07 February 2019
Dean Rowe sadly lost his wife, Judith, to ovarian cancer in March 2017. Now, every February he leads a group along one of the couple’s favourite walking trails in McLaren Vale, helping to raise funds for Cancer Council SA. This is ‘Judith’s Legacy’.
Judith and I met on a blind date. It was 16 April, 1954—Good Friday. Her aunt and a friend of mine had set us up, and the rest was history. After meeting that Friday evening, we proceeded to go to the pictures together on the Saturday, and then have a picnic on the Sunday. That’s when we had our first picture taken together.
Left: Dean and Judith’s first picture together, two days after they first met in 1954. Right: their last photo together, on Judith’s birthday in 2017.
We married on 12 May, 1956. I feel so grateful that we got to have our 60th wedding anniversary together before Judith passed away. We celebrated it with chocolates and Champagne, overlooking the ocean at Glenelg.
Judith and I were regular walkers. We’re from Aldinga, so liked to spend our mornings taking it all in, wandering around the nearby towns and having long conversations.
It was when we returned from one of our favourites, the walk along The Esplanade in Aldinga, back in September 2015 that we first knew anything was wrong. Judith was in severe abdominal pain, and we had to call an ambulance.
She had an ultrasound when she went to hospital, and shortly after we were told that it was ovarian cancer. She was 80 years old.
Even during chemo, we continued to walk together whenever she felt up to it. I remember we would take the bus timetable with us, ready for Plan B. I was with her during every treatment for 15 months, and I liked to think that helped her get through it.
She was actually told she was in remission in 2016, but it was short lived. Her next CT scan showed nine more tumours.
Another round of chemo was really positive; there was some reduction, but her final scan showed that the tumour was getting bigger. There had been a 40 per cent increase in just five weeks.
It all became too much for her, and she passed peacefully on 8 March, 2017.
I was lost without her, so decided to honour her memory by recreating one of our fondest pastimes—walking the 6 km Shiraz Trail from Willunga to McLaren Vale. By doing it during February, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, it was also a special way to celebrate around the time of her birthday on 25 February. The vines are out, and it’s just such a beautiful landscape.
Ovarian cancer rarely receives the attention or the media of other more common cancers. But with almost no symptoms until it’s advanced, it’s often called the silent killer. We knew nothing about it until it was too late.
My aim was to raise awareness of this cancer, and to do my bit to raise some money. Exactly how much isn’t important—we don’t set a goal or anything.
That said, what first began as a reflective walk has snowballed to much more—raffles, auctions, luncheons, car boot sales. I’ve caught the fundraising bug, and it feels so great to be doing it all with such a supportive community of people.
There’s a small committee who come together to make this possible—including my son, Shane, and Hazel Wainwright, a former councillor for the City of Onkaparinga.
Last year, we raised $20,000—and I know that it’s going to really help where it’s needed. We sell everything from hats and pens to t-shirts. It can almost become overwhelming at times just how generous people can be.
This year, Judith’s Walk will be held on 24 February. For more information about supporting Dean, or getting involved, visit the Facebook page.