A young “warrior” mother dying of a rare form of brain cancer has received her master’s degree at her bedside in a Darwin hospital.
On Friday, 28-year-old Anna Yu received her master’s degree in accounting from Charles Darwin University (CDU) after spending the last two years studying.
But Ms. Yu is not your typical student, having spent the past six months battling a rare form of brain cancer after having her first baby.
Ms. Yu and her husband Will Hou’s baby girl, Sunny, was born in February. Five months later, doctors discovered a 10cm tumor growing on her spine.
In June, he was diagnosed with GBM (glioblastoma multiforme), a fast-growing, aggressive brainstem tumor.
Hou said his wife was in a coma with a high fever after having a seizure.
As Anna lay in her hospital bed dressed in a graduation gown, her parents and baby mourned for her.
She can’t move on her own, open her eyes, or swallow, but “keeps listening.”
On Thursday, Ms. Yu’s university called Mr. Hou to tell him that she had finished her degree.
She had been studying while in hospital, with her family, doctors and nurses there to support her.
“She continued to learn through her illness and finished her studies. She just got her title. Remember her forever. Her name is Anna,” said Hou when she was introduced to her title.
“When we told Anna this good news, she couldn’t move, but her eyes widened a little bit,” Hou said.
CDU informed Mr. Hou that his wife’s certificate would be delivered to him at Darwin hospital in what Will described as a “monumental moment”.
Glioblastoma usually appears in people over 60 years of age and has an incidence of three in 100,000.
Unfortunately, the survival rate for patients with this type of brain cancer drops from 40% in the first year after diagnosis to only 17% in the second.
With essential treatment, Ms. Yu was told that she would only have three to six months to live.
Staff at Darwin Private Hospital wept and celebrated Ms. Yu’s incredible achievement.
“It’s really wonderful,” Mr. Hou said.
“The first time I went to the doctor with her to talk about the disease, I needed an interpreter, but the doctors and nurses have been with us from the beginning.”
Ms. Yu’s story was initially shared on a GoFundMe site, trying to raise money for potentially life-saving treatment.
Mr. Hou said he was very appreciative of all the donations his family had received and was “at ease” knowing all the support.
He will use the money to raise his baby, Sunny, who reminds him of his wife.
“She is my only goal moving forward,” he said.
Ms. Yu completed her career by studying in the hospital during rounds of chemotherapy treatments.
“Anna is a fighter, she is a warrior. She is not a poor person with cancer, she is a fighter. She has never complained, she has never been afraid,” Hou said.
“In Anna’s case, her cancer is rarer. The doctor said there are only one or two cases in Australia.
“She is willing to donate all her body parts, but due to cancer part of her body cannot be used.
“After the celebration, I will sign the donation documents.
“That would be a moment in history.
“I have no more words.
“I have no regrets, and I have done my best.”
Hou said his wife’s parents had a hard time understanding because they didn’t speak English, but they were by her side.
“When I shared this good news (about the title) with the nurses and doctors, they all cried and were very emotional,” he said.