of what we have achieved to date.