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Article in Vancouver Sun by Douglas Todd

Eva Markvoort gave all her life away

The young actress with cystic fibrosis shared her life and her final weeks with the world

BY DOUGLAS TODD, VANCOUVER SUN APRIL 1, 2010


Beautiful, vivacious Eva Markvoort proved an accomplished actress in the theatre department at the University of Victoria. But when she began applying for roles beyond the campus, she often didn't receive the final call.

Directors told the talented actress they worried she would at unexpected times cough, have trouble breathing or not be able to show up for rehearsal, due to her lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis.

As Eva's disappointment expanded, film and theatre friends began telling the New Westminster-raised actress she was forgetting there was a far bigger role in which she should star.

The story of her life.

In the end, Eva became an icon of strength in the midst of suffering to countless people around the world: By fearlessly telling the harrowing story of what it is like to exist with the rare genetic disease.

Eva played out her role in many ways, including through the award-winning documentary made about her double-lung transplant in 2007, in which viewers literally saw inside her troubled body.

Eva enjoyed that the two-year-old film was called 65 Red Roses, since "65 red roses" was a child's malapropism for "cystic fibrosis." And she adored the flower. Organ transplants increased after the documentary aired.

Perhaps more impressively, in the past two years Eva connected with more than a million Internet readers and viewers through her blog, also called 65 Red Roses, by revealing in intimately frank detail what it was like each day for her to live and, as she would often write online: "love, love, love."

In the past six weeks, the tragically beautiful story of Eva's life came to a climax.

Eva decided to reveal to her worldwide community of Internet followers, which was particularly strong in Canada, the U.S. and Europe (especially Poland), what it was like to be a few weeks from death's door.

Eva's parents, Bill Markvoort and Janet Brine, talked about the remarkable short life of their daughter on Wednesday in their home in New Westminster, on what would have been Eva's 26th birthday.

More than 20 of Eva's friends, many from the theatre community, were coming to the Markvoort-Brine home later in the day to mark the anniversary, with a party.

Moving among rooms stacked with letters and cards from Eva's online admirers, Bill described the moment in February when their strong-willed daughter told them to gather around her VGH bed to make a video for her blog.

No one in the family knew what was going on. "She could be a bit imperious. A bit of a diva," said Bill. When Eva wanted something, she got it.

With the camera rolling and her family hugging close beside her, gaunt Eva suddenly began to talk about how she was soon going to die. Her agonizing battle was ending.

She loved everyone.

Within hours of the video going onto the 65 Red Roses site, a tsunami of affection swept through the Internet.

Eva's last spoken words to her web community immediately drew more than 150,000 page views, in less than 24 hours. Tens of thousands more people would click with each passing day.

They still are, even with Eva passing away last Saturday in Vancouver General Hospital, waiting in vain for a donor so she could have a second double-lung transplant.

* * *

The walls of the large living-room in Eva's long-standing family home in the Queen's Park neighbourhood of New Westminster were this week blanketed from floor-to-ceiling with cards, letters, drawings, poetry, prayers, paintings, collages, mosaics and other gifts from Eva's horde of far-flung well-wishers.

The living room included a bed, which was itself smothered with cards and gifts. This had been Eva's bedroom during her many rough months, in which she was linked up to tubes and ingesting painkillers and other medications.

Of the thousands of gifts that have arrived for Eva through the family mailbox, the most common image is a red heart, in every shape, size and variation.

Eva's death is making news headlines this week across Canada and in Europe.

"It's been unbelievable. It's so overwhelming," said Bill, vice-president of Probyn Log Ltd., sitting with his wife, Janet, principal of Peace Arch Elementary School, who spent the past seven weeks sleeping in Eva's hospital room.

Eva's parents have been reluctant to speak to the media, but decided to talk to The Vancouver Sun about their daughter, whose Internet life began four years ago.

That's when Eva began a private blog to keep in touch with others with Cystic Fibrosis, which strikes roughly one in 2,000 people, mostly of European extraction.

Due to the complex infectious nature of the illness, medical specialists strongly discourage people with CF from spending any time in each other's company.

But, after a while, Eva opened her site beyond the CF community, to the public.

At first Janet was against the idea. "But eventually I came around. I could see it was a real focus for Eva. It was benefiting her and others."

The page views and comments on 65 Red Roses began mounting at a feverish pace. Eva was having an impact far greater than expected.

