Quebec lady, 22, who sought experimental therapy dies of most cancers
Less than two weeks after being airlifted home to Montreal from a cancer treatment center in Texas, 22-year-old Maria Muscari died Wednesday morning.
“Today at 10:38 am heaven gained a beautiful angel … my beautiful courageous girl,” her mother, Elsa Moraitis, wrote on social media to share the devastating news about her daughter.
“You are a true warrior, fought til the end. We have truly lost a beautiful soul. My heart is truly broken,” she continued.
The experimental treatment Muscari received in Houston, at an enormous financial cost to the family, was unsuccessful. On Nov 6, Moraitis told CTV News her daughter had returned home to seek palliative care.
The family had wanted to do everything within its power to give Muscari a chance at survival, a fervent wish Moraitis echoed on Wednesday when she wrote, “You know if there was anything I could have done to save you I would have done it.”
Her cousin, Katerina Moraitis, who had been by her side for the entire heartbreaking journey and had helped the family raise funds to pay for the expensive treatment and trip to the US, also described Muscari as an angel and posted, “I love you so much Mary!”
YOUNG WOMAN DIAGNOSED AT AGE 18
Muscari, who lived in Chambly, Que., was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 18. She gave up her nursing studies program at Champlain College to undergo extensive cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and immunotherapy, but they didn’t work.
After nine treatment sessions, the cancer was still unresponsive.
“It’s been lonely, it’s been hard,” Muscari told CTV in an interview last July.
When her oncologist at the Jewish General Hospital told the Muscari family was a good fit for an experimental treatment offered by the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, they decided to go for it despite all the hurdles.
Her family indicated then, there was no other choice. Her doctors here had exhausted all her care options and explained this was the only “opportunity for a cure.”
They cleared the first barrier when Muscari was accepted as a candidate in the trial. Then, the family started fundraising for the treatment they were initially told could cost $325,000, but which had since ballooned to about $700,000.
Once in Texas, however, it quickly became clear the “natural killer (NK) cell” therapy she was receiving was not helping. By round two of the treatment, she was too sick to continue.
The family was told there was nothing more doctors there could do for her, and the decision was made to bring her home to spend her final days in Montreal.
A friend who reached out to Moraitis online to offer condolences and support, said “your strength and determination lived in her.”
With files from CTV’s Christine Long and Touria Izri.