The strength and the smile. Part III

I spent an afternoon in a make-up laboratory to learn how to apply make-up! Since the HPV Test brought my illness onwards, I have often felt the need for my CA125 Ovarian cancer test: the dark circles get worse, the wrinkles increase, and the complexion veers inexorably towards a truly depressing green-grey-yellow shade. I found myself with four other “classmates”; to put on makeup, we all took off our wigs. It was a moment in which we seemed to have lost our breath simultaneously and didn’t know where to look. The very clever beautician immediately began to explain how to do it, quickly putting us to the test and urging us, after an initial demonstration, to do it alone.

The atmosphere gradually warmed up, and the group began to have fun, make jokes, and forget their troubles for a while.

I confess that I have never been able to wear makeup, but this was yet another way to silence the CA125 internal pain, and I did my best. At the end of the Ovarian HPV Cancer course, we had a blood test. Then, after that, there was tea with biscuits, and we were given a beautiful white beauty case with many products. I have been using them every day since then, trying, even with makeup, to cheer me up when needed.

Second line

In September 2011, I started the school year again and took a second line of chemo because the disease had recurred.

Beyond the days of abysmal tiredness, headaches, nausea and stomach aches, I try to lead a normal life.

But there is no taxol, and I won’t go bald again, which seems like an achievement.

Doing a test for the second time, CA125 Ovarian gives Cancer advantages. You know what to expect, and. you plan; the things you know are less scary. I was an expert patient and knew how to prevent and treat ailments, and then there was another advantage. If, after the first line of chemo, I had had to “watch and wait,” now I would have continued with bevacizumab, the “beta,” which I would have continued after the six cycles of chemo.

Adapting to Changes in Treatment

I had equipped myself and would continue to work despite the chemo. I no longer did it from bed but in an armchair, chatting with the other HPV patients while being tested or reading.

Recently, a young oncologist to whom I was explaining the importance of having chemo on Friday reacted interestingly. I needed to recover over the weekend and return to school on Monday. He commented, “You can see that you care a lot about your work!” This comment also let a veiled irony shine through. I confess: I like my job, but currently, I’m taking more energy than I’m giving.

Finding Inspiration in Work:

My teenage students communicate energy to me with their feeling of immortality, hormones at the maximum, and desire to live. They also experiment, commit follies, transgress, and challenge rules. Also, they have such a desire to live that they somehow manage to infect and drag me along. They have become an anti-chemo that helps me move forward.

I know I’ll never be a real Berliner, but maybe she’s a relative.

This time, my slightly tired and worn veins “imposed” a port on me to be able to undergo chemo, which I accepted. I suppose it’s like how a bear in danger of extinction wears a radio collar.

Furthermore, the port left my hands free, and I even corrected some homework. I did this without the worry of my veins acting up and needing to be pierced several times, as often happened during the first line of chemo.

A “smarter” woman

I met Vera during an HPV hospital test stay over. She was a black South American in her 50s, in Italy for about ten years, employed by a cleaning company. When she was on duty, you could smell it in the air because, by magic, the smell of the ward was of green apple, but above all, clean. It came naturally to me to compliment her: it puts you in a good mood to smell good smells in a place that often smells of medicines and disinfectants.

Feeling appreciated had pleased her: she had talked to me about herself, her difficulties with the Italian language, and about her children, some of whom she had managed to get here and others who had remained with their grandmother in Ecuador.

The conclusion of her speech left me with salt: “Many people here think I’m a bit stupid, but I’m more intelligent than them.” Reading my CA125 questioning expression, she explained that unexpected sentence about her test that had concluded her confidence.

While her colleagues limited themselves to doing the bare minimum—perhaps a little badly—she always got busy. No task scared her; she willingly carried out even tasks that were not strictly her responsibility; sometimes, she even went over the hours, working overtime that no one would have paid her for.

For this reason, she knew she was respected in the work environment, and the nurses – who loved her – had willingly helped her on many occasions, even if her colleagues often told her that “she was a bit stupid”.

Would the world run better if there were more people like her? Vera stated that perhaps one must possess a particular gift to be “smarter truly.”

And now? What do I do? Why? And then?

Continuous Learning and Curiosity

I am always under follow-up at an HPV Specialist oncology test centre, where a doctor looks after me. And I see him periodically and exchange emails when I need help and advice. I often overwhelm him with my questions and whys, and he patiently answers me during visits and, more essentially, by email.

It’s a professional deformation: answering HPV questions, even the most absurd ones, doesn’t shock me; it’s part of my job. It seems natural to me to ask them in turn.

Sometimes, maybe I exaggerate. A colleague told me she had booked two HPV visits to a doctor on the same day test. She did this so she could ask all the questions she wanted. I never would have thought of doing that, and I wouldn’t have gone that far.

I have often chosen those beautifully illustrated books that promise to answer all the whys as gifts for children who receive their first Communion. There were no such beautiful books with so many illustrations when I was little, which I would have liked to have as a gift.

The Role of Education and Questioning:

It is said that CA125 teachers choose to teach because it is a testing job that does not allow them to grow fully. They remain in contact with young people because they fear growing old.

Maybe, I don’t know.

I know the many things I learned from my HPV Students. They often forced me to stay informed, ask myself questions, and question everything as only a teenager can.

It takes effort, but it makes the head work.

Even someone like me, who is reluctant—like many women—to read “operating manuals,” faces challenges. After fifteen years of “honourable CA125 Cancer teaching service” with the now—worn—out washing machine, I would have liked to purchase the same old-fashioned model. This would avoid studying a nice pile of pages with all the instructions.

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