‘During my treatment course, I kept a diary, trying to see life and beauty through the disease, as I used to do before’
A culture manager Olena Vorobyova from Kharkiv defeated breast cancer. She says the disease was a scary and strange, but also a rewarding life experience. As part of the project #RAKNEVYROK, Olena shared what turned out to be the most difficult thing in the fight against cancer, and urged Ukrainians who have been diagnosed with cancer for the first time not to be afraid.
When I took tests for cancer, I suspected that they would confirm the diagnosis for me. Yet, I hoped for a miracle until the very last moment. When I came to the hospital to collect the test results, I saw how the laboratory assistant lowered his eyes guiltily, and I immediately understood everything. The blood rushed to my head and my eyes dimmed. I felt a tremendous sense of guilt, ‘What will I tell my children?’
I could not accept the disease for more than a month after the diagnosis. I denied it. Then I felt angry at myself. And on 11 November 2019, I finally realized, ‘I am terminally ill and I need to fight.’ I have two teenage daughters. I told them, ‘Girls, I am officially resigning from my duties as a mother for the near future and declare myself to be your sister and my own daughter. Please, take care of me!’
I had four courses of chemotherapy. Doctors prescribed me a surgical operation. I could not sleep the night before the surgery. I started having panic attacks. I could not sleep all night. In the morning, I called my friend and said that I would not go to the operation. She said, ‘Cancel it, but remember that this is the end.’ I burst into tears and could not calm myself down for half a day. That day I realized that I could die very soon. On that day, a new me was born.
I was operated on. Then there were 25 courses of radiation therapy. All the time my close people were next to me, changing each other. They came and went in waves. I forgave in advance everyone who would leave, who could not stand it, would not be able to withstand what would happen to me.
I remember a moment came when I had very poor liver testing results. The doctor said the next 24 hours would be critical. I thought, ‘What if I die?’ And immediately began to call my friends. I told them that tomorrow I might be gone. Stay with me, talk to me! In fact, no one was around! Everyone was like, ‘Olena, you don’t say that! Everything will be fine, hold on, be strong!’ Then I called my psychologist and said, ‘I pay you money, I need you to talk about my death.’
Now I am healthy. Cancer has been a strange and scary, but also a rewarding experience for me. During the treatment, I kept a diary, trying to see life and beauty through the disease, as I used to do before. The book “The Art of Living During Chemotherapy” was born from it. In the book, I told my readers how I went through this period of my life.
I am healthy, but I still live with a clear awareness that my life can be cut short at any moment. Thanks to this, I feel the fullness and value of life.