"Why are you crying? Why such despair? It is not the final diagnosis, after all. It is just a clinical assumption plus some not very clear X-ray film. It could be many other things" said Dr. Martha at the Lung Disease Hospital in Bucharest. "Be patient and wait until you get the results of all the tests, biopsy included."
"I am sorry but I can’t help crying", I said, my face blotched with tears.
However, I had a somewhat bad feeling about the final results. When the first symptoms started to show, I ignored them. Fatigue, sharp pain in the back next to the spine and even if they were getting more and more intense I did not have in my agenda a visit to my physician. I was far too busy with clear responsibilities, so I could not "waste" time with doctors! At that time I hardly realized that I had already grown workaholic.
I started to grow aware that something was wrong with my health in a hotel room in Bucharest before falling asleep. While I was massaging some cream in my hands, I noticed some details that, I hardly had had the time to notice. I realized that all of a sudden, the tips of my fingers were swollen and the nails became watch crystal-like, and quite prominently. I felt no pain at all. However, I did not like my hands to look like that and my inquisitive nature pushed me looked up the Merck Manual of Medicine when back at home. To my complete bewilderment I was sent to the chapter Lung Disease, CANCER!
"It can’t be that! Who do I take me for? Am I a doctor? No, I am not!. I must have made a mistake somewhere and got a misleading answer".
"Tomorrow I’ll take you to see our physician," Theodore, my husband said.
"No, that’s not possible! I have an awfully busy day tomorrow and it is too late to cancel all my appointments", I retorted.
"I don’t accept any ‘no’, I am tired to watch you toss in bad night after night. I don’t believe it is cancer but it is quite obvious that something has been going wrong with your health for some time. And it is not just the stress! You know how much I care for you and I would never forgive myself a passive attitude when it comes to your health. So, you just listen to me for once, this time only, please!"
He kissed me, hugged me, and holding me tenderly by the shoulders took me to our bedroom. I instantly forgot about all the next day commitments and I felt at peace and protected. It had never happened to me something like that but I think long hours overwork and all the pressure started to show.
"Hi, welcome Cornelia, what brings you around? Well, could I call this a social visit or I am given the privilege to ‘ perform my noble profession’ and give you a medical check?", the doctor said, winking at my husband.
Keeping up with the same mockery tone, I went on, "Well, Irene, you don’t have to bother giving me a check as I have already a diagnosis. I just came to see If you are well, and ... make an official announcement. Well, I am ill with CANCER, LUNG CANCER, to be more accurate! I am positive about that! (However, I must admit I did not believe a word of it at that time). I’ve just checked with the…"
"Mecrk Manual of Medicine, I know the story", she continued smilingly, "You trust it better than any physician in the world! Now let’s get serious, and let me do the job I am paid for".
At that time, I was not aware that, unfortunately, I WAS ILL WITH CANCER. I simply was in a hilarious disposition and took it for a very good joke. (It proved soon to be a silly joke!) Anyway, mutual teasing was one of our favourite friendly opportunities for fun.
The check over, she said, "Go and see Dr. Dragos Ungureanu. He is a very nice and highly professional pneumologist," Irene said. "You can find him until 1.00 p.m. at the lung disease hospital. It’s on Oituz street near School No 5." She picked up the phone to call him already.
"Let’s not overreact! I don’t go anywhere! I am so busy that I can hardly cope with my agenda. Do you want me to waste another day? I will take a day off in the weekend, I promise."
"Cornelia, dear, it is up to you to decide but you know that I have been your friend for a lifetime and right now I know I have all the reasons to be concerned about your condition. Later it may prove to be too late", she said, staring at me seriously.
I looked once more at my crystal-like nails and my swollen finger tips and I didn’t like what I saw. I said to myself, "What if I follow her advice?"
After routine tests done at the local hospital in Bacau - my home town, Dr. Dragos Ungureanu, the pneumologist recommended a visit to the Lung Disease Hospital "Marius Nasta" in Bucharest.
More tests, CT, IRM, and so on.
