A family vacation to Greece this past summer came to a tragic end when matriarch Demetra Diles – affectionately known as Didi – was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Marianne Musi and her husband Steve Loutskou, Quebec Avenue residents, were horrified to learn that Musi’s mother, “a force to be reckoned with” and “a pillar of strength” was stricken with such a disease.
Didi, 52, and otherwise healthy, had no idea her jaundiced skin she discovered in Europe was a symptom of what is known as a “silent killer.”
“It was truly a trip of a lifetime for her. She had great laughs and loved every bit of the trip, however on our last night over dinner in her hometown of Methoni, I noticed her eyes were yellow then noticed that her tan was covering up the yellow color of her skin as well,” said Loutskou, who is particularly close with his mother-in-law. “Of course, she got worried and the next day when we were on our way to Athens, my in-laws stopped at a hospital for a check up where the scan revealed a cancer mass on her pancreas.”
Particularly hard to swallow was the fact that Didi had been 100 per cent healthy her entire life, said Loutskou, who is currently in Quebec with his wife where his mother-in-law is in hospital. The family has rallied around Didi since her diagnosis.
Not only are they caring for her, but they have launched a fundraising and awareness campaign, called ‘Accessorize for Awareness’ for the little-known disease with a survival rate of just six per cent.
Before their trip, Didi had expressed her desire to do charity work, but agreed to wait until they returned. Loutskou, whose father died of lung cancer, had thought they could bring awareness to that illness.
Didi’s diagnosis abruptly and urgently altered their plans.
“We launched our first website two months ago,” Loutskou told The Villager Dec. 18. “We raised about $8,000 in the first month.”
Musi and her brother’s fiancé are creating a variety of purple bracelets with a wide selection of charms, which can be customized. The two toil away at the kitchen table at night making the bracelets. It was a natural fit for Musi, a marketing maven and fashionista. In fact, the family is pooling its collective resources to run the campaign.
Meanwhile, Bloor West Village and surrounding area businesses have donated items to a weekly auction through Facebook. Loutskou has personally donated $20,000 in IT work. The Accessorize for Awareness campaign’s first goal is to raise $25,000 in funding, which would surpass the largest single personal donation ever of $17,000.
“The donation (to Pancreatic Cancer Canada) will be made in my mother-in-law’s name to put her down in the record books and bring a smile to her face for our efforts,” said Loutskou. “This isn’t a campaign we plan to let go. It’s such a terrible disease for which we are slowly, but surely getting support.”
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers and it receives only 0,01 per cent of research funding, Loutskou pointed out.
“When you start reading the stats, it’s actually ridiculous that there has been no progress in 30 to 40 years for this particular cancer,” he said. Since her diagnosis in September, Didi has undergone chemotherapy and has had several blood infections, a heart attack and a stroke.
“So, it has been a battle,” said Loutskou. “She was in the ICU for two weeks where they didn’t think she would make it, however, she came through and is trying to hold strong to battle the cancer.”
For further details and to purchase a bracelet or make a donation, visit accessorizeforawareness.com