Ann Ness first realized something was wrong while playing hockey.

“I was really sluggish on the ice,” Ness recalls. “The coaches and one of my friends’ moms tell me ‘you’re kind of pale and not keeping up to your kind of play that you normally do.”

She was 11 years old.

Her first doctor told her it was growing pains, but it didn’t go away. What Ness really had was Leukemia.

She spent two and a half years in treatment - chemotherapy and radiation - but a year after the treatment ended, the cancer was back.

This time, she had a bone marrow transplant, and the disease went into remission. She was able to graduate high school and go on to university, but her battle wasn’t over.

“After my first year at SFU, I found a mass in my breast,” she said. “They did a biopsy and they determined it was Leukemia, but it was a Leukemia mass in my breast, which is very unique and not a normal presentation for Leukemia.”

The treatment regimen this time involved a mastectomy and more radiation, but the cancer recurred a fourth time before going into remission again.

Ness had a few years of relative normalcy at that time, during which she hoped the cancer was gone for good.

“I finally felt like I was on track,” she said. “I finally felt I was being like my peers, being able to live a quote-unquote ‘normal life’ and follow my dreams and not focus on my health.”

Then, last April, the cancer returned for a fifth time. It’s now centred around a gland between her right ear and eye, and it’s not going away with treatment.

Ness’ doctors say they’ve run out of treatment options. They applied to B.C.’s Medical Services Plan for coverage that would allow her to participate in a clinical trial of an experimental treatment in Seattle, but their request was rejected.

Now, her aunt Marilyn Ness has launched a online fundraising campaign to pay for the Seattle trial. She’s hoping to raise $700,000, which is what participating in the experimental treatment will cost without insurance coverage.

“I’ve never once heard her complain about her life,” Marilyn Ness said of her niece. “Never, in all of these years that I’ve known her, since she was 11.”

Ann Ness recognizes that the fundraiser - and the Seattle trial - are long shots, but she’s not ready to give up on the battle she has been waging for most of her life.

“It’s do this or look to palliative options,” she said. “I don’t want to do that.”

“I know that at the end of the day people want to help, and will do anything they can,” she said. “For myself, but mostly too for the friends and family who’ve always been there for me, I have to try. I have to do this … If I ever get down on my situation, it’s always just being reminded how many people do love and care for me.”

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Michele Brunoro