Ellen Fitzgibbon


Ellen never imagined she had cancer. She was 45 years old, working full time as a veterinarian, traveling, and taking photographs of her travels. But she was experiencing nagging abdominal pains, fatigue, and an urgency to urinate that became increasingly hard to ignore. In July of 2014, after palpating a mass in her abdomen, Ellen was diagnosed with Stage IIIC ovarian cancer.

She underwent major abdominal surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center to remove her ovaries, uterus, part of her  colon, and lymph nodes, resulting in a successful "debulking."

After six rounds of intensive chemotherapy, she was in remission. However, a year later, the disease recurred, as it so often does, and Ellen continued treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation, and clinical trials, for another two and a half years.    

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women ages 35-74. Given the vague symptoms of ovarian cancer, most women are diagnosed in late stages when five-year survival rates are as low as 20%.

After Ellen's ovarian cancer diagnosis, photography, which had been a hobby, became a passion. Although there were days she  was too tired to lift her camera, photography was the only activity that could distract her from thinking about her diagnosis.

Sharing pictures online kept her socially engaged, and editing photos of all the beautiful places she had been so fortunate to have explored inspired her to fight hard for nearly four years. She passed away June 2018.

Ellen established Shooting for a Cure to give a face to ovarian cancer,  educate women about its symptoms, and raise funds for an early detection test through the sale of her photographs.

Proceeds from the sale of her photography will be donated to Drapkin Laboratory  at the University of Pennsylvania.

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