Singer, cancer patient touched many lives

June 22, 2009 12:47:22 PM PDT
Thousands watched a young music major graduate from her hospital bed. When Maura De Souza couldn't walk the stage, Sam Houston State University brought the ceremony to her. De Souza received a Bachelor's degree in music at MD Andersen where she was being treated for cancer. Video of the ceremony was later posted online.

De Souza loved to sing and she loved hitting the high notes, but a week after one of her performances, the junior music major was diagnosed with a rare cancer called sarcoma.

The only symptoms of the growing tumors in her abdomen were nausea, cramping and bloating. Her family was told her survival was a long shot.

"They're kind of the same drugs that have been used from my research from what I could tell from the 1950's," said Maura's mother, Erin De Souza.

Amazingly there are no new FDA approved drugs for sarcoma. Her doctor said because it's so rare, it's not profitable enough for drug companies.

"They know they're not going to sell a whole lot of drugs for treating patients with sarcomas," said Dr. Robert Benjamin.

Maura's doctor grew tearful talking about the opera singer he couldn't save.

"She was just a beautiful person all the way through and she touched the hearts of those who took care of her," said Dr. Benjamin.

We met Maura three days before she died. Her room was always filled with family and friends.

"They can just stay with me because a lot of them want to stay with me," said Maura.

Maura's sister, Danielle De Souza, said, "She said she was the only one in the family that could handle it and that's why god gave it to her and not us."

Lydia De Souza, Maura's other sister said, "We all, at least I did, thought there is some end to this tunnel, like she's going to kick it."

Maura died with her head against her father, listening to Handel's "Messiah."

"She was moving her lips, she was happy," said Maura's father, Joel De Souza. "She loved everyone and was loved by everyone and that helps."

On Friday, the family watched her performances together, taking comfort from Maura and her voice that even in sorrow still makes them smile.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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