Ovarian cancer is the most fatal women’s cancer, and often referred to as the “silent killer.”
One in 70 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime and 56% succumb to the disease within 5 years of diagnosis which makes it the cancer with the highest mortality rate.
Miranda Loyie-Silva of the matrilineal Laxgibuu (Wolf) Clan was one of those women. Her family is originally from Takla and she was raised in Nakazdli Territory where her father’s Frog Clan family is from.
Miranda died on Sept 28, less than a year after going to her doctor with abdominal pain. Her story is one of a struggle to get a proper diagnosis. In the last few weeks of her life, despite how sick she became, she still managed to stay positive and cared about helping others. She was determined to share the story about her battle with the difficult-to-detect disease she reached out to media to warn others about the dangers of the disease.
Started with stomach pain
Miranda was considered a pillar of strength and worked hard to stay fit and healthy. When she started feeling stomach pain in March 2016 she went straight to see doctors and seek medical attention.
Then when she felt a swollen lymph node in her groin she was sent for an ultrasound, then emergency CT scan. The results looked like it could be lymphoma. But a bone marrow biopsy and other tests came back negative for cancer. Months went by and she saw several doctors, felt better for a while but still had no answers.
A few months later she took a turn for the worst. It took a year from the time she first consulted her doctor about stomach pain for Miranda to finally be properly diagnosed, by which time she had stage 4 ovarian cancer. By early September the diagnosis was made that it had progressed to stage 5 ovarian cancer. She had succumbed to the disease by the end of the month.
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month so Miranda’s story about the lack of awareness and difficulty to diagnose is even more poignant.
Her aunt shared that they found out later the report from Miranda’s bone marrow test did in fact indicate a positive result for cancer and, as in this case, it is often and easily misdiagnosed. Miranda wasn’t contacted to advise of a positive test result for cancer.
No reliable screening
According to Ovarian Cancer Canada there is no reliable screening test for ovarian cancer and no vaccine to prevent it. U.S. Federal Drug Agency (FDA) announced in September 2016 that women should not rely on any individual tests currently marketed as screening tests for ovarian cancer. The Agency clearly states that “there are currently no screening tests for ovarian cancer that are sensitive enough to reliably screen for ovarian cancer without a high number of inaccurate results.”
There are a number of standalone tests to screen for ovarian cancer which are currently still in development. However, none are supported by sufficient evidence. More research, more time and larger sample groups are required to confirm their effectiveness.
Symptoms associated with ovarian cancer are often vague, non-specific and can be mistakenly attributed to other causes. Signs of this disease are easily overlooked because they can be experienced by women without ovarian cancer and may signal a variety of conditions. Eventhough screening is difficult, if a woman is aware of symptoms and communicates these to her health care provider, it may help her to get diagnosed and treated earlier.
For further information on symtoms and signs, visit ovariancanada.org
Fort St. James Walk of Hope
Miranda’s family are hoping to continue her wishes to increase awareness of the disease. Miranda’s sister, Davina Valk, says she is planning on registering a Walk of Hope in Fort St. James in September 2018 “in honour of Miranda, her one year anniversary and being in the month of September as well I definitely want to work towards having something organised for next year,” says Davina.
“We had obviously hoped that Miranda would make it through this and that together as a family that we would create that awareness, and we are definitely going to follow through and start a Walk of Hope up in our community. From now and till then I’m going to educate myself and find out things that I can do throughout the year to try and raise awareness and fundraisers, especially fundraising. There is a lack of funding for ovarian research. More money is poured into other cancers, especially breast cancer which is good, but ovarian is at the bottom of the list really. So right now it’s still up to the families and loved ones to really carry on their legacy through awareness for this cause,” says Davina.
Carrier Sekani Tribal Chief, Terry Teegee, shared some words about his niece: “Miranda was raised in Fort St. James and she made great friends before she left to post secondary school in Vancouver. She lived her life under her terms. She was determined and motivated. She went to BCIT and met her husband David Silva and they both received engineering degrees. She was also a hair dresser and operated her own shop. She was a fitness model and over the last several years became a massage therapist. Cancer didn’t define her, rather, her determination to live life to fullest in her short 37 years is what we will remember her by. Our family will never be the same. Our prayers are with her husband David and her only child child Christiano. We are heart broken and devastated by the loss of Miranda, we will miss her dearly.”
There are many of us who never had the opportunity to meet Miranda, nor the privilege to know her and yet are still affected deeply by her story, the brave way she chose to speak up before she lost her battle. The words of Fort St. James resident, Mel McCutcheon, sum up how a lot of us are feeling;
“The community is suffering the loss of Miranda Silva. I didn’t even know her, but it really hit harder than I thought it would when I heard of her passing. She was such a health nut and advocate for healthy living. It is so very sad that her fight ended so quickly.”