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Woodbridge woman plans wedding as COVID delays cancer surgery

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Against all odds, Cassandra Dimaria remains calm and understanding.

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The Woodbridge woman, 30, had had cancer surgery postponed multiple times due to the COVID chaos, and recently her cousin Vanessa Pilieci went public with her story.

Pilieci went to social media in frustration at the delays her beloved relative has endured in recounting Dimaria’s ordeal over the past 15 months.

“I’m posting this to shed light on a story of how Ontario canceled life-saving surgery for a stage 4 cancer patient,” she wrote. “My 30-year-old cousin, who is scheduled to marry in April 2023 and has a WHOLE life ahead of her, will die thanks to the reckless decision to cancel and postpone ‘non-urgent’ surgeries.”

“When will Canadians, who have done their part by getting the vaccine and staying at home, be considered PRIORITY? When will my cousin battling stage four cancer be as important as a Covid-19 patient?”

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Dimaria only hopes that her story will help other patients and raise awareness of the delays.

In November 2020, Dimaria was diagnosed with colon cancer and immediately operated on. She had been in severe pain for a few days but otherwise had no previous symptoms.

17 chemo cycles followed.

A second operation was planned for November 2021, but it didn’t happen. Another date was scheduled for January 2022 but was cancelled. It was postponed and then canceled again.

Now there is no date.

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She had to stop chemo in preparation for surgery. Her concern now is that the cancer will continue to grow and spread while she manages without chemo or surgery.

Arriving home on Thursday, Dimaria said: “I wanted to send the message that I recognize that COVID is very serious and everyone’s lives matter – but we deserve to get the treatment that is needed.

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“I would say there were some flaws in the way things were handled and that added to the chaos I’m facing.”

The healthcare response to COVID needs to be re-evaluated, ‘for me and for others in the same position’.

COVID has overshadowed every stage of her illness. Health protocols mean she had to face all appointments and treatments completely on her own.

“I’m trying my best to keep a positive attitude,” Dimaria said. “It’s difficult sometimes. Mental health issues are a factor. Nobody wants to be in that position.”

She said she couldn’t do it without the support of family, friends and her fiancé, Stefan Cescon.

When her waist-length hair fell out during chemo, she said her cousin Vanessa shaved her own head in solidarity.

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“My family was incredible. That’s a bit of an understatement. You and my fiancé took really good care of me.”

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Dimaria and her fiance are planning to get married on April 1, 2023 and she is still trying to work on her wedding plans.

“I’m doing my best and I hope this is all over so I can move on,” said Dimaria. “I do as much as I can.”

“I get tired easily, but it takes my mind off this craziness,” she added.

Dimaria said she doesn’t blame anyone for what happened to her.

“It’s nobody’s fault. And I know the nurses and surgeons are doing their best. Unfortunately, people like me are still suffering. Hopefully they will reassess what is considered urgent.”

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