My plan: Silvia Díaz del Valle
March 2010 on holiday in Tunisia. A short time before falling ill.
"Half way through April in 2010, one Saturday night I began to feel under the weather: fever and discomfort, etc. I thought I was catching a cold, so that week I went to the doctor, who told me that I had a strong flu. Each day I felt more tired and the supposed "flu" was getting worse. I decided to go to a pulmonologist because I was not getting any better, I was suffering with a strong cough and every day it was more painful to breathe. I was diagnosed with an inflammation of the trachea. I struggled on in my job as a photography professor at the School of Art in Malaga, as the doctor didn't give me permission to stay off work until the 20th May. On the 26th of May I woke up and felt completely blurred. I went to emergencies but I was there ten minutes and the doctor only told me to change the medication I was taking. It occurred to no one to send me for an analysis.
On the 4th of June 2010 I was admitted to the A&E at the Carlos Haya Hospital in Malaga worrying blood levels. That day my life changed. I spent the night in hospital for the first time; to be specific I was on the 6th floor of the Carlos Haya Hospital in Malaga, in the Haematology ward. We didn't know what it meant to be on that ward, but now we know. I arrived with a haemoglobin level of 2.8 in my body. Over a period of two days I was given 5 bags of blood. We thought that it was the result of a virus and that despite the scare it would be nothing more than that; we would spend the weekend in hospital then go home on Monday. However, that weekend lasted a lot longer; it lasted months. At 33 my world was turning upside down.
On Monday the 7th June, I received a bone marrow puncture; the first of eight I would go on to receive. The puncture is a strange feeling. As I told my friend Bea the other day, the puncture is as if they are "taking out your soul". Then next day my doctor told me the exact diagnosis (acute myeloblastic leukaemia) and he said: "you are going to get better". At that moment you see the significance of everything: the small things and the big things, and you are forced to change your goals. Now it didn't matter about working as hard as possible, or that people recognized my effort, or that I got on with others. Now the only thing that mattered was to fight as hard as possible to save my life, whilst my family and friends gave me strength. I spent the summer of 2010 in hospital, a summer month for every cycle of chemo (June-September). After 4 cycles of chemotherapy came the bone marrow transplant, my only hope for a cure. At first, an umbilical cord blood transplant was seen as a viable option, but one Friday at the end of September, the doctor came into my room to tell me that an American donor had been found who was compatible with me.
After several days of rest, I returned to the hospital on the 23rd October 2010, and from there I started the countdown to day 0. It was a Saturday and there in the hospital I was waiting for my great saviour, when one of the fantastic nurses, who took samples of every colour, including from my nose, came to give me a huge hug just minutes before I went into the ward. This moment touched my soul.
I spent 30 days on the ward; I went in on the 23rd October and on the 23rd of November I went home. The week of conditioning was very thorough; with two days of chemo and three of radiotherapy. On the 31st October 2010, I underwent my transplant. During my stay on the ward, one of my hobbies to pass to the time was to take photographs. With my little compact camera (disinfected with bleach) helped me to reflect on my day to day. It all started as a little distraction and then it finished as a photographic exposition: "Room 610" was presented on the 17th March 2011 in the province of Malaga. 16 photos in all were on display during the days of "photomania 2011" organized by Carlos Canal.
17th March 2011. Inauguration of my exposition "Room 610" four and a half months after my transplant
Today is the 2nd October 2011. I am 35 years old, and in a few days I will celebrate one year. I have so much desire to live and to repay the faith that has let me confront all of this.
June 2011, escaping to Cordoba.
And finally I want to say thank you. Thank you to so many people! I am so grateful to all of those who have not stopped to show their interest and much more. Thank you to those who have donated bone marrow, I feel like you are a significant number.
Family and friends: thank you to all those who have been and continue to be there for me, and thank you for your shows of support and care, and for you words of encouragement and faith. And thank you for your platelets!!
Thanks, thanks, thanks from the bottom of my heart to all the Haematology team at the Carlos Haya Hospital in Malaga. Without your professionalism, humanity, and knowledge this would have been a lot more complicated than it was.
Thanks to all my colleagues at San Telmo. One of them said to me the day before I went into hospital for the transplant: "All you colleagues at school are thinking about you, just so you know that you have so much energy channeled in the same direction, with one objective".
Although it must seem to many that you cannot learn anything positive from leukaemia, I have learnt many things. I think the list is endless. Above all I would say that I have learnt to know who I am, to know my limits and to not be afraid of death. I have learnt to really know the people around me. I have learnt to pay much more attention to those who I really care about; to you I say that there are many people who get through this and I have been one of them, I couldn't let you down. Ah, and another important thing I have learnt is to keep my hair short!
August 2011. On holiday in Asturias with my parents
Often since I have left the hospital, I have thought about my long 6 months there. I have thought about the daily routine that many of my family did with me, almost trancelike and thinking all the while about what might happen. This journey will always form a part of my life. Fortunately, life continues on its particular path with us a part of it. During these months of recuperation, I have been able to travel, two days ago Fran and I signed to become a real couple and in January if everything goes well, I will go back to work.
30th September 2011. Signing the papers to become a real couple
To cure is to awaken the desire to live. It doesn't involve so much doing something, as transmitting that my pain and my suffering count. That they really count. We have received so much support that in times of adversity, we feel fortunate".
Help people like Silvia 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