It was March 13th Friday. The birds were chirping on the branches of the bud trees. The snowdrops have already emerged from the ground and the violets have grown up their heads. It was a beautiful day, nature was feverishly preparing for the spring. I was getting prepared, too. For a new and changed life in a hospital ward. And to get a second chance to live.
From an external point of view, my life was idyllic. I inherited lucky genes from my parents, a stable set of values and world vision. I’ve always been a hardworking, good student, an eminent one except for a few subjects. I wasn’t under external pressure and did everything for myself. I saw from my childhood that hard work always pays off and I acted like that. At the end of college, with an economics degree in my pocket, I started building my career in the communication area. After a few years, I got from an internship to a senior position. All this at the cost of solving a lot of nervousness, conflict and stress, because if you want to get somewhere on your own, you have to work hard. Success does not fall into your lap. I’ve done that and enjoyed the fruits of hard work for many years. Designer clothes and accessories, glitzy parties, good networks, own apartment and car, so pretty much everything associated with the role of a successful and career-based woman by social standards. I felt like a princess with a little exaggeration. I got everything I wanted. I had a bright future ahead.
It’s July 2014, I’m 32 years old. The cicadas are circulating loudly over my head as I take a sunbath by the pool in Zakynthos. My body is producing strange symptoms: I’m bleeding a little, even when it’s not time. I’m pretty sure stress caused it and my hormone system is a little bit overturned. Nothing serious as I was at cancer screening less than a year ago. All my life, I’ve been healthy, I played sports, I had a healthy lifestyle. I’ve never been to the hospital only for a visit. Just in case, when I arrived home, I went to see a doctor. He calms me down, everything is negative, there is nothing to worry about. The ominous signs repeated a few more times, and I tried to get to the bottom of things because I felt something was very wrong. A series of hospital tests have now followed, with new doctors, but the result is the same, all my tests are negative. After a few months of failed medication, there was no other solution left than a minor surgery and histological examination. After waking up, the doctor said there is trouble, but I should wait for the exact diagnosis. It’s interesting I remember, I was crying in the hospital ward not because of the expected results, but because I can’t go home the same day. After a few weeks and after further examinations, the diagnosis arrived: cervical cancer, already with metastasis. Then things happened very quickly and suddenly it was 13 March, Friday.
I don’t have many memories of the day of my big surgery. Nor about what it’s like to lose consciousness, lie unprotected, without shame, at the mercy of others, touched, cut, stripped of your precious organs, and then recreated to be waken up in the same bed from which you were taken. Interestingly I can’t remember how much pain I physically had in the early days. Nor how demanding it was to go through the prescribed six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy with my just-regenerating body. But I distinctly remember coming home by car from a late afternoon treatment: the sun warms my face through the car glass and I cry how happy I am to be alive.
It’s been three years since then and thank God I’m past the critical time. I keep going to regular check-ups, and it’s probably like for the rest of my life. Doctors will declare I’m cured after five years, but I know everything’s going to be okay. Even though opening envelopes with my diagnosis still doesn’t feel good. What has cancer taught me? I learn to have faith, especially in myself.
Did it change my life? In addition to taking away the possibility of having biologically an own child, yes. Did my life get better? Yes, my life is better now and I say that with complete determination. I’ve learned that you can be happy about small things in life, like the smell of a delicious coffee, a snow crystal on window glass, or an honest smile. I’ve also learned that memories are more important than material things in life, and I realized that’s what I want to collect. I feel like I’ve become a better person.
I’ve learned to appreciate the good and help others selflessly. I’ve learned that you don’t always have to fight always to have always right. I had to learn to let things go and accept situations. As I walked this path, I lost a few people in my life who couldn’t handle my new approach to the world, but in return, I got new and deeper friendships. But most importantly, life gave me a second chance to make my own dreams come true instead of other people’s ones. To see and explore as much from the world as possible. Because while I’m doing that, I feel the most alive. And living is a good thing. From my old life, I still insist on the following thoughts: I have a bright future ahead, I have faith in myself, I can do anything.