"I recommend the resection of half of the right lung. It is there where the tumour is located. The resection will prevent the tumour spread" the surgeon said. Theo, my poor husband was absolutely devastated at the imminence of such a severe procedure! However, he wouldn’t show it. He would continue make me laugh with his witty jokes, instead.
The operation was a tremendous success. The team of surgeons were absolutely fantastic. (We have very good, gifted lung surgeons in Romania.)
However, I can’t say the same for the aftercare; that was a real nightmare! Doctors were O.K. but nurses and sisters, terrible! I hate to remember those terrible conditions in hospital. Dirty toilets and showers! Zero empathy from the nurses! I thought I would kill the manager and the administrative staff of the hospital showed no respect for the patients and for the doctors either. Imagine being hospitalized, helpless in a hospital bed, immediately after the operation and no help available for your physiological necessities.
My husband had to be with me almost all the time. He had hardly any time for his own necessities. He had black rings around his eyes and looked extremely pale. I feared he would collapse soon. He was awfully exhausted, after the days and nights sitting by my bad heroically. Anyway, he would never admit it.
As soon as I got rid of those draining hoses and containers I demanded to be discharged from the hospital.
"No, you’ve got to be patient and wait until I remove your surgical thread." the surgeon protested. "Another three or four more days" he added.
"Not even one more day or I go and kill the hospital manager for the terrible condition of this hospital. Besides, I could have the surgical thread removed in our local hospital." And so I did.
Two weeks later, the result of pathologic examination made me very sad – the tumour was malignant. And yet, I don’t know how it happened that I did not despair. After all, it had been completely removed by the eminent surgeon. The CT after revealed no other signs of tumour.
And yet, for more safety and prevention of any further surprises they recommended to me chemo and radio therapy – 5 units. I decided that I wanted none of those – after having been reading tons of information on the internet. I started alternative therapy and a very carefully supervised dietary regime (no red meat, just chicken breast, fish, plenty of raw vegetables and fruit, seeds and the kind.) Professor Horvat’s cure with deuterium free water for six months made me feel very good. I also used other alternative cures.
Instead of poisoning therapies, I asked my husband to take me on holidays. To be honest I was worried about his health after such a nightmarish time. I wanted him to have some fun and breathe the fresh air of the sea. (He had had enough poisoned air.)
It was September already, with its beautiful sunny days and high, very blue sky. Autumn was already at home in Romania, my country, so we did not make an option for our Black Sea shore. It was already too cold. Theo came up with a great idea. Croatia a beautiful country, quite close to Romania offered many vacancies on the Adriatic coast. The weather was still very hot over there. Besides, a day trip to Venice, Italy was very tempting.
We packed and got our car ready for the holidays. I felt very well. We drove in turns and reached beautiful Croatia within 20 hours driving. I may say it was an unforgettable holiday! I could see Theo getting some new colour in his cheecks. The sparkle in his beautiful eyes came back. I had all the reasons to be happy again and forget about our traumatizing recent experience.
The second shock
I was remarkably well for a whole year. I had even started my work again. This helped me tremendously! And yet, it happened on one beautiful shiny next summer day when all of a sudden, I collapsed when I got off my car to get a soda by a motel. I didn’t lose consciousness, though. I felt as if someone had kicked me behind the knees. My knees and elbows were bleeding from the fall and people who watched it happen must have thought I was drunk. Very embarrassed, I got up instantly. I gave up the soda and got back to my car and continued to drive back home. (I was returning from an evaluation of a humanitarian project located at about 280 km away from my home town.) I had stopped by at a motel to buy a soda as I said.
However, on the way to Braila, where the project was located I had a very strange feeling when I heard very clearly high quality music in my ears. There was no apparent sound source, anywhere. The music came from my brains. It was classical music. When it stopped, café concert started. The quality of the sound was exceptional. I feared this symptom but never told anyone about that – apart from Theo as I was afraid not to taken in derision. (I was right about that. I tried to tell a doctor about that and – mockingly, he said "it is good that you don’t hear horrible noises." I think he was not up to give me an explanation.)
