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Case Studies

Language: English
Context: My illness in Turin
Title of document: Alessandra
Name of compiler: Sabrina Grigolo
Actors involved: Alessandra
Description of the experience:
It all began in 2003 when I was diagnosed with cancer in the right breast: total mastectomy and reconstruction of both breasts in two years... At first, they put in water and then silicone. In 2003 I only had the operation, no chemotherapy or radiotherapy. I had undergone examinations for 5 years, and then when they told me "out of danger", the danger was there, ready to come out. I started feeling a pain in my side, it got worse day after day, I had difficulty in walking. I went to the osteopath and, after some visits, it seemed to gradually get better. I continued to work while pretending nothing was happening but I felt it deep inside me: there was something wrong. I also began to have difficulty in digesting... I went on holiday a week and, instead of relaxing and having fun, I realized I felt terrible, I just wanted to stay in bed and sleep, I hardly ate. As soon as I returned to Turin, I underwent a body scan.... and here were the first hints! It was necessary to have further examinations: on July 21, 2009, I went to the hospital in Milan early in the morning and left in the afternoon... One examination after an other. They told me: "I can not tell you where you do not have it." Terrible feeling... Panic, tears came to me out of control, I suddenly thought of my son (13 years old), having to make my will again and to tell Danilo (my former husband) that he must leave Federico with my mother. In other words, I was convinced I would die rather quickly. After a few days, I met Alessandra Balduzzi, an oncologist specialized in breast cancers, at the IEO in Milan. She proved to be an excellent professional: she read the results of my CAT scan without moving a muscle, and, eventually, she patted me on my hand and, looking into my eyes, she told me "don’t look sad, you must be positive because it is treatable, perhaps not curable but treatable". I did not feel as if I was reborn but I felt better than a few minutes before; as hours went by, I felt my determination to fight got stronger. A friend of mine introduced me to a surgeon specialized in psychotherapeutics who practises naturopathy, Dr. Massimo Citro. He immediately gave me some medicines to prevent and remove the side effects that chemotherapy and radiotherapy might have and prepared me to face this disease together with some volunteers. I can confirm that when you undergo traditional medicine treatments together with homeopathy and naturopathy and with volunteers who make you talk, who teach you how to meditate, you actually benefit from it. I recommend it to everybody; the important thing is to follow traditional treatments and NOT to give up on the official medicine. One should also take these natural medicines that are not that bad (I have always told my oncologist what naturopathic and homeopathic medicines I take), I have not suffered from many side effects, unfortunately I have suffered from some others, but perhaps in a milder form. Every Tuesday, when I talked with the other patients, I realized that many things had not happened to me .. Sometimes I had nausea and vomiting, my vomiting started from deep inside, I felt released but those who were next to me got frightened. I started with meditations together with exceptional volunteers, they closely stood by and never abandoned me. Radiotherapy in the head has been devastating, an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The taste of metal in the mouth was terrible, I could not eat anything except for tomatoes and soups or stews. I spent hours on the sofa with a terrible headache, I felt like I had a hammer inside my head, I had sores, it was as if I had been burnt... I put a lot of Biofin cream on my head and forehead. I saw myself as a monster and I felt so ugly. I could perceive smells a lot, my eyesight sometimes was good and sometimes got worse, flavors were altered, my hearing was impaired. A side effect I had always suffered from has been intimate inflammation, even now, despite years of naturopathic, homeopathic and conventional medicine treatments, I always suffer from inflammation after chemotherapy... there is nothing to do about it, maybe they have decreased a little but they have never disappeared as it happened, instead, with nausea and vomiting. When the cancer entered me, when I realized I had cancer, when this code 48 took the first place in my life, I gave up on many things to fight only with my family. My mother has always been close to me, I would have never struggled so much if she had not been next to me, together with my son, my sister, my grandchildren and all my family, without my family there would be no battle for me; apart from my family, there are my friends who have been and are still now next to me in a consistent and never intrusive way, each of them in their own way. You should never give in to despair, you should be positive and really believe in it. You should have confidence even when a vital part is getting worse, you must have confidence and move on with positive thoughts, at the same time you can also make your own considerations and sort them out... But you should not stop having confidence: you may celebrate at the end of treatment or after the diagnosis of a CAT scan with contrast medium.
I was lucky to meet a sensitive staff, from doctors to nurses, both at the IEO and at the Gradenigo Clinic. When you are treated as a human being, you feel safer even when it comes to asking for something banal but important for you to take new energies like: can I have a massage, can I have a bath with jacuzzi, can I do some exercise...? When you feel at ease with everybody, you can have a relation of mutual respect and trust... We, as patients, give them our lives, we trust them even if we feel like guinea pigs and we all hope to end these cycles as winners.
Objectives:
To describe the Alessandra history of your disease
Means and Strategy:
It all began in 2003 when I was diagnosed with cancer in the right breast: total mastectomy and reconstruction of both breasts in two years... At first, they put in water and then silicone. In 2003 I only had the operation, no chemotherapy or radiotherapy. I had undergone examinations for 5 years, and then when they told me "out of danger", the danger was there, ready to come out. I started feeling a pain in my side, it got worse day after day, I had difficulty in walking. I went to the osteopath and, after some visits, it seemed to gradually get better. I continued to work while pretending nothing was happening but I felt it deep inside me: there was something wrong. I also began to have difficulty in digesting... I went on holiday a week and, instead of relaxing and having fun, I realized I felt terrible, I just wanted to stay in bed and sleep, I hardly ate. As soon as I returned to Turin, I underwent a body scan.... and here were the first hints! It was necessary to have further examinations: on July 21, 2009, I went to the hospital in Milan early in the morning and left in the afternoon... One examination after an other. They told me: "I can not tell you where you do not have it." Terrible feeling... Panic, tears came to me out of control, I suddenly thought of my son (13 years old), having to make my will again and to tell Danilo (my former husband) that he must leave Federico with my mother. In other words, I was convinced I would die rather quickly. After a few days, I met Alessandra Balduzzi, an oncologist specialized in breast cancers, at the IEO in Milan. She proved to be an excellent professional: she read the results of my CAT scan without moving a muscle, and, eventually, she patted me on my hand and, looking into my eyes, she told me "don’t look sad, you must be positive because it is treatable, perhaps not curable but treatable". I did not feel as if I was reborn but I felt better than a few minutes before; as hours went by, I felt my determination to fight got stronger.
Conclusions:
I was lucky to meet a sensitive staff, from doctors to nurses, both at the IEO and at the Gradenigo Clinic. When you are treated as a human being, you feel safer even when it comes to asking for something banal but important for you to take new energies like: can I have a massage, can I have a bath with jacuzzi, can I do some exercise...? When you feel at ease with everybody, you can have a relation of mutual respect and trust... We, as patients, give them our lives, we trust them even if we feel like guinea pigs and we all hope to end these cycles as winners
Name of Institution: Gradenigo Hospital
Role: Project Manager

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