‘Brave to the end’: Sister mourns cancer campaigner
IT'S what sisters do - be there for each other, always.
Following the tragic death of Kristen Larsen to ovarian cancer at just 27, Elsa Larsen is pushing past her grief to keep her younger sister's remarkable advocacy alive.
Speaking for the first time since the 2019 Queensland Young Australian of the Year finalist died on December 9, a shy and tearful Ms Larsen, 33, said Kristen was "brave right up until the end".
"She did everything she wanted, she never said 'if only', she had no time to waste," said Ms Larsen, of Upper Kedron, who quit her librarian job to become Kristen's full-time carer five years ago.
Early last year, Kristen's compelling address to Parliament House was instrumental in securing $20 million for ovarian cancer research and $15 million for clinical trials into gynaecological cancers.
The former Hillbrook Anglican School student was 21 and working in human resources in London when she learned a persistent stomach pain was low-grade serous ovarian cancer, a rare form of the disease that is particularly deadly to women under 35.
After a full hysterectomy and having her large bowel removed, she began campaigning to raise awareness of all types of ovarian cancer.
Just 11 days before she died, a frail Kristen - flanked by her sister who'd been sleeping on a trundle bed beside her in Mater Private Hospital - recorded a raw and heartbreaking podcast at Nova 106.9's Brisbane studios.
"I've had six years to prepare, six years knowing I had a deadly disease," Kristen says in the podcast, "but I'm still shocked when they say I'm nearing the end. I soon realised that being grumpy or being sad or just sitting there thinking that you're already dead is no way to spend your final days."
It is the first of six episodes in Ovarshare, launching today on Nova, and which Elsa Larsen has spent the past few weeks editing.
Grappling with "dreadful emptiness", Ms Larsen said it had been a "really emotional time".
"We were always best friends, we did everything together, including moving to London and Canada, and we joked that we were the same person," she said.
"On that last, awful day, I called our circle of friends and our parents (Richard and Karen Larsen) to the hospital and Kristen's chihuahuas Henry and Harriett came too.
"I was snuggled up in bed with her, it was pretty unbearable, hugging her and telling her she didn't have to suffer any more.
"You never think you'll have to hold your baby sister and watch her breathing slow down and stop."
More than 1600 women are diagnosed annually ovarian cancer, and 1000 will die from it, according to Ovarian Cancer Australia.
The average age of diagnosis is 64.
Three-quarters are diagnosed at an advanced stage, and there is no early detection test.
Common symptoms include abdominal or pelvic pain, persistent abdominal bloating, the need to urinate often, and feeling full after eating a small amount.
The release of Ovarshare, in which Kristen also talks to survivors and doctors, ties with Ovarian Awareness Month and Teal Ribbon Day on February 26.