90-Year-Old Chermside Local Defies Odds, Continues to Beat Australia’s Deadliest Female Cancer

Claire Shultz
Claire Schultz and husband, Merv Photo Credit: Icon

Claire Schultz, a 90-year-old Chermside local, was diagnosed with Australia’s deadliest female cancer and given only two months to live; yet she has defied the odds and continues to beat the disease six years on.

With a 5-yr survival rate of only 49%, ovarian cancer may be diagnosed at any age but the highest rates occur among women between the ages of 85 to 89 years old. Sadly, the survivability of this disease also dwindles with age.

In 2017, Claire consulted with a GP about pain in her leg but was soon told that it was cancer and she only had two months left to live. With such as short timeframe, Claire was determined to find the best help she could given the challenges of cancer procedures. She wanted a top oncologist who could guide her through her diagnosis and treatment.

Claire found the right team at the Icon Cancer Centre Chermside with Dr Jeffrey Goh as her medical oncologist. 

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“In Australia, nearly a third (28%) of cancer patients don’t feel they are informed enough about their treatment process, which may explain why half (52%) of patients believe that finding a specialist with the right expertise improves their patient experience,” Dr Goh said.

“Patient communication is a two-way interaction between the health care professional and the patient. Patients both rely on us to support them through the treatment process and we also need to be attentive to understand the unique needs of each patient. 

“We’ve worked closely with Claire to help her to understand her treatment options, stay informed on how the cancer is progressing and to just be a familiar face who she knows has her back. It has been hugely rewarding to see Claire continue treatment years after her initial diagnosis. It’s her cancer journey, but she hasn’t been travelling alone, we’re a team.” 

Icon Cancer Centre Chermside
Photo Credit: Screengrab from Google

Through the team’s help, Claire was able to celebrate her 90th birthday and her 68th anniversary with her 94-year-old husband Merv, who has been her companion through her chemotherapy sessions.

“The most valuable support I received, other than the actual treatment would be the emotional support. I feel extremely fortunate to have Dr Goh as my medical oncologist, it was the best decision I have ever made. He has guided me through a very severe and traumatic period to where I am today. 

“I always tell him, you fixed me, and he says: ‘No, it’s a team effort, you did 50 per cent and I did 50 per cent.’ I can’t thank him enough. The whole team at Icon are also very supportive and friendly, which really helped to put me at ease when I was going through treatment.

“I’ve also found a great deal of support from my family, in particular my partner Merv, who has accompanied me to every appointment and treatment session. He’s a great source of my strength and optimism. When I received my 2-month prognosis, I told myself that I would just try my best to be around for as long as I can for my family and 6 years on I’m still going! I couldn’t feel more blessed.”

Ovarian Cancer Australia believes that a holistic support program can help many women battling ovarian cancer. As such, they’ve launched the Teal Support Program in 2019.

“We often hear from women that while the physical effects of an ovarian cancer diagnosis can be devastating, it’s the mental toll that can weigh on them the most,” Jane Hill, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Australia, said. 

“Ovarian Cancer Australia’s Teal Support Program offers a holistic service that caters directly to these unmet needs that so many women with an ovarian cancer diagnosis are facing. We help our women to navigate the healthcare system, answer questions regarding their treatment and provide emotional and psychological support to assist with the mental toll of the disease. The level of care we offer is something that cannot be accessed elsewhere. Since launching in 2019, Ovarian Cancer Australia’s Teal Support program has provided crucial support to over 750 women across the country.”

Published 14 March 2023