In their living room, the parents told a few of the many remarkable stories about how Eva inspired an online network.

One story was of a suicidal U.S. woman who said she was "saved" after watching Eva online. The despairing woman couldn't help but be inspired by the strength Eva showed; living with someone else's lungs, which frequently become overpowered by mucous. The family ended up meeting the woman.

Another account of Eva's Internet influence revolved around the hundreds of letters she received from black students in gang-infested ghettos of Los Angeles. An L.A. school administrator had encouraged students at 18 schools to follow Eva's blog, from which he wrote they learned no one was "worthless," and they themselves became "more empathetic."

There were also many young men who fell in love online with Eva, confessing their unrequited desire to rescue the brave, sensual young woman from the unfairness of her terminal ordeal.

In general, Bill found young men and women responded incredibly to Eva's blog, in part because for many of them it was their first grave experience of the dying process, particularly with someone their age.

There were also, as expected, many, many patients and families struggling with cystic fibrosis who considered Eva a heroine.

Perhaps most intriguingly, Eva became a media star in Poland.

She was a top story on newspapers and on TV in the country of 38-million people, to the extent that a Polish TV crew came and filmed a story about her during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

The family, including brother, Hunter, and sister Annie, were asked to give a rough idea of what kinds of people had been sending the tens of thousands of comments Eva received on 65 Red Roses.

The family estimated about 10 per cent of the blog's traffic came from people struggling with Cystic Fibrosis. The rest came from "healthy" people, many from Canada, but with about 25 per cent from the United States and another 15 per cent from Poland.

Trying to understand the mystery of the Polish phenomenon, Bill had a few theories.

The documentary about Eva aired at least twice on Polish TV, which doesn't' have as many channels as in North America, he said. Nor does Poland have a health care system, he said, that can afford lung transplants. As well, "Eva" is a common Polish name, even while "Markvoort" is Dutch.

Bill and family believe, in addition, that Eastern Europeans may have a more open and healthy attitude than North Americans to difficult and "dark" themes, such as the life and death struggles of Eva.

Whatever the case involving the Poles, Bill found Eva's widespread Internet community astounding.

"I think the Internet is the most powerful thing imaginable. It provides immediate contact. It creates circles of friendship."

* * *

In addition to exposing her vibrant life and passions on the world wide web, Eva received many accolades in her short life.

Hearing of her troubles, the University of Victoria decided to rush through her bachelor's degree in fine arts in February, even though she had not quite finished her electives.

The House of Commons was told of her death this week. She had already received the Queen's Jubilee Service Award.

Meanwhile, the documentary, 65 Red Roses, continues to be aired around the world, including again this Friday evening in Canada on CBC.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, as well, gave Eva its prestigious Summerhayes Award in March, for raising awareness. As a result of her online influence, the foundation will be switching much of its educational and outreach campaigns to the Internet.

Bill choked up as he read out a tiny sampling of the letters people have written Eva, including how she was "remarkable and strong." They thanked her for "giving all her love away" and being "one of the most beautiful people I've ever been able to know."

Bill and Janet said they feel a duty to respond publicly to the outpouring for their daughter. But, eventually, Bill said, the family will likely return to a more private life.

Just as Bill finished speaking, the mail carrier dropped another two dozen brightly coloured cards and letters through the family mailbox.

Some had red hearts.

dtodd@vancouversun.com

Read Douglas Todd's blog at www.vancouversun.com/thesearch

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun


Photobucket
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.



© Eva Dien Brine Markvoort 2006-2010

Comments

( 61 comments — Leave a comment )
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namaste27
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
thank you Markvoort "fam"! I bought this newspaper as soon as i saw her picture on the front.Love,love,love.
i_skye
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:59 pm (UTC)
That is so amazing. Could you take a picture of the newspaper for us non-canadians? Just because I would love to see the actual cover of the paper with her beautiful self on the front!
cassigail
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:33 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful article. Eva deserves all the recognition she can get. She was, and still is, and will always be, a beautiful, heroic soul. I never got to meet her in person, but I still feel a void in my life knowing she is not here anymore. But then again, I believe she is. Like she said, her love will never end. I am praying for Eva's family and I hope you can find some comfort knowing that Eva has helped, inspired, and encouraged thousands, maybe even millions, of people across the world.

