When Natalia was diagnosed with ovarian cancer her son, Mark was just 13 years old.
What started as routine surgery became a blessing in disguise. While in progress, doctors noticed a growth and just two weeks later, ran several tests that confirmed a cancer diagnosis. “It was a blur” Natalia says, “I remember standing in the middle of a busy street and everything was spinning. All I could think about was my kids.”
Natalia immigrated from the Ukraine, which left her with very little family support and a recent divorce left her facing the diagnosis as a newly single parent. Mark will never forget coming home to find his mom, dad and sister sitting somberly at the kitchen table, “seeing them all together, I knew something horrible had happened I just didn’t know what” he said. “It was a lot to digest. I was just about to enter high school. My parents were splitting up. And then this.”
Luckily, Natalia was referred to The Princess Margaret under the care of Dr. Jason Dodge who said that a complete hysterectomy was her only option for a full recovery. “I clearly remember both the day of diagnosis and the day I woke up from surgery,” said Natalia. “Dr. Dodge was so kind and compassionate; he saved my life.”
This past summer, Mark took on the role of Art Director at The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. “When the job came up, I remember having this vivid flash of my mom pre-surgery, it was really strange” he says. Noting that the role not only allows him to use his creativity for a cause but has since given him the opportunity to look back at that experience in a whole new light. “It can be painful, but it’s also really healing. We both feel so grateful for the life and the health that we have right now.”