skip to content

Superwoman and a survivor: meet Ambulance Victoria’s Jenn Hume

March 8, 2024 | in News

As an Ambulance Community Officer (ACO), Jenn Hume is familiar with helping to save the lives of others as a First Responder with Ambulance Victoria (AV).

But Jenn said it was a stage three ovarian cancer diagnosis a few years ago and the reality that her own life needed saving that helped shape the woman she is today.

“I realise that life is short. I’ve always tried to live each day like it is amazing, but after going through that I’m not going to waste a minute,” the mother-of-one said.

Jenn going through chemotherapy in 2020

Jenn going through chemotherapy in 2020.

Jenn, 46, is being recognised by her peers at AV this International Women’s Day for her inspirational efforts in overcoming ovarian cancer, raising awareness for ovarian cancer through her role as ambassador at Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA), and her ACO Team Leader role at Neerim South where she leads 26 First Responders.

Jenn has served Neerim South as an ACO for the last decade and it is a job she considers “a privilege”. She became an ACO after responding to a recruitment flyer at her local post office.

“When I first started, I didn’t even know what the role was. I thought it might have been washing the ambulance. I was never a big career-minded person, and I do not come from a healthcare background,” she said.

“I was local and loved my community, so I called the number and the paramedic was lovely; so, I went in for a chat,” she said.

“I love the role – the work is flexible for my family, and you truly are a first responder in the sense that quite often you are first on scene. You are really rushing out the door to help someone.

“You go to real cases where people want reassurance, care, and compassion, so that’s something I can give to every person.”

AV Chief Executive Jane Miller presenting Jenn with her 10 years of service award

AV Chief Executive Jane Miller presenting Jenn with her 10 years of service award.

ACOs like Jenn are First Responders, who are employed on a casual basis to work “on call” and are trained to provide advanced first aid in rural and remote communities.

Jenn said during her decade of service at AV she had noticed more women come into the workforce.

“When I started 10 years ago it was very much a male-dominated industry, I only knew of one woman in a management role,” she said.

“The woman of AV are proving we can do a 10-hour shift, respond to trauma and mental health cases, and handle challenging situations – it was not so long ago that women were shielded from these roles.

“Women at AV work together well and there is very much a camaraderie in the workforce.”

Jenn said she hoped more women would continue to pursue roles as a paramedic or First Responder, as it helps to change long-held perceptions of women working in emergency services.

“There are a lot more girls coming through thinking they can become paramedics because they are seeing more women out on road and more women in uniform. They grow up thinking, ‘I could do that!’,” she said.

“The reality is we are adequately trained just the same and if a man was doing my job, he would be using the same equipment as me.”

At each job Jenn attends, she wears her teal OCA ribbon with pride; a symbol she purposefully pins to her uniform to help encourage conversation with her patients and promote awareness of ovarian cancer.

“It’s something that is unique to women, and we have so much to juggle in life so noticing and acting on symptoms like abdominal pain and crushing fatigue are easy to minimise and postpone addressing them, which is exactly why the death rate is so high,” she said.

ACO Jenn Hume

ACO Jenn Hume.

In 2019 Jenn attended her son’s primary school graduation, even though she was feeling extremely unwell. Three days later, tests informed her that her common symptoms were cancerous.

Jenn underwent surgery and treatment to battle ovarian cancer. She underwent chemo in an attempt to shrink the tumour off a major artery.

Thankfully, it worked, and she went on to remove the tumour in 2020.

“I was still having chemo during COVID and it was really frightening,” she said.

“However, I received such overwhelming care during my chemo and that has inspired me to share hope to others going through the same thing.

“Now I have ‘NED’ which means ‘No Evidence of Disease’. Luckily, the chemo worked, and I don’t have ovarian cancer.

“The chances of it recurring the following years were high, but miraculously, I have been very lucky.”

In addition to returning to her ACO work, Jenn also took up modelling for a year, becoming the face of Australian clothing label ‘Black Pepper’ as an OCA ambassador.

“A lot of people don’t know someone with ovarian cancer and so it has been nice to give back and be the face of an ordinary woman who has lived the experience. Hopefully, it helps others feel less alone and that there is hope and support,” she said.

“I encourage other women to live boldly – say what you want to say, do what you want to do.

“I feel very privileged to live like this and have a job that gives me a lot of satisfaction and enables me to help other people and to give back.

“I do not wake up and think I have had cancer; I just get on with living. I have a second chance at life, and I am totally going to live it.”

To learn more about becoming an ACO visit: Become a First Responder – Ambulance Victoria

To learn more about ovarian cancer visit Ovarian Cancer Australia.