Valentina D’Arrigo – The Magic of Sport: Finding Kindred Spirits Through the Darkness.

Valentina D’Arrigo, from Italy, was 39 years old when she was diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV Lab Test) related to squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix. Her world fell apart with the STD Home Test, but she found the strength to carry on so that she could live for her three children.

Valentina tells how, although she couldn’t run during her treatment, she started with long walks with a friend before joining the Pink Ambassadors. This group of fellow cancer patients meet to show, through running, the importance of a healthy lifestyle and prevention. And it is Valentina’s belief that saved her in the end.

Sporty since a child

I am a sporty woman who believes sports can help a lot. And I have always been sporty since I was a child. I have also run two marathons in Rome and Florence. They went well, and I planned to run in the New York marathon. Then the disease came. But that is the next one with STD Tests, and I will run, I hope.

My world fell apart.

I suddenly started to have back pain. Like all runners, I thought it was due to physical activity. I started taking painkillers without worrying about that red flag, as I’m not an anxious person. Plus, I’d recently had a Pap (Papanicolaou) and HPV Urine test. However, looking back at that period, I’d had a few leaks, but nothing too worrying.

I had my gynecologic visit every year in October and my Pap test. It was then we found my tumour: squamous cell carcinoma. I was 39 years old. My whole world fell apart; the word ‘tumour‘ is so frightening.

I have three children. Slowly, I understood what was happening. I thought that I would have to roll up my sleeves, that I would have to live for myself and for them. They needed me, from the big one of twenty years to the little one of ten years…She was only eight when I got sick.

Nothing is easy.

The first few months were all new, but before I knew it, after my HPV variant test, the long battle had begun, with several rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

I lost my hair, which was a very bad time for me. The drugs and cortisone had already changed my appearance, but my hair…I had very long hair; I took care of it every day. My little daughter and I competed to see who had the longest hair.

The psychologist advised us to prepare her for the effects of the therapies, so I started cutting my hair before the chemo. She said: “Mum, I want to cut mine like you.” I didn’t want her to.

In short, it was hard. Nothing is easy in the experience of cancer. You need a lot of patience and strength…but today, I have a nice bob!

Feeling regenerated

It may seem redundant, but my motto is: sport is life, and it has helped me through my darkest moments. Of course, during the HPV Test and subsequent treatments, I couldn’t run, but with my lifelong friend, my lifelong running partner, we started walking.

We talked about other things, and I walked a lot. The adrenaline made me forget about my fear and anxiety, and I would come home feeling regenerated.

You know what? Even my oncologist was running, and then I felt he knew what I was going through and that my STD Panel Test, I was truly understood.

The magic of sport

In 2020, Valentina met the Pink Ambassadors, a group of women running and working out to show, together with Fondazione Veronesi, the importance of prevention and a healthy lifestyle.

It has been a special experience. We are a very nice group. We talk to each other often, and we try to meet when the restrictions due to the pandemic allow, as we did last summer. This experience gave a lot to all of us. Some had never run before, and they jumped in all the same. Even if it was hard initially, we were all running in the end. Something clicked in them: the magic of sport and mutual help.

I always say that this is a wonderful experience, and it may sound strange to some people. After all, we met each other because, unfortunately, we had been hit by HPV cancer. Yet something special binds us, something that struck me from the first time: We understand each other with a simple glance, without the need to explain or say something.

Prevention saved me

Unfortunately, ‘he’ has decided to make a little STD test visit. He’s back, and I have to have a small operation. But the doctors have reassured me, and I am confident. We will do what is necessary.

There’s one thing I’d like to say, though. Prevention by STD Swab Testing is very important; if I hadn’t gone regularly for HPV Lab Tests, the situation would certainly be worse today. I’ve always gone to the gynaecologist, and because I’ve had three children, the doctor is a bit of a friend.

Young people need to understand this: STD prevention and check-ups should not be seen as anxiety-inducing but as an opportunity to stay well and live long. I know. Prevention saved me.