Dying Calgarian celebrates Christmas, birthday and engagement at whirlwind pace
Many of Micah Repato’s dreams seemed unlikely to come to fruition following a terminal cancer diagnosis on New Year’s Day 2017 and her subsequent move to palliative care.
Now, thanks to help from a local non-profit organization, the dying woman is spending her final weeks celebrating alongside her loved ones.
In late 2016, the 25-year-old suffered through weeks of anguish before seeking medical help. “I had abdominal pain, it was really painful, and I kind of ignored it for a whole month,” said Repato.“I thought it would just go away.”
“There was one night the pain was just so unbearable that I called my dad and (said) ‘You have to take me to the emergency’.”
Testing confirmed the presence of a tumour but surgeon’s successfully removed a 26 centimetre section of Repato’s intestine containing the growth and there was optimism following chemotherapy treatments.
“I was a candidate for a second surgery for a chemo path which gives me (a chance) to be cancer-free in the future,” said Repato. “They gave me a 60 per cent to 80 per cent chance of survival.”
Repato’s pain returned. “That same pain that I had felt prior to the diagnosis.” An emergency room visit resulted in a grim discovery: Stage 4 colon cancer.
“They found my intestine was twisted,” recalled Repato. “They wanted me to go for surgery right away and untwist it but they found a tumour inside as well.”
“That’s when they told me you’re not passing any bowel movements and you only have a few weeks to live.”
The 25-year-old was admitted into palliative care but, at her request, released to allow her to spend her remaining days at home.
Repato’s story found its way to the Wishing Well Foundation and the non-profit organization found a way to allow her to create new memories with her loved ones.
Despite the fact Repato’s birthday falls in June, the Wishing Well Foundation helped her celebrate the occasion and Christmas early, transforming her home into a festive split between a Winter Wonderland and a Greek village.
“We grant wishes to people who are facing terminal illness,” explained Olivia Kennedy, fundraising chair of the Wishing Well Wedding and Event Foundation. “When somebody is in a position where they don’t know how much longer they’re going to be living, it’s nice to give them something to look forward to, a moment to celebrate and have fun.”
“For their family and their friends to look back on once they’re gone and to be able to remember a happy memory.”
Repato’s loved ones, including visitors from Quebec, Texas and California, gathered this week to celebrate her near-birthday, a Christmas in springtime and a surprise engagement.
Peter Studnicka recently proposed to Repato under the guise of a final family photograph.
“Micah is a very strong person,” said Studnicka. “I think all her friends and family will attest to that. At the same time, she can’t be strong all the time. She’s dealing with something that she didn’t ask for.”
Studnicka and Repato have been together for nearly two years.
“I moved from Montreal and two days after I moved I had to get a car,” said Repato. “I went to a dealership and he was my car salesman.”
The couple plan to marry next week in a private ceremony at a local church. “The Wishing Well Foundation, again, has come through,” said Studnicka. “They’ve offered to really organize the wedding. It’s a huge thing for us.”
Despite their looming nuptials, the newlyweds are living in the present and focused on their time together.
“Last week, we didn’t think we’d be able to sit here like this and enjoy the day,” said Studnicka.
“Having all these people surrounding me,” said Repato through tears. “It’s been great.”
“I’m fighting until the end.”
Repato has created a blog to share her experience and started a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of her naturopathy treatments (roughly $1,350 a week). In the event of her passing, all remaining funds will be donated to Young Adult Cancer Canada.
With files from CTV's Jaclyn Brown