Louissa Skaikay with husband Yousef and children Zein, Sila and Alina.
For more than a year, Louissa Skaikay from Destrehan fought bravely against an extremely rare brain disease.
On April 26, that battle ended in tragedy. Skaikay died after it was discovered earlier this year that the tumor had grown in her brain, slightly but enough to put pressure on the nerves that made her begin to lose function. She was placed under hospice care for two weeks before the illness took her life.
Skaikay was diagnosed with Diffuse Pontine Giloma (DPG) in November 2019, after experiencing neck pain for nearly a calendar year. Doctors thought it was muscle spasms, a pinched nerve, and mild arthritis at several points during that time period, but none of the treatments aimed at improving those conditions seemed to land.
But two months before her visit to the emergency room, her symptoms became more intense, including nausea and vomiting. An MRI didn’t answer and she started physical therapy – she was on the road for two weeks when she passed out.
She underwent successful emergency surgery to treat the immediate problem, but days later she was diagnosed with DPG, a brain cancer that mainly affects children. There are only 600 cases per year, and it is estimated that there are only 100 such cases in adults. An aggressive tumor was the cause of Skaikay’s pain, and worse, the location rendered it useless. It was determined that radiation treatment could extend her life, but could not solve the problem.
“It happened pretty quickly … I know their family is pretty broken,” said David Heymann, a good friend of Skaikay and her husband, Yousef, who has known Heymann since high school. “Obviously it’s never something you wanted to see happen, but no matter how severe her condition was, I think they knew … yet it hit everyone hard.”
Heymann said he is looking into ways to help Yousef and the couple’s three children. In 2019, the family sought help and treatment at a private clinic in Houston – Yousef told Herald-Guide at the time that the clinic was the only place that had given them hope that Louissa’s situation could potentially be cured. But because those treatments were classified as investigative, they would not be covered by insurance and all the funds would have to come out of pocket.
At the time, Yousef created a GoFundMe page (titled Louissa’s Fight Against Brain Cancer) to help offset the costs, donating nearly 200 people to the family’s cause.
“I’m not sure which way to go,” Heymann said. “I’m sure the GoFundMe is still running. But I … he’s such a good guy. I know their family well and they are all wonderful people. It will be hard enough for him with three kids and I want to do something to help, but I’m not sure what. If people know their story, maybe someone can point me in the right direction. I want to do something for him. ”
Heymann said it seemed like Louissa’s condition improved last year, but never to the point of remission.
“The tumor had gotten a little smaller, but it wasn’t enough to have a significant impact,” he said.