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Ontario woman 'relieved' after cancer surgery delayed due to COVID-19 is rescheduled

An Ontario woman says she is relieved after a life-saving cancer surgery that's been postponed several times has been rescheduled following the intervention of a patient advocate.

Cassandra Di Maria, 30, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in November 2020

Cassandra Di Maria says a major cancer operation that had been delayed indefinitely due to COVID-19 has been rescheduled for Jan. 26 following the intervention of a patient advocate. (Submitted by Cassandra Di Maria)

An Ontario woman says she is relieved after a life-saving cancer surgery that's been postponed several times has been rescheduled following the intervention of a patient advocate.

Vaughan, Ont., resident Cassandra Di Maria, 30, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in November 2020 and has since undergone one surgical procedure in addition to 17 rounds of chemotherapy.

She halted her chemo in October to enable her immune system to recover before a second major surgery. That surgery was expected to remove cancerous spots on her liver, abdomen and one of her ovaries.

Originally scheduled for November at Mount Sinai Hospital, the surgery had been postponed twice and was most recently scheduled for Jan. 19.

Di Maria was devastated when she received an email informing her that the procedure would be cancelled — no replacement date was set — after the provincial government ordered hospitals earlier this month to halt all non-urgent surgeries and procedures in a bid to preserve hospital capacity as Ontario deals with a surge in cases of the highly-infectious Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Di Maria, who went public with her cancer battle this week after her cousin posted about it to social media, said a patient advocate with the Colorectal Cancer Resource and Action Network who learned about her situation was able to secure a new date for the procedure after co-ordinating with her surgeon. That date is Jan. 26.

"I was happy, of course, because I've been worried," Di Maria said. "I wasn't sure when I was going to get a new surgery date or if at all, so I was definitely relieved."

When the pause on non-urgent procedures was announced on Jan. 3, Ontario Health CEO Matt Anderson said it would affect between 8,000 and 10,000 procedures a week.

Di Maria said she is well aware that she is not the only person affected by the pause.

"Although this has helped me, there are still tons of other people in my position," she said. "Changes need to be made for them as well."

Di Maria, who recently got engaged, said she is looking forward to getting the surgery done and recovering so she can move on with her life. That includes planning her wedding, tentatively scheduled for early 2023.

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