To give at least one person hope in the face of breast cancer: Maja's story

For many Canadians, a breast cancer journey can be challenging – from facing the shock of a diagnosis to managing treatment side effects and adjusting to life with or beyond cancer. As someone who was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer at just 39 years old, Maja knows first-hand how difficult it can be to hear the words, “you have breast cancer.”

Now, Maja is sharing her experience to bring hope to other Canadians facing a breast cancer diagnosis. Learn more about her story and why the Canadian Cancer Society CIBC Run for the Cure has held a special meaning for her throughout her journey.

Maja surrounded by a group of people at a past Canadian Cancer Society CIBC Run for the Cure event.
Maja and her team of supporters at the 2019 Canadian Cancer Society CIBC Run for the Cure in Toronto.

Finding the strength to share her diagnosis with loved ones

In 2018, after finding a lump in her breast, Maja was diagnosed with stage 3C triple-negative metaplastic breast cancer, a rare and aggressive type of breast cancer that does not have any hormone or genetic markers and has spread to the lymph nodes. She also learned that she had the BRCA2 mutation, a gene mutation that can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Maja’s diagnosis came as a shock – she was young, had no previous symptoms and no family history of breast cancer.

Maja was hesitant to share the news of her diagnosis with those beyond her immediate family because she didn’t want them to worry or cause them stress. For Maja and many others faced with a diagnosis, talking about cancer isn’t easy. It can be hard to know what to say and to predict how others will react.

While she was undergoing treatment, Maja learned about the Canadian Cancer Society CIBC Run for the Cure. In its 30th year, the CIBC Run for the Cure brings people together in communities across the country to take part in a 5k or 1k walk or run while raising funds in support of the breast cancer cause. She signed up, and decided that sharing why she joined the event was the perfect, meaningful way to let others know about her diagnosis.

“I posted an image online saying that I had been diagnosed and that was my reason for joining the Run,” Maja shares. “I was diagnosed in February, and I posted that in May. It took me a while to even tell my friends but, in the end, people were so supportive and continued to check up on me.”

A powerful Run experience

Just 7 months after her diagnosis, Maja participated in her first CIBC Run for the Cure.

“It was my first time at the Run and I was still very new to the cancer community, so I had no idea what to expect,” shares Maja. “It was very overwhelming and emotional, but it was also very touching to see so many people come out to support the breast cancer cause.”

Connecting with others who had been impacted by breast cancer and seeing the outpouring of support from the community was a such a powerful experience that Maja knew she wanted to participate in the event again next year. But what she wasn’t expecting was to receive a phone call with the opportunity to be the Keynote Survivor Speaker at the 2019 Run in Toronto.

“Even though I was nervous, I knew how important it was for me to share my story as a person of colour and someone who was diagnosed at a young age,” shares Maja. “My feeling from that day – honestly, I’ll never forget it – is that I gave at least one person hope. It fills my heart with joy. That’s all I really wanted to do.”

Raising awareness and breaking cultural stigmas

Now, Maja is living with no evidence of disease (NED), which means that cancer can't be found anywhere in the body using tests. But she continues to share her story to bring hope to others – especially those who may share in her experience of growing up in cultures where cancer isn’t openly discussed or acknowledged.

“When I was first diagnosed, my family didn’t want me to tell anybody,” shares Maja. “I’m Filipino and throughout my journey I’ve realized it’s a cultural thing – a lot of Filipinos in the cancer community don’t open up about their diagnosis because they may feel ashamed. That’s why I choose to share my story, because it can be really helpful for other people.”

Determined to change how cancer is perceived, Maja has reached many people in her community by raising her voice – and through music, she has connected with wider audiences too.

During the pandemic, Maja started DJing online to raise funds for the breast cancer cause. Through her live streams, she shared her cancer journey to educate others about breast cancer in hopes that no one would have to go through what she did.

“I love music – it helps me heal,” shares Maja. “During my DJ sets, I’m very open with my story and I try to spread awareness about breast cancer because it can truly impact anyone.”

On October 3, 2021, Maja will be among thousands of Canadians coming together virtually for the CIBC Run for the Cure.

While the Run might look a bit different again this year as we continue to prioritize the health of our communities, our commitment to changing the future of breast cancer is stronger than ever. Together, we’re a force-for-life in the face of breast cancer – raising funds for groundbreaking breast cancer research and a coast-to-coast support system that makes a real difference for people affected by breast cancer.

Over the last 30 years, the funds raised through Run have contributed to incredible progress – helping people reduce their risk of getting breast cancer and improving the ways we detect, diagnose and treat the disease – but we know there’s more to be done. Be a part of an impactful and unforgettable experience. Sign up, fundraise or donate today.