A week after being diagnosed with breast cancer, a new mother passed away, leaving behind three children and a husband.
Kelly Owchar, a 30-year-old Canadian nurse, died less than two months after giving birth to twin girls, Lauren and Leah, Today reports. She was already a mother to a 2-year-old boy.
Her sister, Rachel Orbanski, told PEOPLE that she is hoping her sister’s message reaches others.
“If we can help just one family detect breast cancer early and seek immediate medical treatment, Kelly would be so happy,” Orbanski said. “Kelly was a registered nurse in labor and delivery, a healthcare professional, and even she missed the initial early warning signs.”
Owchar noticed a change two weeks after giving birth to her daughters on March 18, she wrote in her blog. Extreme fatigue and severe stomach pains left her feeling unable to move easily or keep up with her toddler son, but she waved away concerns believing that it was due to having postpartum depression.
It didn’t stop her from feeling ashamed, however, particularly when she noticed she was falling asleep sitting up while holding one of her newborns in the night.
“It’s an adjustment I thought, I will get better at this I thought,” Owchar wrote.
Two weeks after Owchar and her husband, Dwayne, brought their twin girls home, she wrote about finding the first lump in her left breast.
“Being that I was breastfeeding I assumed it was a blocked milk duct,” she wrote. “I used warm compresses, massaged it while I nursed and watched for signs of infection as a good nurse would. The odd thing was, there was no pain.”
On May 15, Owchar was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to her liver.
“And still all I can think is my kids, my sweet kids don’t deserve this; it isn’t fair,” Owchar wrote in her blog of the moment she told her family members she had cancer.
Exactly one week after her diagnosis, Owchar passed away.
“If anything can come from my blog, I hope it is the knowledge that cancer affects so many people in so many ways,” Owchar wrote.
Orbanski told Today that her sister never complained about her pain.
“She never said, ‘Why did this happen to me? She just focused on the children,” Orbanski said.
Orbanski hopes her younger sister’s strength will serve as an inspiration, and spur others to get regular check-ups.
“We want to make sure that somebody receives this message and it helps them to have early diagnosis,” Orbanski said. “If we can save one life, we’d be so happy to have another family not be devastated like we are.”