The Ballarat community remembers Fiona Elsey and her inspiring legacy, thirty years on from her passing in 1991. Fiona’s courage and inspiration left an inspiring legacy, with her dream fulfilled of world class cancer research facility in Ballarat.
In 1990 12-year-old Fiona Elsey was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. She underwent chemotherapy at the Royal Children’s Hospital and was treated by the facility’s then Head of Cancer Research, paediatric oncologist and haematologist, Professor George Kannourakis, who commuted from Ballarat. Ewings Sarcoma, at this time, had a survival rate of 5% and despite treatment, Fiona’s disease progressed. She died on October 6th, 1991 aged 14.
Professor Kannourakis said “When Fiona was very ill; she made me promise her that I would bring research to Ballarat so that other people would not have to go through what she was going through. Fiona was incredibly insightful and brave for a young girl battling a terminal disease.”
Upon her death, George Kannourakis, Fiona’s mother Gail Elsey, and a support group of Ballarat residents set about making Fiona’s dream a reality, and ensuring the promise was kept.
Mrs Elsey said, “In this tough time, we were so supported by the Ballarat community and started grassroots fundraising of cake stalls, receiving support from local businesses, St John of God Hospital and in 1998 the first regional cancer research centre in Australia was born.”
“From our experience we have learnt that in life we are here to give and love. If Fiona was here today, she would give George a hug and be so proud on what has been achieved. We are so proud of her legacy,” said Mrs Elsey.