We miss you, Eva, but we'll never, ever forget you or what you have done for all of us.
effervescent
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:35 pm (UTC)
My heart still leaps whenever I see her familiar icons on my flist.

Eva's legacy grows with every new person who is brought to her story, even if they take only one moment to think about it.

The documentary, her story, her blog... They aren't static. They touch people, they make them think and feel and hope, even though she isn't with us any longer. That's the true power of what she started that day when she came online searching for other people like her.

This is a lovely article.
elbiesee
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:37 pm (UTC)
Great writeup.

I think of Eva, and her family, every day.

Love!
natalia_gda
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
<3
I'm Polish. I love Eva because she IS amazing. Just because of her poems, good heart, crystal soul. And I'll love her 4ever because she changed my life. I'm journalist but I've never wrote any article about her. It's my heart's bussiness who I love and who can be so important to me.

I'm writting in present: SHE IS because I can't belive that she's gone. I wished to meet her one day. Maybe make an interview about her victory with CF? But now it's impossible... And it hurts.

(Anonymous)
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:55 pm (UTC)
love, love, love!
eva i never knew you, but you are on mind everyday. your message of "love, love, love" still rings in my ear, and Im trying to live my life full of love, love, and love. Anytime I catch myself feeling angry, or regretful, i tell myself to stop, and just love. I try to tell everyone I know about your legacy. I think you are beautiful and hope you are happy as an angel in the sky. I will keep your name alive. Please look over everyone with your smile and all your love, love, love:)
i_skye
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:57 pm (UTC)
To Bill, Janet, Annie, Hunter, and friends,
Thank you for allowing us to continue to love and care for Eva in our own small little way. Thank you for sharing a piece of your journey with Eva with us. Thank you for keeping us updated about all of the impact that Eva has had in this world. Thank you, thank you, thank you. My heart it with all of you right now.

This was an wonderful article about an amazing, spectacular woman. I do think of her every day, I think of how she makes me want to see the world in a better way, how I want to keep fighting my own illness instead of letting it kill me, she gives me a reason to not just throw in the towel.

Thank you Eva, and Eva's family.

love, love, love, love, love, love.
~Skye
kimberube
Apr. 8th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing...
There must be a part of you that wanted/wants to keep her all to yourself.

Thank you for being brave enough to share her.

And thank you for continuing to keep those of us who loved Eva from afar updated in the days following your loss.

With deep gratitude. Sending LOVE.
_redcorvette
Apr. 8th, 2010 12:27 am (UTC)
She is so missed. But everytime I think of her I end up smiling.

Thanks for sharing with us, family of Eva!
diannenewf
Apr. 8th, 2010 12:30 am (UTC)
A truly remarkable article about a truly remarkable woman! Thank you so much for sharing!
(Anonymous)
Apr. 8th, 2010 12:43 am (UTC)
BEAUTIFUL ARTICLE
Thank you for sharing her with us.
Thinking of Bill, Janet, Annie and Hunter
and all her friend and Justin
-- it's outrageous that she's gone
Love and Hugs to all of you
siradamm
Apr. 8th, 2010 01:25 am (UTC)
Eva, Poland still remembers you!

Thank you for sending us your LOVE from heaven! =)

(Anonymous)
Apr. 8th, 2010 01:56 am (UTC)
What a beautiful,wonderful,amazing article.For a beautiful,wonderful,amazing woman.My love is with all of you,as are my thoughts and prayers <3
wander_lost
Apr. 8th, 2010 01:57 am (UTC)
A day or two after she died, I went back and reread my journal looking for comments Eva made. She inspired me right from the beginning of our online friendship. She will be missed, and you all are in my hearts. Thank you for sharing your girl with us all.

--Shannon
(Anonymous)
Apr. 8th, 2010 02:55 am (UTC)
To Eva's dear family and loved ones:
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this wonderful tribute and summery of Eva's many accomplishments. No one article can sum up all that she meant to this world, but I think under the circumstances this does a fine job.

I want to tell you that I have re-adjusted so much of the way I view life after experiencing things through Eva's eyes. She affected me so deeply, and I credit her for letting me see the good everywhere. She is still on my mind several times a day.

I am sending you my heart-felt condolences and know that as hard as it is for me, it is so much deeper and more difficult for all of you. I am sending you constant prayers of healing and love. Eva lives on in so many, many hearts...

The photo is simply...lovely.

Lots of LOVE...
Jill from MN
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