Written by Letitia O’Malley.
Letitia O’Malley is 41 and a mother to two young children. In 2013, she was devastated to lose her close friend Kelly Carlton (Kel) to ovarian cancer at just 43. Letitia was desperate to help Kel achieve her vision of assisting other cancer sufferers. She put her talents to work – she is a hairdresser and loves marathons – and so the 24-hour Hairathon was born.
Kel was one in a million. We met through a mutual friend over 10 years ago and I remember thinking just how lovely she was.
She was so gentle, loving, loyal, intelligent and funny. Kel was incredibly beautiful inside and out. She had gorgeous full lips and no one wore red lipstick like she did. Her big brown eyes and infectious laugh would lift an entire room. You were safe with Kel. She never uttered a bad word about others, and she gave the best hugs.
Kel’s journey with ovarian cancer.
Kel was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer in early December 2012. Kel focused on fighting hard and living and enjoying life. She was so selfless and caring. Cancer treatment is hard, particularly for advanced cancer sufferers where there is no cure. Kel made it her mission to support others in her own flamboyant way.
She always had chemo on a Friday. To lift everyone’s spirits, she established “Champagne Friday”. She and the other chemo patients would enjoy a fine bottle of bubbles along with some pâté’, French pastries and other delights. Champagne Friday became so popular that Kel’s family and friends had to book in advance to get a spot with her.
Kel put in a tremendous fight, but the cancer was very aggressive. We often spoke on the phone in the early hours of the morning. She was awake from the chemo and I was awake breastfeeding my newborn son. Kel knew her cancer was terminal and what lay before her, and wanted to raise awareness to keep helping others. I found these conversations so hard. Kel was the strong one and had accepted she was dying, but I didn’t want to lose her. I promised Kel I would continue with my plans to raise money for the care of cancer patients.
Ovarian cancer claimed my beautiful friend on 29 July 2013 – a day I will never forget.
Creating the Kelly Carlton Legacy and the Hairathon.
We established the Kelly Carlton legacy in April 2014 with the vision to support cancer patients and their families and raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, which is a silent killer. The symptoms are often vague. If you notice any unusual and persistent changes such as abdominal bloating, feeling full quickly, fatigue or irregular periods, you should visit your doctor.
There are so many worthy charities and I wondered how I could get started and stand out. I focused on my skills. I’m a hairdresser and thought I could offer great affordable haircuts and donate the money to the Brisbane Mater Cancer Care Wellness Centre. We hairdressers are like counsellors. We get to connect with people, particularly cancer sufferers who often lose their hair. Donating our time to cut hair is a personal and practical way for us to help and remember all those people who are suffering from or have died from cancer, and their loved ones.