Mother who died weeks after delivering twins continues to share post-partum breast cancer warning
The dying wish of an Airdrie woman, who succumbed to breast cancer only a week after being diagnosed with the disease, lives on through the efforts of her family and blog.
Kelly Owchar passed away on May 22, 2017 at the age of 30. Her death came less than two months after the arrival of her twin daughters, Leah and Lauren, and mere days after doctors confirmed her diagnosis.
“Kelly is one of the nicest people you will ever meet,” said Renee Wright, one of Owchar’s sisters. “Just a really gentle, wise soul and she is very missed already.”
Kelly had married Dwayne, her high school sweetheart, and, in 2015, the couple welcomed a son, Eric.
According to her sisters, Owchar noticed a lump in her breast in the weeks following the March 18, 2017 birth of the twins but she assumed it was a blocked milk duct. Other potential indicators of cancer appeared but Owchar, who worked as a nurse at the Peter Lougheed Centre, attributed the changes to her post-partum recovery.
“All of the symptoms that she had she could relate it back to ‘I just went through a caesarean section’, ‘I have newborn twins’, ‘I have a toddler’, ‘I am very tired’,” said Rachel Orbanski, Kelly’s sister.
“She was a nurse herself so she had her yearly checks. She knew what to look for and it just creeped up,” added Wright. “She also had some abdominal pain but she thought it was related to the scarring and the surgery she had just gone through.”
During the one-month checkup, Owchar informed the doctor of the lump and a hard spot that appeared on her lower torso. Bloodwork verified the presence of abnormal liver enzymes and scans and ultrasounds were ordered.
“At one point, she was in so much pain that she went to the emergency and she ended up staying in the hospital for five days,” recalled Wright. “They did not tell her the results of her scans, they didn’t tell her she had anything malignant, they didn’t tell her anything until the day she left.”
In the middle of May, Owchar was told she had Stage 4 breast cancer.
“When Kelly realized she was being diagnosed with cancer and what she was facing and what she was going through, one of the first things that came to her and that she wanted to do was spread awareness,” said Orbanski. “If you’re post-partum you’re not immune to cancer. A lump in the breast does not mean only a blocked milk duct. It could be more serious than that.”
“She wanted to make sure that other people were aware of that, were looking out for that and seeking appropriate treatment if they did have any concerns.”
Owchar started to blog to, in her own words, ‘release all of the thoughts and emotions that I had over these short few weeks’.
“She wanted to do it to be therapeutic for herself to kind of process all of this information,” explained Wright. “The thing that stuck out for me was she said I just want to record all of this so in two years we can look back at how far we came.”
“That was purely for herself, for her kids, for her family.”
In what would prove to be one of Kelly’s final days, a GoFundMe campaign was created to raise financial support for the Owchars.
“It’s really important to us that Dwayne is financially secure so he can focus on raising their young family,” said Orbanski.
In its first two weeks. the campaign surpassed its goal of raising $100,000. The showing of support, both personal and monetary, left the family awestruck.
“On behalf of Dwayne and our families, we just want to thank the communities of Calgary, of Airdrie, of Peter Lougheed Centre,” said Orbanski. “Kelly was really touched in her last week with the outpouring of encouragement, well wishes (and) donations for her family.”
“She said to me on the Saturday that she passed that she was so happy and so surrounded by love.”
Owchar’s message lives on through her blog and her family’s dedication to sharing her story.
“When Kelly was still alive, she had said that she had wanted to make good out of the bad that had happened to her,” said Wright. “She wanted to make people aware – who are pregnant, post-partum, even extending beyond that -that cancer doesn’t discriminate."
To read Kelly’s blog, visit Owchar Family Journal.
With files from CTV's Alesia Fieldberg