Bianca and Lucía
"I THOUGHT THIS WASN´T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN TO YOU"
Young, dark-haired, friendly. At first glance Lucía and Bianca have quite a few things in common. If you get to know them a little better, you realize that, although very different in character, they have something much more important in common: both were diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and both underwent a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated compatible donor.
Bianca (left) and Lucía (right) during their meeting this morning.
Bianca is 30 and is still recovering from the disease. She is thin and very amusing. Although she has sequels due to rejection in the joints and skin, it is obvious that she is full of energy. Unfortunately, Lucía, who is 27, also suffers from rejection in the skin for she has had to be operated of various melanomas since she received the transplant. She is quiet and thoughtful and, 3 years after transplant, she is now just about in full shape.
They have just got to know each other; we arranged to meet outside the Clinic Hospital for breakfast. The purpose of the meeting is not quite clear: to get to know each other? To share experiences? Maybe, but above all to cheer one another up and to have a good time.
"I thought this wasn't supposed to happen to you", says Bianca to start the conversation. "I had a node in the groin which kept on growing but I didn't want to go to hospital". Lucia went through the same experience. She was in Italy when she started to feel unwell and she also kept well away from the health centres. Both had just about to be dragged in to undergo more tests. Both remember quite clearly the time when 4 or 5 doctors appeared in their corresponding rooms.
"You realize that something is wrong", both of them declare. "In my case, the doctor sat on the bed and took hold of my hand. I thought: Oh! My God, what's in store for me?" declares Bianca. Cancer was not mentioned to either of them, but rather a blood disease. Bianca had lost her best friend some time before to brain cancer and, when she realized what she had, she felt even further downhearted. "Whilst receiving the treatments, I realized what my friend had felt: side effects, feelings..." she explains.
"Where's your donor from?" They ask one another. Both give the same answer: America! The fact is that the Josep Carreras Foundation found a compatible American donor for each of them for the transplant, because their families were not compatible. Hearing the answer: they started to joke. "Maybe it's the same guy?" they say laughing. It isn't, but it would be funny.
Treatment side effects are a very common issue in their lives. In addition to rejection (graft-versus-host) both discuss the ravages of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Their greatest concern is that they might have become sterile. During the first chemo sessions, Lucía was given some injections that preserved the ovaries but when she was given stronger sessions of chemo, the doctors told her there was nothing to be done. It is a very common problem in people with Leukaemia and, despite progress, there is still much research to be done so that patients have a future opportunity regarding this matter.
Despite what they are having to go through, Lucía and Bianca recall some amusing stories during their stay in hospital. "The food was terrible", says Bianca "and so I made friends with the cook, Manolo, who used to call me before the meal and say: My dear child, I know you don't like chicken. What would you like? Why not a sandwich?" The "tuna" went to visit Lucía in hospital to sing Joan Manuel Serrat's song "Lucía".
Lucía, during the "tuna's" visit whilst in hospital
When we talk about future plans, they both have a clear mind about what they want to do. Although Bianca's transplant is more recent, she is already thinking of studying psychology so as to help people who are suffering from cancer. This coming weekend, Lucía is moving in with her boyfriend and one day she would like to practice as a physiotherapist once again. Volunteering is another point they have in common. Both are offering themselves for whatever the Foundation wants. The fact is they have a lifetime ahead of them: they are young, beautiful and intelligent. Although they have not completed their treatment, both are aware that life goes on and that "this can happen to you".
Both say their goodbyes with a hug, hoping they will meet up again another day.
If you would like to read an interview with Lucía, please click HERE.
Help people like Bianca and Lucía by becoming a member of the cure for leukaemia and haematological malignacies, HERE. You will help us to continue our research so that one day these diseases will be 100% curable. With only a little you can do so much. Thank you!
Find out more about bone marrow donation, HERE