Two women, one gene mutation: the real story behind Inheritance

17 Feb 2023
Dr Kath O'Connor and her cat, 2016

The late Dr Kath O’Connor was always health conscious; she worked around the clock as a doctor and had an active life in country Victoria, where her hobbies involved swimming and writing. 

However, when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015, Kath and her family were shocked about the illness despite living an active and healthy lifestyle.  

Inspired by this shared medical history with her grandmother, the late Dr Kath O’Connor penned her debut novel, Inheritance, which chronicles two women whose lives were shaped by a single gene mutation, BRCA1. Her debut novel has been released posthumously to celebrate ovarian cancer awareness month, enabling Kath’s passion for fundraising for ANZGOG’s gynaecological cancer research. 

“Kath’s cancer diagnosis came as a shock.” recalls Kath’s parents, Ann and Kevin, “The years following the diagnosis was a roller-coaster of treatment and recovery, treatment and recovery.”  

“Throughout those five years, her independent spirit, personal connection to the medical profession as a doctor, and her life in the country meant that much of her battle was fought far from us as we lived in a Melbourne suburb.” 

Anne and Kevin recalled Kath’s determination to complete the novel was “against all odds."

“Kath worked on the novel as cancer gathered pace, completing a second draft just before she died,” said Kevin “even in her final days, she asked us to look up some details she needed to put in the novel.”  

Sadly, Kath succumbed to the disease in November 2019.  

An interest in supporting ANZGOG’s research…. 

As a doctor, Kath understood the power of medical research and supported ANZGOG's research. As an advocate for ANZGOG's gynaecological cancer research, Kath raised funds for research through the WomanCan’s Save Box campaign in 2017 and 2018. After her passing in 2019, Kath’s family honoured her desire to further support ANZGOG’s research by printing out bookmarks with a link to a fundraising page created by Kath and distributing them to mourners at the funeral. 

One simple action raised over $19,300 in donations for ANZGOG’s research in memory of Kath. 

In one further act of generosity, all the royalties the sales from Inheritance will be donated to WomenCan and are now available in all good bookshops, supporting cutting-edge gynaecological cancer research and enabling women to live longer and better lives.

Kath's parents, Kevin and Ann O'Connor

Kath’s parents recall how proud they were when they first saw the book published and acknowledged their daughter’s achievement in fulfilling her dream as a writer. 

 “We are very proud of the publication of her book. She always wanted to be a writer, and all her life she wrote short stories, poems, and now a novel,” Kath’s parents said, “We have pride in her achievement, tinged with disappointment that she did not see it published, and was denied the chance to continue writing and producing wonderful stories.”  

 “We have lost a kind, caring daughter and an outstanding doctor."

 If you or a family member are interested to learn more about how you can support ANZGOG’s research or how to create a Memoriam fundraising page, don't hesitate to get in touch with Jane Galloway on