Aslı Akyürek began supporting Ovarian Cancer Action after losing her twin sister to the disease in 2013. She explains why raising awareness in Turkey is so important to her.
“I have been trying to raise awareness on behalf of Ovarian Cancer Action since I lost my identical twin sister Ahu to ovarian cancer four years ago.
Around this time my great aunt, who lives in London, brought me a teal bracelet with a heart that OCA were selling to raise awareness. I feel like it was meant to be.
March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in the UK. We don’t have an awareness month in my country, which is why I am working with Ovarian Cancer Action to spread the word.
Primarily I interact with the gynaecological oncologist, Prof. Dr. Macit Arvas, who carried out my sister’s major surgery. He is one of the few experts in Turkey. We have even been guests on a TV health programme together, attempting to increase awareness of the disease.
I have personally contacted and been invited to appear on various TV programmes and have vocalised my concerns in national newsapapers several times, consistently mentioning our collaboration with OCA.
One of the articles in a national newspaper was about the Ovarian Cancer Action recipe book, Her Recipes for Life, which contains a recipe for Ahu’s magical spicy bulgur pilaf.
People often ask me questions; why am I supporting OCA when they are not present in our country? How do I think that it will benefit the awareness I am longing to create in Turkey?
My hope is that maybe, from a distance, it will inspire others that they too can make an impact, not only locally and regionally but globally. I believe in the work that OCA does, they are carrying out vital scientific research at the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre.
I have also created a tribute fund and now Ahu’s name is on the Tribute Wall, which sits in the heart of the research centre, along with a personal inscription.
A memorable theatre performance has been arranged for the last four years in Ahu's name, every May 8, World Ovarian Cancer Day, with the cooperation of improvisational theatre group called “istanbulimpro”. I take awareness posters and leaflets in Turkish to this too.
Awareness of ovarian cancer in Turkey is insufficient, particularly compared with other better known gynaecological cancers. I attribute this worrying fact to the frequency of incidence, the rate of loss of life from ovarian cancer, and its complexity.
We are more technologically advanced than we ever have been and, by taking control, this will not just help us understand ovarian cancer, but help the generations after us. My dream is setting and sustaining awareness with no boundaries”