VENI VIDI VICI. Eleanora, a survivor from Italy reflects on her childhood cancer experience using these 3 words to capture the stages of her journey . She shares the circumstances why her favorite inspirational motto is : “do not cry because it’s over but smile because it happened” (Gabriel Garcia Marques)
Resilience is the world that today represents my past, present and future: there is no good without evil, white without black, crisis without opportunity and happiness without unhappiness. But in the end, what does not kill you make you stronger and you decide to live everyday of your life for yourself and for the others, for the ones who gave you the energy to fight and be here today.
I came to the world 27 years ago without knowing that this would have been my first birth but not the only one…At the age of 15, a dragon struck me with its flames signing the start of a crisis in my life that with time marked the beginning of an opportunity: the opportunity to be born again and experience the real beauty of life.
VENI I came into the world 27 years ago in a gloomy summer day, mothered by a strong and courageous woman. My grandmother always tells me about that day when my father
with a weak and trembling voice, holding a small bundle in his hands, introduced his eldest daughter to the world: “She is born, she is born, Eleonora is born.” That was the beginning of my life, or rather my first life, although no one at that time knew that
there would be a second one. I had a happy childhood, loved by my parents and relatives and with a great little sister by my side, four years younger than me and with an unmatched intelligence and cunning. I played, fought and grew with her everyday and I
was considered the little shy, sensitive and thoughtful girl of the family. At that time I did not know that I was living a happy life. How could I be aware of such happiness?
In many languages the word happiness leads to the idea of a transitional state of life. The ancient Greeks spoke of eudaimonia, literally good fortune; Germans use the word
Glück, which means luck, and in the most widespread language, English, happiness comes from the verb “to happen”. Saint Augustine himself said of happiness: “Raptim
almost transitum”: one is overcome with happiness, it comes unexpected and equally unexpectedly it vanishes. Happiness reached me when I was born and then left me, or
rather faded away on April, 4th 2006.
VIDI I saw my life standing in front of me and insisting to talk to me at the age of 15 years old when I was diagnosed with ALL, acute lymphoblastic leukemia. I clearly remember that day. Just back from the swimming pool with purple lips and a shaky
voice, my mum said to me: “Eleonora, we have to go to the hospital tomorrow and take some tests.” I totally disagreed and replied: “I will not come to the hospital, since I neither want to take medical tests nor to miss school”. However, willing or not, the following day I found myself thrown into an hospital without being able to do anything but listen passively to the diagnosis. “Eleonora, in your body there are bad cells that eat the good ones; we have to destroy them all before we can start rebuilding
the good ones”. Like a dragon that strikes you with its flames, so the disease had chosen me. With me as its main objective however, it had also chosen the people close to me.
To this day I cannot explain to myself how my parents, both doctors, did not go crazy when faced with such a diagnosis and how my sister, who was only 12 at the time, was
able to swallow the pill and admirably take care of herself, pursuing her usual life path. The pain had begun: every day I was forcibly fed cortisone, lumbar puncture, methotrexate, vincristine, daunomycin and many other drugs. In addition to making my hair fall and making me feel bad, these drugs had a common devastating side effect, the worst one: making me feel weak to the point of not being able to get out of bed. I felt
like I was a different person, not the energetic Eleonora that I used to know. However I had to and I did react because, as my doctors told me when I reached the hospital,
healing depends for 50% on the drugs and the medical team’s abilities and for the remaining 50% on the patient and his/her willingness and ability to react. As I focused on
my battle, I never suspected that luck would choose to abandon me and my family again so soon. The 13 July 2006, only three months after my diagnosis, my father suddenly passed away on the first floor of the San Gerardo hospital while I was hospitalized on the twelfth floor of the same building. How can one deal with such adversities of life? You do
not ask questions or look for answers but you simply move forward, almost by inertia. In such a difficult situation, I was surrounded by people who loved me and this was my
blessing”. Friends and family were incredible sources of strength and energy without which I could not say today to have done all what I did in these recent years. They were
my armor and my protection against those who were not only insensitive but truly hardhearted and attacked me in my moments of greatest weakness. Indeed I had a lot of troubles as soon as I got back to school. On the one hand my school did not
accept the grades that I was given by qualified professors who came to the hospital daily to help us study (whose professional qualifications are legally recognized by the Ministry
of Education). On the other hand my classmates were really ruthless against my disease; maybe the reason for that be fright or lack of education. Overall those were exceptionally
difficult times for me. I felt an incredible inner energy, which made me feel alive and back in the saddle; I was once again the Eleonora that I used to know. I wanted to do it all, possible or impossible, and I could not see any barriers in front of me. My peers instead remained in their world, now too far removed from mine and from which I felt totally excluded. I tried to get closer to them several times but I had by then grown up in a way that would never allow me to go back in time.
VICI I won my battle when, five years after the diagnosis, I was declared healthy. I did not know how to properly celebrate such a milestone: I was born again thanks to the help of doctors, medicines, family and friends. At that time my second life began. How to celebrate such a rebirth at 20 years old? To this day I have not been able to organize a celebration worthy of such an event. However, from that day on I have always thought
that the only way to properly celebrate such a milestone is to LIVE life to its fullest day by day. This is why I started my Bachelor at Bocconi University studying Economics and
Management. During these three years I went to Singapore for a six months exchange program. Then, back home, I started a double degree in International Management for which I spent thirteen months in China before returning to Italy to finish my studies. In these years I have never abandoned my passions and my interests. I became an ambassador for AIRC (The Italian Association for Cancer Research) and day after day I try
to present my experience as an example not only of hope but also of rebirth. My life today is based on key elements like energy, passion, courage and determination. When I
reflect on the past I think of the quote “do not cry because it’s over but smile because it happened” (Gabriel Garcia Marques). Weiji is the Chinese word that in the common interpretation is translated as a set of two concepts: crisis and opportunity. I do believe that in these simple characters is contained the essence of our lives. There is no good without evil, white without black, crisis without opportunity and happiness without unhappiness. However, if Saint Augustine defined happiness as a temporary condition, now, after my adventures, I interpret happiness as a long lasting condition. After all, the Indo-European root of happiness is fe-, from which derives the word ferax, Latin name
to indicate the fertile land, and felix, from which comes the word foemina as generator of life. Happiness is therefore, in essence, ability to learn new skills, enrichment, development and enhancement of being. Every day I try to grow driven by that
unparalleled energy that I feel inside ever since I was declared cured. I fight and live for myself and for others. The energy I feel is connected with the word “resilience” that is up to us, healed people, to feed, carry and pass it on in order to show to others that it is possible to experience an endless feeling: the happiness of being born again.