RIVER FOREST, Ill. (WLS) -- After a heart-breaking journey spanning more than a decade, Silva Mardoian has reason to smile: an apartment of her very own and a housewarming party to celebrate her freedom.
"This is very touching and wonderful. I've never had nobody care about me like this," Mardoian said at the celebration Thursday, holding back tears.
She and her brother Zareh Mardoian expected a small celebration with the West Suburban Medical Center's River Forest Cancer Support Group.
"It was just going to be a party, I was looking for the cake," said her brother jokingly.
But the duo walked in to find a pile of presents and bright balloons around the room. This was an overwhelming gesture for someone who has suffered so much.
"My dad passed away...and then my mom got sick," Silva Mardoian recalled.
A few years later, her mother died too. Along the way, she and her brother Zareh lost their home and then their jobs. The Mardoians were homeless for the better part of a decade, going in and out of shelters, when Silva Mardoian got more bad news: cancer.
"I don't know what I would have done if I lost her," said an emotional Zareh Mardoian.
Mardoian visited his sister at a nursing home while she received treatment; he was still homeless. But after years of paperwork and waiting, they have their own home now and Silva Mardoian is in remission.
"Thankful for god that I have this place because I was in a nursing home for almost two years, and I didn't think that I'd ever get out, and I'm so excited that I did," she said.
"When she started coming here she was very sad, she didn't talk, we didn't know much about her," said support group organizer Metoda Posega.
But when Posega learned about Mardoian's story, she rallied co-workers and fellow group members like Andy Trentacosta.
"She's a sweet lady and she's had a very rough road and it's good to bring a little sunshine into her life,"Trentacosta said.
Without talk of sickness or pain, the River Forest Cancer Support Group serves its mission: helping those in need feel like royalty.
WATCH: Cancer survivor, once homeless, celebrates getting her own home
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