MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Mahopac’s Maggie Karaqi is a cancer warrior. She was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 when she was pregnant with her twins, Nedjat and Veranika, now 6. In remission and with a positive prognosis, the disease reared its ugly head again in 2015. Last year, she underwent surgery.
Now, doctors have her on a new drug they hope will defeat her disease once and for all.
“In March, [the cancer] reoccurred again and they put me on a new medication,” Karaqi said. “It’s called Rubraca and was just approved by the FDA in December.”
Karaqi said she’s not completely sure about the side effects of Rubraca.
“But I can tell you sushi isn’t agreeable,” she said with a laugh.
She started her Rubraca treatments on March 31. It’s a drug that makes it difficult for tumor cells to repair DNA. By reducing DNA repair in the tumor, Rubraca slows down the tumor’s growth.
But Karaqi’s long battle with cancer has taken its toll on more than just her body and spirit. It’s impacted her finances as well. As the medical bills have piled up, it has become increasingly difficult to pay other expenses, which include taking care of her young twins.
Now, help has come from an unexpected source. The Mahopac High School varsity lacrosse team has teamed with the local charity, Love Holds Life, to help Karaqi defray some of growing costs.
“I met a student at McDonald’s who introduced me to Sean Mohammed, the lacrosse coach,” said Richard Senato, founder and president of Loves Holds Life, a charity the donates money directly to families that have a member fighting a battle against cancer. “He was looking to partner with a local organization [to have a fundraiser] because he has experienced cancer himself.”
The Mahopac High School Booster Club took the reins and helped Mohammed and his lacrosse team sell pink T-shirts to raise money for Karaqi and her family. They sold enough shirts to raise $1,312.
“We’ve received the check and will be giving it to the family in the next few days,” Senato said.
At last Tuesday’s lacrosse match against Putnam Valley, (which has also teamed with Love Holds Life to raise money), the charity had set up a table near the grandstand to sell even more T-shirts to help the family. Karaqi said she was overwhelmed and grateful for the support.
“It is going to help me catch up on some of my bills,” she said. “My washer and dryer broke so I need to replace those. Also, I want to see if it can help send my kids to camp for a few days this summer. Last year, they went to Pine Grove and they really want to go back, so we’ll see if we can do that.”
Karaqi called her introduction to Senato and Love Holds Life “divine intervention.”
“We met at a Dunkin’ Donuts in White Plains,” she said. “They had a table set up and were collecting donations. I went over to give them my change after I had bought some coffee. I told them I know feelings of struggling with cancer all too well and Richard asked if someone in my family had it and I said, ‘yes, me!’ I don’t know what made me go to that Dunkin’ Donuts that day—divine intervention, I guess.”
Karaqi said she is once again optimistic about her chances thanks to the Rubraca. She feels better and has been able to resume her cardiac rehabilitation in the wake of a heart attack last summer. She had been unable to do that because of the pain the cancer caused. But in the wake of taking Rubraca, she’s resumed her rehab.
“The drug just came on the market six months ago,” she said. “If [the relapse] had happened before then, they wouldn’t have been able to give it to me. But my last blood count—the CA 125 test—was down 65 points in three weeks. I am optimistic. I am in survivor mode for my children.”