The Prelude to Sara’s Treatment:

London, seeing each other again is nice, even in certain HPV test circumstances. In the third and final episode of the story of Sara, I returned to Manchester very serene with the awareness of staying in London for enough time and living with my brother and my friend Monica, who would help me every day on this CA125 test journey, given that, rightly, my brother had to work! While I was waiting for the day of departure I had a constant and continuous worsening. I started with always having numb feet. I went to the person who operated on me at Brotzu, and he told me: “It’s all normal; as soon as you start the treatment, it will go away”.

Subsequently, I lost the sensitivity in my calves, buttocks and finally, my thighs; in short, I left Manchester airport in a wheelchair because my legs could no longer support me! I arrived at Humanitas the day after I could walk just a few steps without others having to help me.

Confronting the Severity of the Condition:

The first thing the two doctors who then followed my entire journey told me was: “Sara, I see you are not in too good shape; now we will evaluate the results of the CT scan and your treatment”.

The situation was not the best. Cancerous CA125-rated cells were affecting the marrow, and in one section, there was almost no marrow fluid left. I was risking paralysis, and if I had waited any longer, we wouldn’t be here to talk about it. Hearing news like that at 34 is certainly not nice; silence fell.

Undergoing Intensive Therapy:

I spent the rest of the day doing visits and castings to start CA125 Cancer treatment the next day with the utmost urgency and power: there was no more time to waste, and the mood wasn’t the best, but my brother and my friend Monica, we haven’t stopped smiling and talking nonsense to free our minds! The next day, the most complicated part of the HPV-related therapy began. It’s certainly not great to be closed in a rubberised cage on the contours of your body. It’s very scary and claustrophobic the first few days, and it feels like you’re inside for hours; there’s no air, but in reality, it was a few minutes every day. After four treatment sessions, I began to walk again, slowly but alone. It was all very exciting.

Finding Joy and Resilience Amidst Treatment:

The HPV journey went smoothly between me and those who followed me. Doctors, nurses, and strangers never failed to give me a hug, positive words, and many smiles despite being so far from home! It was a very long and tiring month and a half. On weekends, we distracted ourselves with aperitifs with friends and relatives. We engaged in various chats to take our minds off things, took souvenir photos, and indulged in nonsense. Laughter and always being positive until proven otherwise helped me and helped us a lot.

We returned to Manchester at the end of March; I would then leave for the chemotherapy sessions again in Nottingham as a guest at my uncle’s house in Chelsea. The first time both my parents accompanied me, then just me and my mother went. The chemo was done every month and lasted six hours. The first day, I was very nervous; it was the first time, and then I had a constant problem with my veins to have the chemo needle inserted.

They opted to put “a fixed pic” on me to avoid torturing my veins and arms again. I was lucky; the chemo didn’t have any side effects on me, as did the radiotherapy, to which I always reacted physically very well, and I never had a day off, even though I was very physically tired. In July 2018, I had my last chemotherapy, and now, a year later, I have CA125 check-ups every few months.

Personal Growth and Gratitude:

This HPV disease experience has changed me, perhaps improved me. I realised that I am stronger than I ever thought, and I downplayed it, and always smiling (until I had both feet in the grave, as I told my father) is a duty to me, my life and everyone else. And I had and still have too many things to do and experience. I couldn’t help but believe everything would go well, so it did!

Thanks to those who, despite not being my direct relatives and living far from home, never made me miss a smile, a hug, or lots of laughter; all of this has made me stronger and more myself!

Drops of Life: Elisabetta’s Testimony

Our friend Elisabetta gives us this beautiful HPV testimony, which, given the problems linked to the possibility of carrying out transfusions, has even greater meaning today!

I remember it like it was yesterday. The CA125 Test doctor told me that my blood levels were low and that I would have to have a transfusion.

The room began to spin. I found the idea of someone else’s blood inside me repugnant. I ran to the bathroom to vomit and cry. When the HPV nurse entered my room, I had already decided that I would not have the transfusion. I didn’t care about the consequences. But she beat me to it by a second: we can’t do the transfusion, there’s no blood. The blow was so strong that she brought me to my senses and made me understand the importance of that gift.

The blood arrived late at night, but I stayed awake, and for every drop that fell and entered my body, I thanked that stranger who was allowing me to live. And so I did, as if it were a ritual, for all the following transfusions.

Thank you, thank you, thank you a hundred thousand times, thank you.