Sheffield woman on a mission to raise cancer awareness in tribute to sister

A Sheffield woman who saw her sister die just eight days after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer has vowed to continue publicising the disease’s symptoms in the hope of saving more women’s lives.

Over the last year, Natalie Wild has shared her sister Leanne’s story by fronting charity Target Ovarian Cancer’s symptoms awareness campaign, which has featured on billboards in major cities across England – with thanks to pro-bono support from City Outdoor Media – in donated print adverts and editorial in newspapers and magazines.

One of the donated billboard adverts in Sheffield had an incredible impact. Natalie was told by one woman it had ‘saved her life’ after seeing the advert on her way to and from work. The symptoms listed – persistent bloating, abdominal pain, needing to wee more often and feeling full quickly – resonated with her and so she took a photo of the advert and visited hospital.

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She showed the photo to staff, explained her symptoms and said she was concerned it was ovarian cancer. She was soon diagnosed with Stage 1 ovarian cancer and given the treatment she needed.

Natalie Wild, left, with her sister Leanne Wainwright.Natalie Wild, left, with her sister Leanne Wainwright.
Natalie Wild, left, with her sister Leanne Wainwright.

Natalie said that news of a woman who had seen the campaign and sought urgent medical assistance has reaffirmed her desire to never end her campaigning: “When I was told that someone had received an early diagnosis because of seeing the charity’s advert with my face and message on, I burst into tears. This is why I got involved with Target Ovarian Cancer. To save more sisters’ lives. To make sure no-one experienced what Leanne experienced. So that women gets a diagnosis as early as possible. And that’s why I’ll never stop campaigning and fundraising.”

Raising awareness of ovarian cancer’s symptoms has been key to the campaign Natalie has fronted. Her sister Leanne Wainwright was suffering with persistent bloating at the time of her diagnosis – though she was generally feeling unwell for months beforehand.

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Leanne was originally sent home from her work in admin at Sheffield’s Hallamshire Hospital in April 2020, as she was struggling to breathe and feeling unwell. She tested negative for Covid-19, although that was initially suspected. And she didn’t return to work until August that year. She continued to seek medical attention due to exhaustion and breathlessness throughout the next year, for which she was given steroids and inhalers.

Leanne WainwrightLeanne Wainwright
Leanne Wainwright

Leanne didn’t know she had ovarian cancer until an emergency admission for suspected Covid-19 and norovirus in November of 2021. Hospital staff were concerned about the abdominal swelling they could see and she was referred for a CT scan. It showed a mass in her ovary – ovarian cancer. Leanne had surgery within days and her family were then told the devastating news that the cancer had spread and there was nothing medics could do.

In December 2021, Leanne, aged just 39, died eight days after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer despite having visited the GP for 20 months with symptoms of ovarian cancer

There are around 7,500 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and if caught early 9 in 10 will survive. However many are diagnosed in the later stages when the cancer is harder to treat.

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Natalie, aged 44, will continue to raise awareness of the symptoms, by whatever means.

Natalie Wild outside Target Ovarian Cancer awareness billboard by Meadowhall shopping centre.Natalie Wild outside Target Ovarian Cancer awareness billboard by Meadowhall shopping centre.
Natalie Wild outside Target Ovarian Cancer awareness billboard by Meadowhall shopping centre.

“Having educated ourselves we have been able to educate others,” she said. “It's only by talking to people you realise how many are unaware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and it needs to be an ongoing conversation. In the days of GP inaccessibility it's good to have places you can take your questions and that's why we love the space Target Ovarian Cancer provides for women.

“Our billboard story provides proof that the campaign works and saved one life that we know of. It would be easy to lay down and be angry and sad in equal measure but that achieves nothing. Getting out there and talking and keeping Leanne’s memory alive hopefully means we can keep others alive."

Charlie Thorpe, managing director at City Outdoor Media, said: “Hearing Natalie's story is truly heart-warming and embodies the positive impact we aspire for our screens to deliver. We have partnered with Target Ovarian Cancer for eight years and the mission was always to hopefully one day hear of a positive outcome in a woman's life.

Join Target Ovarian Cancer in raising awareness by downloading the charity’s toolkit:

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