A year ago my friend Gabi turned 50 and she was planning a big party with her family and friends, when suddenly she had terrible news: she had breast cancer. Naturally she had no heart for the party so she cancelled it.
Now this would be a huge blow for anyone, but when you have had kidney problems for many years, begun dialysis at forty, had a kidney transplant only to have that same kidney removed a mere two years later; when you have suffered so much, physically and mentally, when you think you’ve had enough, there comes a new shock and it’s like a bomb exploding on your face and reducing your life to pieces.
Doctors, hospitals, medical exams and check ups are an important part of her life’s routine; she goes to the dialysis centre three times a week and spends some five or six hours each time there, connected to a machine, in order to survive. She has a disability pension, of course, but she occupies herself with several activities and most of all she has always been a dedicated mother to her beloved children, who have a sick mother but in fact most of the time forget about it because she never seems like one.
In fact, I have never seen such courage: my friend Gabi never complains, she never makes a bad face. Oh she has her moments of despair, I know, but they soon pass because she simply won’t let them overcome her, she is a fighter and she fights to win. She will not let her illness turn her into an invalid, on the contrary, she wants to live life to the full; she has many limitations but she will only make concessions for those who are unavoidable. No other limitations will be allowed in her life.
A year ago I could not believe her when she told me her news. Prognosis was not good and she prepared to undergo chemotherapy. By then she wore her chestnut hair below her shoulders and she had it cut in a short bob. Even then she smiled and told me “Now that I have it shorter it will be easier to get used to the idea that I will be losing it” and my heart went out to her – as a woman I understand losing your hair is probably one of the worst things you may have to face, a terrible loss. Sometime after her operation however, she called me to tell me about the results of the pathology tests and I heard a happy tone on her voice; she told me she would not have to undergo any chemotherapy at all and I rejoiced with her, not only because it meant hers was a less severe type of cancer but also because she would not lose her hair, that, incidentally, she has kept in the short bob that favours her so much.
After the ordeal and then the relief of the good news her only regret is that only after five years will she be able to try for a new kidney transplant, but she has now accepted it and, as she says in her wise philosophy “Let’s live one day after the other, for now I am happy that I have overcome cancer and I am used to my routine of going to dialysis…”. She does not mention, of course, some of the nasty complications related to dialysis, but when they come she bravely faces them and when they are solved she forgets about them and enjoys life. What a lesson to us all!
Some time ago she told me she would like to have the party this year, celebrating “50 plus one”, but most of all, she said, celebrating life. A year ago I was devastated, she went on, but it all came out well and I feel good, within my limitations of course but still good. She has been in a stable relationship with her loving partner, her three children have grown – one has already graduated, brilliantly, and is beginning his career; her middle son has entered a prestigious university and her daughter is finishing High School. They are happy, balanced young people who clearly adore her. She has a happy family life that includes her parents, brother and his family and her stepchildren and step grandchildren. She lives in a lovely apartment and she tells me she is so grateful for all the good things in her life. As for the less good, she will go on accepting them because she must, but fighting hard to keep her life as normal as possible and to minimize the effects of her illness. If you didn’t know about it you’d never tell, because she is always there for you, ready to help, with a happy voice and a friendly smile, always living life to the full, as it should be lived.
So last week when she turned fifty one we all went to her party – her partner, her children, her family and us, her friends. Beli and I dedicated a speech to her, well and truly deserved, where we mentioned her courage and her great example to us all, and she was almost moved to tears. It was so good to see her so happy, and we were happy too, for her and for us, for the privilege of having her as a friend, because she is truly special; she inspires you to fight and never give up; with her contagious smile and her unwavering loyalty she will always be there for you, no matter what, as she knows we will be there for her.
December 27 2018 was a truly special day in our lives. Our friend Gabi turned “50 plus one” and we were there with her to celebrate it, but it was so much more than a birthday celebration – it was a wonderful celebration of life.
(If you want to know more about Gabi, read one of my first posts “A story of courage”)