On December 20th, 2007, while Eva's two children were home for Christmas, they received news that the results from a pathology test revealed that she had an extremely rare disease called amyloidosis, for which there is no cure. Amyloidosis occurs when proteins accumulate in organs such as the heart, kidney, liver, or intestines. It is caused by fragments of abnormal antibodies. These abnormal antibodies stick to one another and accumulate in organs throughout the body. Eventually, the result is multi-system organ failure. Although the exact cause of primary Amyloidosis is unknown, the disease starts in the bone marrow. Eva's Amyloidosis first appeared in her intestines.
On January 24th, 2008 she was side swiped by more devastating news. Although extremely rare for a woman her age, she had Multiple Myeloma Associated Amyloidosis. Multiple Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. These cells are an important part of the immune system responsible for the production of antibodies, which are one of the body’s first defenses against infection. In Multiple Myeloma, the plasma cells overproduce one type of abnormal antibody. Amyloidosis is a very rare type of abnormal antibody with a unique shape that makes them more prone to stick to one another causing buildup in various organs.
Eva was then sent to the Bone Marrow Transplant unit at VGH where she found out that her disease was very aggressive. Since her initial diagnosis in December, the amyloids, that were originally found in her intestine, had spread to her kidneys, her heart, and her liver. She was told that her heart was too weak from the amyloidosis now to receive the life prolonging chemotherapy that she needed. If she received the chemotherapy and her heart wasn't strong enough she might not make it to the weekend, but if she didn't receive the chemotherapy, she was fated to live out the next 6 months with death hastily approaching. She and her family were devastated. How could this be happening? Eva decided that she had to risk it. She underwent the massive single dose chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant with her own filtered marrow on May 8th, 2008. It was touch and go for a few weeks... Family and friends rotated through a rented apartment in Vancouver that Eva's best friend arranged for them to use. This allowed everyone to be there to support her and be by her bedside all day every day during the worst of her transplant. The chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant obliterated her body's immune system and we knew that only time would reveal her prognosis.
Tackling Amyloidosis was now the fight of her life: a daily regime of chemotherapy, tests and more tests. Her oncologist managed to get her into a drug trial program in which she piggy-backed on the drug protocols being tested (however, she was not part of the official trial). It was early on at this stage that she decided that she would be the “unofficial guinea pig of drug protocol trials,” as the alternative to not taking the drugs would lead to death within 6 months. Choosing to rise up against the challenge, she dug deeper than ever before, leaning on her family and friends and decided to make the most of what time was given to her. Eva's motto has always been, "God wouldn't give me more than I can handle".
By the end of the first year (May 2009), the oncology team and their cohorts worldwide couldn't believe that Eva was still alive. The medical staff have learnt just as much from her medical battles as she has with how to deal with her illnesses. The information on this disease was and remains very limited six years later. There have been triumphs and breakthroughs in the fight against Amyloidosis, but they have been far and few between.
What has transpired over the last five and a half years is nothing but remarkable. A true testament to the amazing person Eva is. She has endured over 64 rounds of chemotherapy, weekly tests, battling neuropathy, cataracts, heart palpitations, water retention, weight loss and gain, hypothyroidism, congestive heart failure, debilitating migraines, and loss of sleep to name some of the physical side effects. She has had to give up a lot to learn how to live on a disability pension, how to “live” without having the disease control her life. The emotional scars, fear and uncertainty are easier to mask. To the outside world she looks like a happy, healthy, together, beautiful woman.
Eva was well enough to participate in the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a decision her medical team did not like but supported her. It was an emotional journey with her children by her side. They were so proud of her for finishing the ride. She participates in walks and raises awareness any chance she can, as she can’t do any long marathon rides anymore.
When people are diagnosed with their own life altering conditions, friends of friends wind up phoning, e-mailing or Facebooking Eva. Whatever pain and suffering she was in, she always takes the time to reach out to them, and in her way make them feel comfortable and full of hope; often making fun of her own situation. She often wonders why she is still here when she has watched many of her new and old friends as well as family lose their battles to cancer, but she continues to fight. We, her friends and family, still need her. Our worlds would be a dark place without her light to shine upon them. She has always been the most caring, kind, and generous person. Through her own struggles, she has made it her mission to be there to support, give love and hope, and just to lend an ear or a shoulder during others' difficult times. She has become the inspiration for others to fight their own demons and to be the support that they could call and rely on. She’s been there to support people, and has outlived many of the people that have been diagnosed with a variety of illnesses. Eva chooses to remain a mentor for all of the families of patients and the patients themselves that have come to rely on her; although it can be both rewarding and emotionally draining on her, she continues to be the light in everyone's lives.
May 2014 marked the 6th anniversary of her decision to fight two rare diseases every day. Every day that she wakes up, is a true testament to her courage, tenacity and her choice as a human being to take on life’s adversities with the strength and commitment that is rarely seen in another human being. This GoFundMe page is set up to help with out-of-pocket medical expenses, medical travel for Doctors appointments that she has to go to in Vancouver, and daily living as she is unable to make enough money to support herself due to her ongoing medical problems as well as her fragile immune system.
I am proud to create this page for Eva. She is a light, a rock, a motivator and a teacher for so many. She has a way of taking the worst situations, conditions and moving forward to be better. That might only mean getting up in the morning some days, and other days telling her story to scared families who are recently diagnosed with cancer. She leads in small ways every day. She continues to inspire, amaze and absolutely surprise family, friends, and the medical community. Her positive attitude is nothing short of miraculous in lieu of all she has endured. she is the most amazing person I have or will ever meet. She is my inspiration and if we ever do lose her, it will always be too soon.
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