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The universal language of hope

The Pereira family’s story

Toronto, Ontario
May 23, 2018

It was a year of many firsts for the Pereira family.

Balbina Pereira was diagnosed with Stage 2 ovarian cancer in November 2016. Balbina’s husband Manuel and her daughters, Stephanie and Vanessa, quickly stepped up to form her support team and continue to be by her side every step of the way.

“When I came across Ovarian Cancer Canada online, I was quite unfamiliar with the disease. I had taken my fair share of women’s health courses in university, but I was shocked I hadn’t heard of ovarian cancer,” says Stephanie, Balbina’s oldest daughter. “As a first step, I subscribed for updates online and ordered my mom the By Your Side guide. Our copy arrived in the mail the day she started treatment. It was such a coincidence but it made us feel much more prepared for the journey ahead.”


The Pereira family at the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope

The Pereiras arranged their schedules around Balbina’s treatments, trading shifts with colleagues when necessary to pitch in as much as they could.
 
“My mom is most comfortable communicating in Portuguese. My sister and I translate pages from By Your Side for her, we keep track of her health and we listen to her doctors. But even with all of our help, it is still hard for her to meet people,” explains Stephanie. “When she was in treatment, she met a couple of other women she could speak to in Portuguese and once they started talking, it was hard to get them to stop. They would talk about everything from groceries to chemo, but she never met another woman with ovarian cancer.”
 
Balbina came to Canada in 1991 to start a family. Her siblings still live in Portugal. She has support from far and wide, yet sometimes she can still feel alone and isolated.
 
“We had to get together as a family and do something new, that’s why we registered for the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope. We were hoping that my mom would meet other women feeling what she was feeling, and going through the same thing,” says Stephanie. “We just had no idea how powerful this day would be... for all of us.”
 
Stephanie registered her family for the Walk in their community. Stephanie and Vanessa used to take the bus to the park during the summer, but for Balbina and her husband, this was the first time they had ever been.
 
“When we picked up her teal t-shirt, my mom was thrilled. She wore it proudly and was able to see the other women wearing teal across the park. At the Walk, she didn’t need us to explain who the women were or why they were wearing teal. She knew they were just like her. My mom stood beside them in photos, she made small talk and she smiled at them. It was an immediate bond,” says Stephanie.
 
As they laughed, cried and reflected on the past year, the Pereiras saw the Walk as a celebration and a milestone. From that day on, Balbina knew she wasn’t alone.
  
Balbina is currently in remission, but she’s eagerly awaiting this year’s Walk on September 9.*
 
“The Walk was inspiring. It brought our family so much joy and that’s why I joined the committee as a co-chair. Vanessa is also on the committee to help with sponsorships,” explains Stephanie. “My mom is so excited for us. As any mother would, she wants us do well. She’s been telling all of her friends and inviting them to join Team Balbina.”


Vanessa (left) and Stephanie

“If she could, my mom would be more involved, but she trusts that Vanessa and I can do this and we won’t let her down. We’re doing this for her and for all of the other women and families affected by this disease.”
 
Make plans to walk this September. Register and fundraise for the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope so that women with this disease can live fuller, better, longer lives.

 

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