International student Isabel Vivas Molina was nearly finished her post-graduate work at McGill University when she was rushed to hospital with abdominal pains last year.
The 28-year-old had emergency surgery on one of her ovaries and was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer during a follow-up appointment a month later.
Now, she is back in Toronto with her Canadian husband and her sisters. She is receiving treatment at Mount Sinai and Princess Margaret hospitals, but Isabel, who is not yet a Canadian citizen, has no private insurance. The medical bills are climbing and her family is appealing for donations online.
“If there is life, there is hope. She is not counting days – she is working every day to get better,” her sister Valentina Vivas Giles told CityNews.
According to the American Cancer Society, the so-called observed survival rate for Isabel’s cancer is just six per cent. But her family is optimistic because of her youth.
Since her 2012 diagnosis, Isabel has finished all of her courses and graduated in May with a diploma in supply chain and operation management and a graduate certificate in leadership.
“The last class, she took via Skype. I’m very proud of her,” Vivas Giles said.
But in the past few weeks her mobility has worsened and she cannot go anywhere by herself, and the medical bills are piling up.
“She had her ovaries removed on Sept. 11 and that one day, plus an 11-day hospital stay, cost almost $50,000,” Vivas Giles said.
Six sessions of chemotherapy, about three months, cost $25,000 and she will soon be starting radiation to help with bone pain.
Vivas Gilas and another sister, Mariangela, have held bake sales with coworkers and other fundraisers to help pay for treatment, and they have family and friends in Venezuela and across the world who wanted to help defray the cost.
A family friend set up the website so that people could make donations more easily. So far, $5,000 has been raised. Click here to make a donation.
Vivas Giles said her parents came up from Venezuela to look after Isabel and while her mother is now Isabel’s main caregiver, her father has returned to Venezuela to earn money for her treatment.
Still, Isabel’s spirits remain positive, Vivas Giles said.
“Since her diagnosis, she has been amazing – she is so determined to beat this disease. She has been the inspiration for our family, even though she is sick. Every day we try to match her positive spirit, even though it is not easy.
“It’s been a year of up and downs and we’re still fighting. We’re doing everything we can to get her better and help her recover.”