Early March 2017, our beloved sister Mai was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer.
The news came as a shock not only to Mai herself but for her entire family and circle of friends
Mai had always led an active, healthy lifestyle. She strived to be her best on a personal level, as well as excelling in her career.
Following her diagnosis, Mai had to undergo a complete hysterectomy and within few weeks
she started her first round of chemo therapy. With each session, we witnessed the harsh symptoms and consistent pain. Mai kept her hopes high, and raised our spirits along with her strong faith, positive attitude and beautiful smile. We cheered for her every time her (CA-125) marker went down until it reached normal levels by the end of her first round in August 2017.
A sense of joy and a subtle feeling of celebration filled our lives as we saw Mai slowly go back to her normal routine and daily activities. However, within a few months her blood work showed a slight but consistent increase in her marker. Her gyne-oncologist discussed the option of a maintenance treatment (LYNPARZA). Her case was approved and within a couple of weeks Mai had started this new medication.
This treatment involved taking 16 tablets everyday on an empty stomach. 8 in the early morning and 8 in the late afternoon. I watched her a few times as she counted those dreadful tablets and looked at them in the palm of her hand. She would let out a long sigh before forcing them down her throat one by one.
About eight months after, Mai started to feel the pain creeping again. This time it was loud and clear. Her marker took frighteningly giant leaps. For her, it was obvious the treatment had stopped working. She started experiencing swelling in her left leg (Lymphedema), followed by accumulated fluid in her abdomen area (Ascites). At this stage, It was decided that she needed to go another round of chemo therapy.
Mai’s frail body rejected the -good old- Carboplatin treatment. She had become chemo-resistant. In addition, she experienced difficulty breathing due to a clot in her lung. During her visit to the Cancer Centre in Ottawa and in a desperate attempt to fight this disease, Mai asked to try another type of treatment, her oncologist effortlessly approved. She looked him in the eye and said: you don’t seem excited about it. He gave her the hard truth: At this stage, chances of survival are about 15%. Mai stayed silent all the way back home.
Mai was being rushed to emergency about three times a week for the next three consecutive weeks (awaiting her chemo session) before she was finally admitted to the hospital on December 12th, 2018. At this point, It was all about pain management. The Gyne-oncologist team cancelled her chemo treatment and explained that it would do more harm than good. The palliative team took over. They tried different drugs all of which offered shorter periods of relief as the cancer tissue spread within her abdomen area causing more and more pressure on her lymph nodes, kidney, colon and other vital organs.
No words would describe the painful journey Mai had to endure. But the amazing thing all along was her determination and high hopes. She was genuinely grateful for all the small things that life would offer and she met her family and friends support with her unforgettable smile.
On January 17th, Mai was released from the hospital. She had made the decision to spend her final days at home close to her family. She had sensed our fear and felt her parents agony as they watched her fade away. She calmly comforted everyone and asked us to stay strong. Mai addressed each one of us with her sweet voice: I love you, I love you all. She offered her prayers and asked for forgiveness. Mai was announced dead early Tuesday morning , January 22nd, 2019. She was 46 years old.
September is marked as Ovarian Cancer awareness month. So far, there is no reliable detection screening test for Ovarian cancer. Most of women get diagnosed at a late stage when the disease has already spread and available treatments have little effect. Ovarian Cancer Canada funds a number of important initiatives focused on prevention, improved treatment and ultimately a cure.
Ovarian Cancer Canada walk of hope is an attempt to raise awareness and fund vital research for thousands of affected Moms, sisters, aunts, grandmas, partners and friends. Women we love.
I’m reaching out to those who knew Mai and were touched by her kindness and gentleness. I am asking family, friends and community to give generously to this cause. No amount is too little. Together we can make a difference. We can even go beyond the set goal and prove that
life matters to all.
If you’re up to it, come and join our team (Team Mai) on Sunday morning September 8, 2019 at 8:30 am. (you need to register first and join Team Mai).
Location: Andrew Haydon Park, 3169 Carling Avenue, Ottawa. Lets join hands in the fight against Ovarian Cancer.