Kate Winslet and a heroine who started an ovarian cancer campaign for the past three months of her life
Advertising boss Vicky Jacobs was super smart and great fun, the kind of woman people couldn’t say no to.
So, it’s no surprise that friends and colleagues spent the past three months of her life helping her launch a multimedia campaign to make her aware of the disease that would cost her life – ovarian cancer.
Now seen on TV, billboards, and magazines, I Will Survive is the largest campaign charity, Ovarian Cancer Action, which has run in its ten-year history.
It’s all thanks to 48-year-old Vicky, who mastered the campaign in a few weeks. It has a cast of young girls who ‘represent’ the next generation of ovarian cancer patients who speak the lyrics to Gloria Gaynor anthem I Will Survive.
Advertising boss Vicky Jacobs, 48, was super smart and great fun, the kind of woman people couldn’t say no to. Pictured with husband commercial film producer Alex Heathcote, 49
Hollywood star Kate Winslet, whose mother Sally died of the disease in 2017, expresses the grim message: ‘Every two hours in the UK, a woman dies from ovarian cancer. The next generation deserves better. Make a promise to a girl you love. ‘
It was first shown on October 29 – the day Vicky died.
“I can’t be prouder of her,” says her husband, North West London commercial film producer Alex Heathcote 49. “What she really wanted in recent months was to do exactly what the movie says: make sure the next generation survives this disease.
“She wanted her legacy to improve diagnosis and treatment so that young girls don’t suffer.”
Nearly nine in ten women in England and Wales diagnosed with breast cancer now survive for five years or more. For ovarian cancer, it is less than half.
However, a spokesperson for the ovarian cancer campaign says, “More than two-thirds of ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer.
“Women diagnosed in stage 1 have a 90 percent survival rate compared to 19 percent when diagnosed in stage 3, when it has spread to the abdominal cavity and lymph nodes.”
Hollywood star Kate Winslet, whose mother Sally died of the disease in 2017 (pictured together), voices the grim message: ‘Every two hours in the UK, a woman dies from ovarian cancer
Determined to change this, Vicky pulled in the favors and the movie was made in record time, says Alex. “I was able to show her the final version before she died.”
Vicky’s diagnosis in May 2014 was a bull’s eye. Under 50, she had none of the risk factors – no overweight or diabetes, and no family history. It came when the couple tried a baby.
“Until then, our lives had been blessed. We met at a bar in Soho in 1998 and I was blown away, ‘recalls Alex, who works for Hollywood director Ridley Scott.
It wasn’t just that Vicky was brilliant – she had a top-notch degree in modern languages from Cambridge University – she was also fearless and graceful.
“When we got married in 2006, we thought we would start a family someday, but that day never came. By the time Vicky was 42 in 2013, we had been trying for a while.
“Realizing we needed help, we started IVF in July 2013 – pay to have it private.”
A routine scan revealed cysts on Vicky’s ovaries and doctors sent her to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London. The surgeon advised removing her ovaries, boisterous hope for children.
“Vicky was upset but very pragmatic,” says Alex.
Shortly after the surgery, in April 2014, came crushing news: The pathology report showed cancer in one of Vicky’s ovaries.
Doctors, as a precaution, recommended hysterectomy and appendicitis surgery, putting Vicky into immediate menopause.
Alex recalls, “It was a blow to not be able to start a family. But that was nothing compared to being told that Vicky had ovarian cancer. ‘
A grueling operation followed, but the surgeon assured them that it had a very high success rate. Ovarian cancer is often treated with both surgery and chemotherapy, but in 26 percent of cases it is only with surgery.
The couple made a trip to Brazil after the operation. But tissue samples showed cancer cells in Vicky’s diaphragm.
Vicky needed chemotherapy, which she received under the care of Hani Gabra, a professor of medical oncology at Imperial College London. “He was great,” says Alex. “He assured us that he would treat Vicky like she was his own sister. And he did. “
The powerful drugs made Vicky weak and nauseous, and she was forced to say goodbye to her job as director for a long time.
But the drugs only gave her a remission for six weeks; a scan, in March 2015, revealed cancer cells in her pelvis.
“Vicky knew this meant the cancer was incurable, but didn’t flinch,” says Alex. While Hani was about to work out, Vicky said, “Hani, I understand the implications, but I will not be defined by this disease. ‘
“And she was not. If one good thing comes out of such a diagnosis, it’s that life is distilled in its purest form, and Vicky planned to squeeze out every drop. ‘
The couple took long vacations. In between trips, Vicky started chemotherapy. Further surgery, in August 2015, removed more tissue from her pelvic area.
But by April 2016, scans showed cancer cells in her bones, lymph nodes, hip, and neck. Weak and with terrible pain, palliative radiotherapy was recommended.
In a desperate last offer, Professor Gabra named a clinic in Lausanne, Switzerland, which achieved good results with experimental immunotherapy combining Kadcyla and Keytruda drugs that kick-started the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.
The couple used their savings to finance it. Vicky received a six-treatment program, three weeks apart, each costing £ 10,000. It was the first time that these drugs had been combined to treat ovarian cancer.
The results were stunning at first. Within three months, Vicky felt much better, and scans and blood tests showed the tumors were no longer growing.
“It was like Vicky was back to normal,” says Alex. “The pain is gone. It seemed that the drugs had turned on her immune system, which was now successfully fighting the cancer cells. ‘
For the following year, they celebrated every anniversary and wedding anniversary as if it were their last.
“We never got false hope. We were well aware that – as amazing as it seemed – the remission was only temporary, ”says Alex.
And so it turned out. In April 2018, 18 months after starting breakthrough treatment, Vicky’s cancer started to grow again.
As time went on, Vicky decided to put her talent and energy into changing next-generation survivability and contacted Cary Wakefield, Chief Executive of Ovarian Cancer Action.
“Vicky was a natural force,” says Cary. She knew it was too late for her, but understood that funding research would improve women’s survival in the future. Vicky wanted to leave a legacy that would stop ovarian cancer from being overlooked. ‘
Despite being extremely ill, Vicky insisted on going to the shoot in August, home exhausted but excited.
Weeks later, Vicky was shot in St John’s Hospice, North West London, where Alex showed her the latest version of ‘her’ film just a week before her death.
“Her face brightened,” says Alex. “She was very proud.”
At Vicky’s funeral, a friend read her suicide note.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have had the most incredible life surrounded by wonderful people,” she wrote.
“I’m really struggling not to see my niece, nephew and godchildren grow up. I don’t have children to grieve – but a man I wanted a lot more time with. But I know I’m just greedy.
“If my life has been made shorter than I would like it to be, it is worth remembering that sometimes it is worth staying in your welcome.
“So don’t be sad for me today, because I’m going straight to the dancefloor in the air, to stop a few moves with some dear friends who went on too soon.”
Alex, meanwhile, is burying his grief to raise money for ovarian cancer action, with £ 27,000 of his £ 75,000 goal already reached.
“Vicky would have been so happy. People’s generosity is amazing. ‘