The next day, when I heard the music again, I was in the kitchen. I collapsed for the second time and my wounds were more serious. I had an ugly bruise at my forehead and more wounds at my legs. My husband started to panic and rushed me to Bucharest to the Neurosurgery Hospital.
The CT showed a tumour – sized 3 cm in diameter, in the right side of my brain.
"Metastasis from the lung cancer, the doctor explained."
The RMI confirmed it. "I recommend urgent removal of the tumour or your wife’s condition will deteriorate quickly and her life might be at risk." Theo felt even more desperate at this new piece of bad news. "How am I going to tell her about that? It is hardly a year since she had to overcome some difficult time with her lung tumour!".
When he came out I could read despair on his face.
"Go ahead!" I uttered, I am ready for the worst, and I continued to boast.
He couldn’t say a word. I guessed the sentence and I tried to start kidding but I was not in a very good mood to continue and he hardly felt like reacting at my poor jokes. I made an attempt to read aloud for him as I would usually do when it was a long journey. I couldn’t, because I felt tears feeling my eyes and I knew I could hardly prevent myself from bursting out crying! So, all the way back home (about 330 km) we spoke very little and we suddenly felt very tired. I had to make up my mind and let the surgeon know about my decision and agree on the date in case of a ‘yes’ for the operation. Risks and other issues he had discussed with the doctor while still in Bucharest.
Back at home, I had a quick shower and went to bed without any supper. That was not that unusual. Anyway, it was the first time in our life together when I did not kiss Theo good night, even if we were both at home. I cried my heart out and the huge despair overwhelmed me just like the darkness of the night. I could hardly prevent myself from thinking that I had so many things that were not finished, new projects to implement, people and youngsters who needed me, my pets and the most important of them, my sister, and her family my very kind and loving husband – Theodor -, whom so much I cared for! I did not want to die! No, not yet! I asked Good Lord to give me the chance to survive a few more years and let me finish what I had started.
I cried again until I fell asleep. Luckily, when I woke up Theo was in bed, cradling me in his loving arms. We started to cry together but that was the last time when we were in tears. Next morning I decided I would have the operation after all. I trusted in God’s always being with me whenever I was in trouble and not only. Besides, I trusted the exceptional abilities of the team of surgeons.
Everything went very well this time, too. In spite of the poor equipment and terrible conditions the surgeons made a miracle. I survived (as you can see). However, even if I didn’t feel very bad after the surgery, I looked like a monster! My head was huge, my face swollen and full of bruises. With all the inconveniences the surgeons said I would recover ... in time. I felt I started to recover when I got home. (Just like the first time I was discharged from hospital at my persistent requests).
Back home, in my cosy house, surrounded by my pets and familiar background I am at ease. My husband’s constant love and support has given me the strength to struggle for my life. When two weeks later, after the surgery the pathological test confirmed brain cancer I no longer reacted. I already expected it! I decided to take things such as they are and enjoy life more than ever in spite of the deprivations of all sorts. (It is a pity we are almost bankrupt after so many financial efforts!) I am happy to be in one piece, to be able to read, write, to think clearly. .
"I think I might try and have some chemo and radiotherapy after all", I said.
"Well, well, did I hear someone is going to take the doctor’s advice? Under the new given circumstances allow me, my lady, to drive you to hospital for your chemotherapy."
"I hope you would love me even if when I lose my hair, I said shyly."
"Don’t speak nonsense", he said and… mockingly added, "Of course, I wouldn’t! What can you expect from me?"
He is such a dear, such a sweetheart! May he be blessed! By the way, did you know that Theo Dorus in Greek language means the Gift of God? I feel he was predestined such a name and I was very lucky to meet him.
Theodor gave up his career just to look after me. He is not only a good man – very handsome, my best friend, trustworthy partner, exceptionally good husband, he is the very essence of the phrase "unconditioned love and devotion". I owe him my life, my survival!
As you can see, I am still around. For how long? Only Good Lord knows. I no longer despair. Having survived the two terrible episodes I have learned how to appreciate other values. So, all in all I am grateful to the Almighty for every minute of my life together with Theodor, my precious and beloved husband.