about HPVGio’s story

Celeste Bergamini’s story is in memory of her friend who died after having an HPV cancer test. And who came second in the Mundula prize, I knew it… I knew that returning to that desolate hall, waiting for the too-slow elevator together with many others with CA125-level Ovarian cancer. Such people are all a little tense and worried: “Which floor are you on, ma’am? I’m on the fourth.”

“I’m fifth, and you?”

“And I’m on the sixth instead”… the plan didn’t make that much difference. It was still sad to get there. I knew that she would take that restless anxiety back from me, mindful of the troubled days at my father’s bed.

A Visit to the Oncology Ward:

But life brought me back to my city’s fifth floor of the Ovarian Tumour Oncology CA125 hospital. I attempted to bring a smile to your face, Giò.

The good thing was that you always had a smile, strong as you were from your Barbagia origins, stubborn and strong-willed. Going to see you after your HPV DNA test felt like repaying you for all the affection your cheerful voice gave me on the phone when I thought, “Now I’ll tell Giò.”

And now, I wanted to tell you in the most convincing way possible: “Don’t worry; you’ll see that it’s only at the initial HPV stage.

Have courage…” but you already had plenty of courage.

Maybe I missed it, as I saw you thinner every day. I glimpsed a shadow of sadness and apprehension in your eyes, which you did everything you could to hide.

At first, I didn’t understand how serious the disease you were suffering from was. Ovarian cancer is talked about very little, too little.

The vast majority of us women barely know it or confuse it with other female HPV pathologies. In short, women die of ovarian tumours due to a lack of test and treatment information and, therefore, prevention.

Educating Oneself:

So I sat down in front of the computer and got informed. With great concern, I learned that ovarian cancer is one of the most lethal and least-known female cancers. It affects around 5,000 women every year in our country and 250,000 worldwide. Yet, six out of ten English people do not know about this pathology. Furthermore, seven out of ten cannot indicate the symptoms and the tests to undergo.

It is an illness that attacks subtly and is often referred to as the silent killer. A woman may not recognise well-defined symptoms because she confuses them with other minor pathologies. By the time she notices them, it is almost always too late. And maybe you didn’t realise it in time, or those who followed you didn’t advise you well to test; I don’t know; I never understood.

But you had begun to suffer, unfortunately, first-hand, the severity of your Ca125 HPV illness. You had already undergone tests and surgery a couple of times in a manner that was nothing short of invasive. You had also faced two cycles of chemotherapy, which had further devastated you. Moreover, to your utmost misfortune, you were resistant to treatment.

Experimental Treatment and Resilience:

But you stubbornly looked ahead. “You know, I’m going to London; they selected me for a new experimental cancer treatment,” you told me one day. “It’s wonderful, Giò; I’m happy; you’ll see that this treatment will finally have an effect, and everything will be fine; you just need to have a little more patience,” I replied with a hint of apprehension. “But they told me I’ll never know if I will be subjected to the real cure or a placebo; this is the protocol. I have no alternatives; I will play along!”

And so, as a strong, fighting woman, you went to Milan, getting on and off planes, taking taxis at dawn, and returning destroyed.

Casual Encounters and Deep Conversations:

One day we had arranged to meet up, just the two of us, and you showed up wearing a straw hat, flirtatious and unusual for you.

“How cute you are, Giò!” I said, hugging you, happy with this feminine gesture of yours, a harbinger of a good state of mind, and you, sly and self-deprecating: “Do you like my new look? I can’t sunbathe, and then the hairdresser did my hair too short!”.

You even managed to joke about your lost hair due to chemo, as I respected you, Giò. At that moment, I would have hugged you with all of myself to transfer some of my health to you, to no longer have to see you so thin in those too-baggy clothes.

A Warm Exchange:

We sat at a table in a bar in the centre and chatted about your daughter and my children for a long time. You always dedicated affectionate and maternal thoughts to them: “Your Vale is too strong; you’ll see that she will find her way… that Smart Carlo, he will give you satisfaction, don’t worry.” You had that rare habit some people have of being interested in others before themselves. When I dialled your number to hear from you and get news about your health, I remember that you responded by asking: “How are you?”. You always surprised me, and even that day, you took an affectionate interest in us.

At a certain point, however, that shadow that occasionally crossed your eyes overshadowed them again. I understood that you wanted to convey something that made you feel bad, a feeling that distressed you. You began to talk to me about the profound sense of loneliness that a woman suffers when she finds herself facing an illness like yours: absence of references, explanations, contacts, information, and advice.

In one word: comfort.

“They discharged me without explaining anything to me, without giving me advice on what I could and should have done, or telling me where I could even find a physiotherapist. So, I searched for information on the web but found nothing at a local level, just news on a couple of sites at the national level.”

And as you spoke, your face lit up with deep disappointment. A new combative light illuminated your eyes: “It is impossible to leave a CA125 sick woman so alone! A woman who has undergone ovarian tumour operations, invasions, and HPV mutilations! If I manage, I’ll do something so that sick women like me are no longer alone; they become more informed of the risks they face and what they could and should do.”

Your cheeks turned red as you added, “Loneliness kills like cancer because it derails your every effort to heal.”