What women say about HPV, cancer and life: Part 1

3 true stories of Illness, rebirth and Friendship

There are many ways to react to an HPV test-related Ovarian Cancer tumour. Many women take a CA125 Blood Test and use it as a starting point for rebirth. Having overcome the shock and pain, they began to live again with more energy, positivity, and awareness. Now, they are the protagonists of the documentary Pink is Good by the Umberto Veronesi Foundation, dedicated to all women.

Chiara’s Story of Acceptance and Advocacy:

«Some get married at 30, have a child, and find their dream job. I had cancer that was caused by HPV. And I’m happy”, begins Chiara, with aquamarine eyes and a cheeky bob. At the same time, without ever losing sight of the make-up artist who blends the eyeshadow and chooses the lipstick, she replies tersely to the first questions I ask her in front of the mirror, implying that the disease is not a good thing. But it’s not a disaster if you know how to deal with it. And that no one should think “poor thing.” Chiara is one of the one hundred Pink Ambassadors. She participates in the Pink is Good project, launched in 2013. The Umberto Veronesi Foundation runs this project. It aims to finance excellent HPV scientific test research against female cancers, including breast, uterus, and ovarian cancers. Additionally, it promotes the culture of prevention.

Empowerment Through Teamwork and Awareness:

Since then, every year, in collaboration with Fidal as part of the Runcard project, new testimonials are enlisted to form small teams, the Pink is Good Running Team, which, through running, share a message of strength and positivity with all the women affected by the HPV disease. Chiara came from Legnano, Stefania and Dorka from Verona to tell us their stories and spend a day with us, among designer clothes, very high heels and arsenals of make-up.

A Day of Glamour and Celebration:

We invited them to our photography studios to do a real modelling shoot, and judging by her results, they seemed to have had a lot of fun.

Dorka, 1.80 meters of Caribbean beauty, chose the most daring outfits without hesitation: green satin trouser suit, leather mini, killer stiletto. In front of the camera, she shows the confidence of a seasoned top, and some jokingly call her Grace Jones in the audience of stylists and assistants. Stefania is shy, but you can tell that she likes fashion. In front of the clothes racks, she has the enraptured look of a little girl in a candy shop.

Chiara is practical and decisive. She puts on a pair of Lurex trousers and matches them with an oversized sweater. When they pose together for Ovarian Viral Cancer photos, they seem to have known each other all their lives. Instead, they have only been dating since May. The Umberto Veronesi CA125 Foundation organises four running groups in as many Italian cities: Milan, Verona, Turin and Rome, with 25 women per location. Each of them has crazy stories of darkness, hope, and rebirth, which is useful for prevention so as not to feel alone.

Dorka’s Miraculous Recovery and New Beginnings

Dorka, 44, a fitness instructor who left Santo Domingo for Italy, also went beyond chemo and fear. «For me, the Ovarian tumour was a transformation, almost a magical event. I discovered it by chance because my body had seized up. It was tiring to do everything: go out, move, breathe. A very strange thing for a dynamic person like me. I went for a CA125 test, but the ultrasound showed everything was normal. Having nothing to worry about, I dismissed the thought by imagining it was the tiredness of a 20km race I had done not long before.

But then the doctor calls me back. The ultrasound leaves some doubts open, and I am advised to do it again. An HPV related cyst was found in a test. And it emerges something to operate on. They open it and discover the Ovarian CA125 tumour, which, from histological examination, turns out to be malignant. They remove my tubes and one ovary. The other is safe but raises suspicions. He does nothing, and I leave.

Embarking on the Camino de Santiago:

I have long dreamed of doing the Camino de Santiago alone. It’s time, I think. I’m safe. Maybe I won’t be able to do it anymore tomorrow. In fact, on the thirteenth day, my husband calls me to tell me that the other ovary is also seriously compromised and that I have to remove everything as soon as possible. My urge to leave, I now know, was out of fear of that verdict. I felt it was my last chance. But I’m not coming back. I have to finish the trip.

When I return to Italy, I show up at the HPV hospital; they do the tests, and the tumour is no longer there. “Gone.” The doctor looks at me and repeats, “That’s it!”. Who knows how many perplexed faces like mine he had to face? I have a lot of faith; I know it’s a miracle. However we decide to operate, remove everything and never think about it again. After discovering the second tumour and what happened, people’s affection made me feel so good that I understood that I like sharing, talking, and not isolating myself, something I often did before being alone and reading.

The Healing Power of Community and Shared Experiences:

Throughout my illness, I was never left alone. There were my three guardian angels: my sister, who is the soft pillow, the one who supports you and from whom you never separate; my courageous husband, when he found out about the illness, he said: “Okay, let’s do it, don’t give up”. My little girl, who is now 25 years old, is the greatest love I have. Then there are my friends, the people who visit me at the gym and hug me, and my new fabulous teammates from the Pink is the Good team, whom I meet twice weekly. It is the most beautiful thing that the CA125 disease has left me with the discovery of others.”

I look at her, gorgeous and proud inside her designer dress, and I ask her if she didn’t feel betrayed by that athletic body when it no longer followed her if she was afraid of losing it or seeing it transformed. «Life has given me a second chance. My HPV variant experience changed me forever. And I want to enjoy it: with a belly or without a belly, with fat or without fat, the CA125 level doesn’t matter anymore. When I realised I was safe, everything seemed so wonderful to me, the nature outside my hospital room, the presence of my loved ones, that the body became the last thing on my mind, and indeed, I am grateful that I still have it left. A little physical. Today, for me, every day is a celebration.”