The power of research: Myrna’s legacy

This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Winter ‘24
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Myrna wearing a pink blouse

Myrna Dewar spent most of her career as a nurse, caring for patients with cancer. She never expected that, one day, she’d be one of them.

It’s very confronting when you’re diagnosed,” she says. “It’s sort of right in your face. It’s pretty scary.

Myrna first learned she had breast cancer after a routine mammogram at the age of 60. More than two decades later, that day is still etched in her memory.

“I’ll always remember the phone ringing. It’s just one of those moments in your life you never forget.”

With no history of cancer in her family, to say the news came as a shock is an understatement. As a seasoned cancer and palliative care nurse, she found herself preparing for the worst.

But Myrna says that experience was nothing compared to the terrible news to come. One of her two children faced a breast cancer battle of her own, just 10 years later.

“Dealing with it myself, that’s one thing,” she says. “But when it’s your child? Oh, I found that really, really difficult.”

Myrna Dewar
Myrna Dewar with WEHI director Professor Ken Smith

Today, Myrna has the incredible joy of knowing she and her daughter are both healthy and cancer free. And she says she owes that fact to the perseverance of passionate medical researchers, who have dedicated their careers to learning all they can about how to improve cancer treatments and save patients’ lives.

“I didn’t start my nursing life until I was nearly 42,” says Myrna. “But even in my career of 23 years, the change in treatments was extraordinary. And they’re doing things today that you just couldn’t dream of when I started nursing.

“Research leads to improving the outcomes for so many diseases. The advances and the benefits in treatment make patients’ lives so much easier.”

It’s why Myrna is such a steadfast supporter of WEHI. And it’s why she has left the institute a gift in her Will.

“I have two children and five grandchildren,” she explains. “I would like to think that if any future problems happen, this gift can make outcomes and treatments even better for them.

“When I was a kid there was polio and tuberculosis, now Australia is polio-free, and TB is rare here. People are even living with HIV, and it’s not that long ago, in the 80s, that they were dying.

“Without research, all these breakthroughs and wonderful treatments wouldn’t happen. So unless we as a community encourage and look after organisations like WEHI, what will our future be?

“We should always be working toward improving things and making lives easier. I can’t do much else at my time in life, but I can help financially … and research is an ongoing thing. It has to continue and it’s important that it does.”

First published on 06 June 2024
This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Winter ‘24
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Illuminate Winter 2024
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