LIVING ISSUES
Volume 16 Number 3
'I Have Tomorrow'
01 June 2003

When 19-year-old Romanian Eva Szabo discovered she had cancer, she didn't understand why her family were so upset. Two years on, she faces the future in a country where home support and palliative care are only beginning.

No one deserves to have cancer but now if I could have my old life back, I would choose to have cancer. Sounds silly doesn't it? However, it has brought me closer to God than I have ever been.

At the age of 19 I noticed a lump forming in my right leg. It was soft when my leg was relaxed and it got hard when I flexed it, but it didn't bother me much. After a while my leg began to hurt. The doctor told me to put ice on it, rest and see if the swelling went away.

Until that time I knew almost nothing about cancer. Nobody in my family had been seriously ill. When I first heard that I had cancer, I wondered why my dad was crying-he used to be in the army and was the strongest man I had ever known. I thought that I would be in hospital for some weeks and then everything would be fine.

After two weeks in hospital in my home city, I was sent to another hospital 80 km away. Three weeks and lots of tests later they discovered that I had Synovial Sarcoma. My doctor sat on my bed and told me that if I were her daughter she would recommend that my leg be amputated. I didn't hear the last part of the conversation-I just saw her lips moving, felt her hand holding mine and tried not to cry. Then I asked her to go because I could see the pity on the faces of the other seven patients in the room.

I couldn't speak or move. A whole world broke down inside me. Nobody dared to come near me. I hoisted the blanket up over my head and fell into myself. What had started as small lump on my leg had turned into a fight for my life! I felt angry and forgotten by God but he didn't let me down.

Next day my brother came with the news that a doctor in Hungary would operate on me and that I had to be in Budapest in three days' time. I had never been outside the country before. I got my passport in one day and my brother and I travelled for nine hours, overnight, to Budapest. It was the first time I saw a train or a metro.

The day before the surgery my boyfriend proposed to me and I was shining with happiness. My brother and boyfriend spent every day with me. They even helped me to forget that my parents hadn't come to see me.

The doctors tried everything but in the end they had to amputate my leg. I don't know which was worse-losing my leg, or the pain I felt. I spent the night awake trying on this new 'me'.

Once I got used to my new leg, things started to get back to normal. I was told that the entire lump had been excised, but to be sure I was sent for chemotherapy. Afterwards I returned home. I looked horrible as my hair was falling out and I couldn't afford a wig. But God did not let me down as I met a group from Britain (from Medical Support in Romania). I received a wig, which made me really happy, and in time they became a part of my family.

Over the next 12 months, I had quarterly check-ups. It was a difficult period, because my grandmothers died, my father began to drink heavily and my boyfriend wanted just to be my friend.

In April 2002, I started having pains in my back and two spots were found on my right lung. I had to start all over again, but it was tougher now because I had an allergic reaction to the chemotherapy. My immune system was so weak that I couldn't complete the treatment.

Helping others seems to be the greatest form of therapy. I began to feel better about myself when I realized that I could bring inspiration and hope to others coping with cancer. I have met some wonderful people. Some of them I had known for years, without knowing how wonderful they were. Others I would never have known. I have met extraordinary people battling with the disease and medical people who have gone beyond the call of duty to help me. My disease has profoundly changed my outlook on life, on people, on religion, on the world.

I believe that a positive attitude is the only way to fight cancer, because without that you are letting it control your life. I don't know what the outcome will be. I believe I have a good chance of survival. My strength is slowly returning and I am thankful for the time I am on this earth. I cling to the fact that I have tomorrow, for now.
Eva Szabo


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