Dr Gwo-Yaw Ho on the personal journey and shared connections that define the WomenCan Trek

24 May 2024

Join us as we dive into the inspiring journey of Dr Gwo-Yaw Ho, a participant of WomenCan Trek, whose passion for the cause has propelled him through the rugged landscapes of the Larapinta Trail. From the initial allure of a WomenCan Trek to the profound camaraderie experienced during the 2022 trek, Dr Gwo-Yaw Ho shares his insights, reflections, and motivations for embarking on this transformative adventure once again in 2024.

As we explore his highlights from the Larapinta Trail and anticipate the challenges and beauty of the upcoming Cradle Mountain trek, Dr Gwo-Yaw Ho offers invaluable advice for beginners, reflects on the sense of community fostered by WomenCan Trek, and discusses the pivotal role of raising awareness and funds for ovarian cancer research. Join us as we uncover the personal journey and shared connections that define the WomenCan Trek experience through the eyes of Dr Gwo-Yaw Ho.

What inspired you to join WomenCan Trek when it was first launched in 2022?

The trigger was a WomenCan cap! I met the WomenCan team during ANZGOG ASM 2022 in Melbourne. I was immediately drawn to the cap but found out that I could only acquire it by signing up for the Larapinta trek. This piqued my curiosity, and upon discovering more about the trek, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss—not just to get the cap, but more importantly, to go the extra mile in fundraising and raising awareness about ovarian cancers. The cap now sits on display on my bookshelf, alongside an Aboriginal art I purchased during the trek. Both items serve as daily reminders of the personal commitment I’ve made to help women diagnosed with these devastating diseases, and the incredible journey that commitment started.

What did you love about your experience of doing WomenCan Trek 2022?

I loved nearly everything about participating in the WomenCan Trek 2022, especially the camaraderie with my fellow trekkers. Each person had their unique reasons for doing the trek —whether they were battling ovarian cancer themselves, supporting family members or friends affected by the disease, or working professionally to help and/or treat those diagnosed. Their courage, dedication, and zest for life profoundly touched me. Their experience not only gave me a deeper appreciation for the human aspect behind my cancer research but also inspired me to redouble my research efforts. This experience has imbued me with renewed motivation and encouragement to push forward in my career, striving to make a tangible difference in the lives of those affected by ovarian cancer. 

What made you decide to do it again in 2024?

I knew that I would participate in the WomenCan Trek again; it was merely a question of timing. The fight against ovarian cancer demands sustained effort and commitment, and I am dedicated to contributing to this cause. After my profoundly impactful experience in 2022, I told WomenCan that I would sign up immediately for the 2024 trek as soon as it was announced. This decision stems from my personal commitment to help combat ovarian cancer and from the knowledge that every trek helps to raise crucial awareness and funds for this vital cause. It may sound idealistic, but each step we take is a step towards hope for countless individuals affected by ovarian cancer.

Embracing Adventure

Can you describe one or some highlights from the Larapinta Trail?

Too many highlighted but if I can select 3, here are they:

After dark: Being around the campfire after a scrumptious dinner amongst the trekkers sharing a joke or two, personal stories, and listening to our guide singing whilst playing the guitar with a few alcoholic beverages. A well-earned treat after a long day of walking. 

Conquering Mount Sounder at sunrise: Starting our ascent at 2 AM, we embarked on a challenging 14.9 km trek up Mount Sounder, culminating in an 836-meter climb. Despite the pitch darkness and my exhaustion, the support from my trusty companions, Eileen and Jane, kept me moving. Reaching the peak at sunrise, the breath-taking view symbolised a new beginning.

Not for the Faint Heart: One of the most challenging yet memorable experiences was taking a dip in the creek. The water was icy cold and filled with dead fish, a stark reminder of nature’s harsh realities after a prolonged dry spell. Despite the initial shock, the cold water was invigorating, and exceedingly good for the sore muscles. It was a bracing but an unforgettable moment of the trek.

What are you looking forward to seeing or experiencing on the Cradle Mountain trek? 

The opportunity to meet and connect with incredible individuals; sharing the journey and hearing their stories as we trek through one of Australia’s most stunning landscapes. I am particularly eager to see the iconic view of Cradle Mountain reflected in the tranquil waters of Dove Lake. Such moments remind us to pause and appreciate our surroundings, recognising the beauty and goodness present even during life’s great challenges. I am also looking forward to finding inspiration and affirmation in the company we keep and the natural splendor we're part of.

There is a fee to pay for WomenCan Trek. Do you think the adventure delivers comparable or better value than a short holiday?

I think the experience that I gained from the WomenCan trek is invaluable.


Overcoming challenges with unbreakable bonds of shared camaraderie

How would you describe the camaraderie and sense of community from your trek buddies?

Jane (left) and Eileen (right) were indispensable members of my support team during the Larapinta Trek. Without them, I doubt I could have completed the journey. They were with me at every step, providing encouragement and urging me not to give up, especially during the most challenging moments. It felt as if we were connected by an invisible rope—they pulling me forward and me holding on tightly. Even though we are now miles apart, our bond remains strong. We continue to stay in touch, and their encouragement still inspires and motivates me today. This enduring connection is a testament to the deep camaraderie and sense of community that such challenging experiences can forge.

How did you physically and mentally prepare for the trek outside your work schedule?

I maintain my physical and mental fitness through a consistent routine that fits around my work commitments. I play squash three times a week, which helps improve my agility and stamina—key components for enduring long treks. Recently, I also completed a trek to Cape Hauy, which was not only a part of my training but also a way to connect with nature and mentally prepare for the challenges ahead (see my WomenCan story blog). I am really looking forward to this adventure and the unique challenges it will bring.

What advice would you offer a hiking beginner considering joining the WomenCan Larapinta Trek?

Don’t overthink it—take the plunge! Most importantly, you are not walking alone, we are all together in this. No one is left behind. Additionally, start with some basic training, like regular walks or hikes, to build your stamina and comfort with walking long distances. Remember, every step you take is a step toward not only personal achievement but also contributing to a great cause.

Why do you think the WomenCan Trek is best suited to a beginner?

I think the Cradle Mountain trek is actually easier than Larapinta trek. Regardless, this is a collective journey where everyone supports each other. We ensure that no one is left behind, fostering a spirit of camaraderie and mutual support. It is also a fantastic opportunity to be part of a community that's united in a common cause.


The importance of raising awareness and fundraising for gyanecological cancers 

In addition to your work, how do you see your participation in WomenCan Trek contributing to raising awareness for gynaecological cancer?

Participating in the Larapinta trek has been a good way to engage people in conversations about ovarian cancer, a topic many are unfamiliar with. Over the past two years, my experience from the trek has been a focal point of my personal storytelling and also a segue into broader discussions about gynecological cancers. These conversations often serve as eye-openers for many, raising awareness and understanding of the disease. By sharing my experiences and the challenges faced by those affected by ovarian cancer, I help to encourage more people to support the cause.

You have almost hit your first $500 raised within 1 week of registering. How did you gather support?

I simply told my family members, friends, and colleagues that I am doing it again! This time risking my life against the fierce Tassie Devils, sub-zero temperatures, and treacherous mountain peaks. They seem to be bought in by it!

Do you have any tips, insights, or strategies for any first-time fundraisers?

Don’t worry too much. Just tell people what you are doing – you will be surprised that many people are really interested to contribute. The WomenCan fundraising team have many useful tips – listen to them.