Twenty-two-year-old Maria Muscari has Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Editor’s note: In the interest of a Laval family that finds itself at this time in dire need, the Laval News has decided to share their story with our readership. By reaching out to the Laval community, we hope all will benefit, while also showing some generosity. Twenty-three-year-old Maria Muscari’s mother, Elsa Moritis, shares this first-hand account.
It all started around November 2017. Maria was scratching and getting welts on her legs and hands from all the scratching; she was having a tough time sleeping, and really wasn’t feeling like herself.
By May, her scratching was so bad that she was not sleeping and was so irritated that she lay on the couch crying; her legs, arms and body were full of welts of scabby skin. I finally told Maria that we were going to a dermatologist. So, we booked ourselves a dermatologist appointment and off we went. The dermatologist specialist evaluated Maria and said that she had eczema, they prescribed her creams and off we went home. But weeks passed by, and she was not getting better. So, off we went again, this time to the emergency department. We left with the same diagnosis (eczema). This happened about six more times (ERs and walk-in clinics, more ERs, more clinics) and they all had the same diagnosis (eczema). Nothing was working or helping her.
Fast forward to September 2018. Maria asked me if she could come sleep in my bed (thank God I agreed), because I will never forget that night. I lay awake listening to her breathing: It was so bad and she was literally gasping for air. I went to touch her arm and her t-shirt was drenched in sweat. Next morning when she woke up, I asked her, “Maria how long have you been breathing like that and sweating like that?” She replied, “About three months.” That’s when I started to get worried, thinking something is not right! (At this point I never thought it was the c word; I truly thought she might have pneumonia). So, I contacted my cousin who works at the hospital and asked her if she could get Maria an x-ray of her chest asap.
The next morning, off I went to work and Maria made her way by herself to the hospital for her x-ray. September 18, 2018 was the worst day of our lives … That was the day that Maria received the devastating news that she had cancer … Imagine being told you have cancer at 18 and your mom is not even with you … I got the devastating news on the phone from my cousin. I fell to the floor crying. We made our way to the hospital to meet Maria and everything after that was just a blur …
The following days were filled with CT scans, special blood tests, pet scans, biopsies upon biopsies … I could see the fear in my beautiful daughter’s eyes, but I had to be strong, I had to show no fear. I would hide in the bathroom and cry so Maria would not see me. On September 24, 2018, we got more devastating news: Maria was diagnosed with stage 4 aggressive Hodgkin’s lymphoma that had spread to her lungs.
Our world came crashing down … Our wonderful Dr. April Shamy at the JGH and her team assured us that maria’s prognosis looked good, but little did we know that this cancer had other plans … I will always remember the 1st chemo treatment; we all cried, but the fear in Maria’s eyes was just devastating … Week after week of chemo … I will never forget the day when I went in the bathroom and found Maria on the shower floor crying her eyes out as her beautiful hair was all falling out and she had stuck every clump of hair on the shower wall so she could see it. The pain in her eyes was heartbreaking; but again, I had to be the strong one …
Fast forward to today … My beautiful 22-year-old Maria has been through hell and back, has never been in remission, has had 6 to 7 lines of therapy, numerous biopsies, I can’t even count how many blood tests, blood transfusions, pet scans, chemos, immunotherapies, her own stem cell transplant, having her eggs frozen (because the chances of her ever having children are slim to none), the loss of hair multiple times. In four years, there has been nothing that has worked, nothing she has had to stop chemos, because they are doing nothing; no therapy is working, her health is deteriorating and as a mother, it scares me to death. Seeing the fear in your child’s eyes and not being able to do anything about it is not only draining but heartbreaking.
This week (June 15, 2022), we finally got some hopeful news that Maria qualifies for a research trial called innate cell engager (ice) afm13, combined with preactivated and expanded cord blood (CB) at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston Texas. After many discussions with Dr. Yago Nieto (MD Anderson and our oncologist Dr. Shamy), they both agree that this research trial is the only thing that will save Maria’s life … But everything comes with a cost, especially because we must go to Houston Texas to get this treatment (a cost of $250,000 USA dollars).
So, imagine in order to save my child’s life, I have to do whatever it takes to save her life. Maria deserves a chance to live, Maria deserves to finish her 3rd year of nursing, Maria deserves to go out and party just like any 22-year-old, I deserve to see my beautiful daughter get married … Life is really not fair sometimes … Seeing your child suffer and seeing her health deteriorating like this is just not fair and I cannot believe that this is the only way we can save my daughter’s life. So please help our family by donating any little amount you can. If 18,000 people can donate $20, we can reach our goal and save Maria’s life. And if you cannot donate, please just share, share, share the go fund me link …
Thank you to every single person who took the time to read our story and share our pain.
Elsa Moritis & Maria Muscari