“A great gift-and I'm responsible for every minute of it”
20 years after a leukemia diagnosis, the moments are strong, but the feelings are stronger.
Elpida shares her story, and her view of the ultimate gift: Life.
I was eight years old when leukemia “knocked on my family’s door”. The tests started because I was feeling tired and weak, and the results weren’t good. I didn’t know whether my mind “decided” to forget what happened that period or if my parents and my two sisters intentionally avoided to tell me many things, but the truth is that the things I know and remember of that period are few and sometimes I find myself very confused about what happened then.
Many times I tried to ask my parents what happened in details but I always see in their eyes their reluctance to answer to all these questions. When I was younger I was afraid that they don’t talk about it because they hide something from me, maybe it isn’t over yet, and something bad will happen again, but now, at the age of 27, I know that the reason why they didn’t -and still don’t- want to talk about it is because it still hurts. To be honest, I really think (even though I’m not a parent myself) that whatever the treatment was, the pain that my family felt was much bigger. The proof for this is that I hardly remember what happened, while they still can’t forget anything.
Moments in time… Timeless moments
I try to recollect some moments of my stay at the hospital. It was annoying to do all these tests and to be able to use only my one hand, and some of the medicine I was receiving made me vomiting or caused me nausea.
But there were also some nice moments when my friends and my sisters came to visit me because they were always bringing so many presents and toys and their happy faces were giving me hope and courage and that’s why I wasn’t seeing what was hidden behind those “happy” faces.
My mum says that she “gained” her white hair during that period in the hospital. I don’t know what this experience left in me … maybe my strong love to children, and that’s why I work as a teacher. Perhaps this feeling that I must do many things in my life – I’m always so busy with so many jobs!
What is more important is that I learned about my illness at the age of 13, and not from my parents. They never told me anything about cancer. One day a kid told me that her mother told her that my mother told her (!!!) that I had leukemia when I was eight. I didn’t ask anything, but when I got home I opened the encyclopedia and I found the word leukemia. What I read in there was enough to make me understand that those years in the hospital were much more serious than I thought until then. And this conclusion troubled me for a long time.
The greatest gift
As I was getting older I realized that the years, the months, the days that are passing by, are… how can I say it… let’s say, a gift. I always believed in God but since I found out some facts of my childhood I can’t say anything else but “thank you God”.
I comprehend that I didn’t “achieve” being alive. I didn’t earn it. It’s a great gift and every day I try to remember that I’m responsible for every minute of it. I don’t feel lucky or privileged among people. I just think that we accept God’s will as the best for each one of us and I believe that God gives the necessary strength to face our difficulties.
So that’s what I “gained” from all this experience. I also gained many friends. Young people who had the same experience with me and this is a bond strong enough to create a warm friendship. Of course we all hope we were the last children that lived such an illness but unfortunately we see more kids going to the hospital. I wish them the best.