Auckland woman’s devastating diagnosis – six years after daughter tragically killed

Sophia Perera never got to see her eldest daughter grow up.

Now she fears a shock cancer diagnosis may prevent her from seeing her youngest daughter grow before her eyes also.

The 45-year-old, of Te Atatū Peninsula in West Auckland, feels she has been dealt another unfair blow in life after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer three months ago.

It comes six years after she and her husband, Cam Warren, suffered what she describes as the worst kind of trauma any parent can go through – losing a child.

The couple’s eldest daughter, Valentina Grace Warren, died after being struck by a vehicle in the driveway of the family home in November, 2014. She was 3.

Not long after, the couple were blessed with a second daughter, Augustina, who they deliberately gave a similar name to in honour of her big sister.

“Augustina is due to start school soon.

“Getting this diagnosis three months ago was just…it just seemed so unfair to be dealt another blow,” Perera told the Herald.

“The fear for me is not death – but not being able to see my daughter grow up. I want to be here for Augustina.”

In August, as Auckland went into a sudden Covid-19 lockdown for the second time this year, Perera started to experience cramps and bloating.

She also noticed she had started to gain weight around her stomach – but put it down to hormones.

A week later, Perera felt the pain had worsened and contacted her doctor.

She was eventually ordered to go to a local hospital, as it was thought she likely had appendicitis.

Instead, she was told she had an advanced malignant tumour that had stemmed from her stomach.

Doctors have told her it is such a rare form of cancer that there is no treatment plan for it.

It was the most unexpected news, especially given she has maintained a healthy lifestyle since the death of her first daughter as a means to help with the grieving process.

“I started to go to the gym every day. I’m fit and healthy, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke.”

'I see it as…all the trauma I've been holding on to'

Perera said there is no family history related to the cancer and started to think that grief for her eldest daughter may have contributed to it.

“I see it as potentially [forming] through trauma – all the trauma I’ve been holding on to. They said they can’t rule it out.”

After four rounds of intense chemotherapy, she is now getting ready to have an operation next week in a bid to remove as much of the tumour as possible.

It is the last bit of hope she is clinging on to, she said.

“The prognosis is not good. The best [result] is they can remove the bulk of the tumour and get the rest of it through chemo.

“I’ve got a 10 per cent chance of survival. It’s a small chance – and I’m holding on to that small chance.”

Perera said she and her husband continued to be grateful for the love and support they had received from family and friends, as well as her workplace, Deane Apparel.

Those in the Te Atatū Peninsula community had also provided much needed help for the family – dropping off meals, offers to babysit their little girl and even offers to take husband Cam out for a beer.

“In spite of everything, I still feel very blessed. They’ve almost carried me, these people.

“I’m still here and I can fight this.”

Friends have set up a Givealittle page to help Sophia Perera and her family during this time. To donate, visit: Sophia and her beautiful whānau.

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