Teresa is 39 years old and she was born and lives in Mallorca. In July 1986, when she was 14 years old, she received a huge blow for a teenager: a diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML5). After following the chemotherapy treatment and undergoing a bone marrow transplant, she was left with a problem that would affect her life: the chemotherapy drugs caused her to become sterile. For her the solution, not without its problems, was international adoption and today she is the mother of 5 year old, Kailash.
Teresa, in 1986 you were given the diagnosis of acute leukaemia and a poor prognosis. Bearing in mind that at that time there was less information available and the medical techniques were not as well developed, how did you take the news?
I was 14 years old and I took the news really badly although I was never fully aware of the gravity of the situation. I was always sure I would get better. I started the chemotherapy treatment in the San Dureta Hospital in Mallorca with Dr. Miquel Morey. At that time the bone marrow transplant was even more complicated than it is today. The Clinic Hospital in Barcelona informed us that he results had not been very positive from this treatment and they advocated a treatment of consolidation. In the end we decided not to undergo the transplant at that moment.
In May 1987, I relapsed. Until that point, presumably due to the naivety that came with my age, I didn't think that it was possible for me to die. After the relapse, I realized the truth. It was a big shock for a teenager. I was transferred to the Clinic Hospital in Barcelona to undergo an autologous bone marrow transplant. Although I didn't get to meet him, my time in the hospital coincided with José Carreras. We were in isolated rooms adjacent to each other.
Did they tell you at the time that the treatment could have lasting effects and probably leave you sterile?
At that moment, they didn't say anything. There was not a lot of psychological support in the haematological wards, and although I am sure that it would have been good, I didn't receive this form of support. The doctors did their jobs well but the disease was not treated holistically, as it is today with hospitals now offering psycho-oncology services.
No one explained anything and once I was cured, I realized that I wouldn't have my period again. It was a difficult age to receive this news and I reacted really badly to the fact that I wouldn't be able to have children. It was the time in my life when I began to socialize little by little with the opposite sex and I thought that boys would discriminate against because of this. In fact, it has taken years to accept this situation and it was a hard process to go through. Although I am sure it was said as a spontaneous gesture to comfort me, I remember with great affection the words of Dr. Jordi Sierra: "If I was the partner of someone who had been left sterile I would love them even more".
Once you overcame the disease where you informed of the possibilities you might have in order to have a child?
I went to see the gynaecologist to listen to the options open to me, including the issue of IVF treatment. In the end I decided that it wasn't for me. As I was single I considered to possibility of having a child alone and I had it clear that I wanted to adopt. I am not sure if it is a consequence of the disease but I have always been brave and have had personal drive with certain things in life. In that moment I had a precarious job and a timetable in the afternoons, which meant that I wasn't very well placed to take care of a young child. I knew that it was a long process and that little by little my situation would adapt to my future role as a mother and that is exactly what happened. As they say; "kids come with a loaf of bread under their arm".
In 2004 I was 32 years old and I began the adoption process with lots of energy. I knew many couples that had spent years trying the IVF treatment without success and they were worn out emotionally when they came to start the adoption process. As it is a long and complicated process, it is important to be fully recharged. What's more in my case, I was attempting a single parent adoption which involves greater restrictions. It all depends on the guidelines of the country of origin of the child.
Did you encounter any problems when the time came for adoption because you were an ex-leukaemia patient?
No. As I had overcome the disease many years before, they only asked for my medical record which is what they ask of everyone who initiates this process. The only difference is that the other families who are intending to adopt only have to provide a certificate from their GP whereas I had to provide one from my haematologist. Dr. Morey provided it for me and was a great help throughout the whole process. I know that I owe him so much.
What was the adoption process like? How did they tell you and why did you choose Nepal?
I started my search in other countries through ECAI-children without borders. The race of the child was not important to me at all, I only wanted a healthy baby. The search began in Colombia but that process came to an end. After that I tried in India and finally Nepal. On the 1st of April 2007 I travelled to Nepal to meet Kailash.
When everything seemed to be going according to plan, a change in the personnel at the Ministry of Women, Infancy and Social Issues stopped everything. I couldn't believe it. People from all over Europe who were suffering a similar situation came together to put pressure on the Nepali government. Finally, we were able to accelerate proceedings with the help of the diplomatic relations of our country.
After so many problems I went to find Kailash with my cousin Núria on the 28th of February 2008. My cousin is a journalist and she documented all of our trip in the newspaper she works for (read "Un hijo en el techo del mundo" by Núria Togores, Diario de Mallorca 09/03/2008- Spanish).
Teresa and Kailash in 2008
-Now that you have a beautiful boy, what would you say to a woman who is currently receiving a diagnosis like you received?
I would say that people can be happy without a child, with one, with two or with eight. To have children is no social mandate and each person has to choose what they want. The experience of adoption was very enriching but also very tough. The guidelines are always changing in each country and the process could certainly be improved. The truth is that for me it has been a source of immense happiness, a real gratifying experience.
Now Kailash is 5 and he is a very sociable boy. He likes school, he speaks Spanish and Catalan and he has lots of friends. In the near future we are going to travel to India together. We have had some fun trips just the two of us and we also have a good time.
Every woman should be aware that whatever decision they make is good. It is necessary to have courage and determination and the most important thing is to always believe that it will end positively. When I went through the uncertainty of adoption, those couples who had been through it before told me that when I have my baby all the suffering would disappear, and so it proved. When I was ill my mother told me that I should live as a parenthesis, which was a temporary situation. In the same way that getting better, cured the suffering of the disease, Kailash erased all the suffering of the application process and wait. If I had to select the most difficult moment of my life and the most gratifying of my life I wouldn't have any doubt: the disease/cure and the applications and wait for adoption/ the arrival of Kailash.