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A tribute to Jane McGrath

Thu 21st Oct 2021

Jane McGrath (née Steele) was born on the 4th May 1966 to Jen and Roy Steele in Paignton, UK.

During a stopover while working as a flight attendant for Virgin Atlantic in 1995, Jane locked eyes with future husband Glenn McGrath in a busy Hong Kong nightclub. The pair quickly fell in love and after only a few months Jane left England and moved to Australia to live with Glenn.

Happily enjoying their new lives together, things took a turn for the worst in 1997 while on an Ashes Tour in the UK. Jane knocked on her best friend Tracy Bevan's hotel door, concerned about a lump she had found in her breast. Following a visit with the doctor, she was later diagnosed with breast cancer, aged 31.

Glenn and Jane McGrath in 2000.
Glenn and Jane McGrath in 2000.

Strong, courageous and resilient, Jane wasn't going to let the disease win her over and after a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she was declared cancer-free within a year.

Jane and Glenn were later married in the gorgeous heritage-listed Garrison Church in Sydney's inner city suburb of Millers Point. Worried they might never have children due to the cancer treatment, Glenn and Jane did give birth to two beautiful children, James and Holly.

Following Jane's first diagnosis, she wanted to start a charity, and so with the help of her loving husband and best friend Tracy - who is today McGrath Foundation, Ambassador and Director, they did.


Tracy Bevan (right) with her beloved friend Jane McGrath before she passed away. Picture: Supplied
Tracy Bevan (right) with her beloved friend Jane McGrath before she passed away. Picture: Supplied

In the early days they didn't really know what they were raising money for, but as time went by fate delivered the answer. In 2003, Jane was diagnosed again with breast cancer which this time had sadly metastasized to her bones.

During her next lot of treatment, Jane was so much happier because of the amazing care she received from a dedicated breast care nurse, which didn't exist the first time around.

"It was like having someone hold my hand through one of the worst nightmares of my life." Jane McGrath.

From that moment on the McGrath Foundation dedicated themselves to raising enough funds so that every Australian family experiencing breast cancer could receive free support from a breast care nurse.

Being in the limelight as the wife of one of Australia's greatest fast bowlers, Jane became an iconic figure in her own right. In 2004 she appeared with Glenn on Andrew Denton's Enough Rope, describing her personal experiences and dedication to the cause, which would one day sadly take her life.

In 2006, brain metastasis was found and after radiation treatment was successfully removed. In remission once again, Jane bravely soldiered on and continued her work with the McGrath Foundation.

On the 26th January 2008, Jane was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her dedicated service to community health, supporting women with breast cancer and for establishing the McGrath Foundation.

Sadly Jane lost her battle with cancer the morning of 22nd June 2008.

Every year during the third day of the Sydney test cricket match at Sydney Cricket Ground, it is now known as the Jane McGrath Day and spectators wear pink to honour Jane and show their support for her cause.

Thanks to Jane McGrath, today there are 171 McGrath breast care nurses in communities across Australia and 100,000 families have been supported by the McGrath Foundation since 2005.

In your darkest days you decided it was up to you to make a difference for all Australians dealing with Breast Cancer, and for that Jane McGrath, your legacy will forever live on strong. Rest in peace.

By Kirsten Jakubenko