There’s a Greek idiom that says, Κράτα με να σε κρατώ ν’ανεβούμαι στο βουνό (Hold my hand, and I’ll hold yours, so we can climb the mountain.) This beautiful sentiment perfectly embodies the work of the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal, which brings together 200 women to foster community, preserve Greek tradition and give back.

Since 2019, the Lyceum of Greek Women has worked hand-in-hand with the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Foundation to support women’s health and the early detection of ovarian and endometrial cancers. The group has held highly successful charity fashion shows featuring Greek designers, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit the DOvEE Project, which is developing a new test to detect ovarian and endometrial cancers early.

On October 17, 2023, the MUHC Foundation honoured the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal’s generosity with a plaque unveiling ceremony. The new plaque names a room in the MUHC’s surgical oncology unit. To recognize the strength of Greek women in their community and around the world, the Lyceum chose to adorn the plaque with the words “Melina’s Room.” This tribute recognizes two strong Greek women. Melina Mercouri (1920–1994) was the Minister of Culture and Sport of Greece and widely-revered actress who lost her life to lung cancer. Closer to home, Melina Tsagaropoulos, a member of the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal, is a young woman living with ovarian cancer and receiving treatment at the MUHC. This gesture is a testament to the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal’s passion for supporting women.

“We are very emotional because this plaque is about women helping women. When women go through treatment and surgeries in the oncology department, they will see this plaque and know that we are there for them, in the name of the Melinas,” says Justine Frangouli-Argyris, President of the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal.

Melina Tsagaropoulos always wanted to be a mother. Despite years of trying, she and her husband, Marco, were unable to conceive. It was during this journey that she noticed something wasn’t right. She experienced painful cramping and her stomach was extremely bloated, almost like she was carrying a child. What Melina thought might be hormone changes turned out to be something much more sinister: at just 29 years old, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

“It was the most devastating news, but I didn’t care about the cancer—I just wanted to be a mom,” says Melina.

Melina Tsagaropoulos with her son, Matheos.

Melina Tsagaropoulos with her son, Matheos.

Melina began treatment, but she couldn’t let go of her lifelong dream of becoming a mother. Determined to become parents, she and Marco explored their options and began looking for an egg donor and surrogate. They were lucky to find both, and soon Melina and Marco’s child was on his way. All through the process, Melina underwent treatment.

“I will be on treatment for the rest of my life. It’s exhausting. When I’m doing well, I feel like I have things under control, but when I don’t feel good, that’s when the fear sets in,” says Melina.

Ovarian cancer is rare in younger women, but risk of the disease increases with age. An estimated 3,000 women in Canada are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and of those a staggering 1,950—or 65%—will die. This is because ovarian cancer only presents symptoms when it is advanced. Many women are unaware they have it until it is too late.

As Director of Gynecologic Oncology at the MUHC, Dr. Lucy Gilbert has seen far too many women lose their lives to ovarian and endometrial cancers. Determined to break this devastating pattern, she developed the DOvEEgene test, a revolutionary new screening test that can detect these cancers in their earliest stages. Thanks to the support of the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal, DOvEEgene is closer than ever to becoming a standard part of women’s health care.

“I cannot put into words how much this effort by the Lyceum of Greek Women and their supporters means to the DOvEE Project. It not only gives us the funds that we need to work, but the inspiration and the feeling that we are supported by women, to help women. It means so much to us,” says Dr. Gilbert.

DOvEEgene is a pap smear-like test that uses a specially designed brush to collect cells from the uterus. The sample undergoes genetic testing, allowing the DOvEE team to detect the presence of ovarian cancer in its earliest stages.

The DOvEEgene test must go through several important steps before it can be made available to women across Canada and around the world. It is currently undergoing its final clinical trial to test its effectiveness. Nearly 4,000 women have been recruited as part of the trial, and the Greek community is proud that over 1,000 of its members have participated. Already, the test is saving lives—it has helped Dr. Gilbert and her team identify cancer and pre-cancer in numerous trial participants.

“Dr. Gilbert has been an inspiration to the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal and every woman in the world. DOvEEgene will be the first test to detect ovarian and endometrial cancers at an early stage so that women can be saved. This is a miracle, and it’s happening here,” says Frangouli-Argyris.

Though she did not benefit from the DOvEEgene test, Melina is proud to support the project and is humbled by the Lyceum of Greek Women’s decision to name a room at the MUHC after her.

“It is an honor to have had this room named after me as a representation for all women fighting this horrible disease. It’s important for people to know that this cancer does not only affect older women, but young ones as well. I would like to thank the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal for choosing me to represent the DOvEE team’s amazing research, which will save many women from having to experience what I have,” says Melina.

Six years after her diagnosis, Melina is the proud and doting mother of three-year-old Matheos. Though she still lives with ovarian cancer, her dream of becoming a mother came true, and she is savouring every moment.

“Being a mother is my purpose in life. My doctors are finding treatments to control the disease for as long as possible,” says Melina.

With the support of community, hand in hand, Melina achieved her dream of becoming a mother. Now, she and the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal are giving back to ensure more women lead long and fulfilling lives.

Ovarian cancer takes too many mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. You can help the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal in their mission to make the DOvEEgene test available to women across Canada and around the world. To learn more and to donate, visit

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