A STORY OF SURVIVAL
"This story begins right after the loss of my parents, both as consequence of cancer. My dad, Francesc, died in 1986. I was 15 back then. Mercè, my mum, died in 1992, when I was just 20 years old. I was in the middle of my youth but the support of my parents was missing. However I insisted on keeping my chin up."
Time passed and in 1994 I met Xevi and we got married in 1997. Life was good to us until one day, back in 1999, I noticed I had a lump in my neck. My GP said it was nothing but a lymph node that would soon disappear.
In 2001, while we were watching the Carnival parade in Mataró (Barcelona) I felt a severe pain in my neck. After spending Saturday night under the effect of painkillers, I went to hospital in Mataró on Sunday morning. I waited for four hours until they finally carried out some tests on me and found a lymphoma. That's it. A lymphoma. I had to be admitted into hospital but there were no beds available at that moment. I was given more painkillers and an urgent letter to go to the doctor in April, and we were only in February.
I carried on with my life as usual, until one day I felt a horrible pain in my ovaries and I went to see my gynaecologist, Dr. Estel Aluart. Right after the examination she knew something was wrong. She phoned Mataró Hospital and Hospital Clínic in Barcelona and she managed to have me examined urgently in the former by Dr. Hernández. My gynaecologist carried out some tests on me which I took to hospital and I received more tests there - CT scan, blood tests, and a biopsy. I was 29 back then.
Results: Follicular Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma grade 2 stage 3A. I was advised to go to Can Ruti (Trias i Pujol Hospital) in Badalona. On Thursday, the 5th of April 2001 Dr. Navarro saw me in the oncology Ambulatory Surgery Centre.
My own battle started there ‒ chemotherapy (6 FCM cycles). Although I had some minor problems due to chemotherapy, days started passing by, tests were carried out and I lived as normally as I could.
In October 2003 I somehow had the feeling that the illness was controlled, but I suffered a relapse. I had been working for the whole year in a new place and just before going to hospital for my check-up I was told that my contract would not be renewed. My world collapsed ‒ I was ill again and I had no job. A new battle had already started. By that time I was 32.
In November 2003 I started a 6-cycle R-COP chemotherapy treatment with a good partial response. I was also going to undergo a reduced-intensity allotransplantation (a transplant from a donor, my brother, José María, whose bone marrow was compatible with mine). All was set for the 23rd April 2004.
-5th March 2004. I went to Can Ruti Hospital, to talk to Dr. Sancho, who would be in charge of the transplant. I had to undergo lots and lots of tests!
-8th March 2004. I went to hospital with my brother. He had to undergo a blood test and Dr. Sancho said I might be admitted in hospital on the 14th April.
-11th March 2004. My brother and I went to hospital where they carried out a heart test. José María's blood test from the 8th of March was correct! There's was a huge terrorist attack in Madrid.
-15th March 2004. Another blood test. 12 blood test tubes! I was feeling dizzy after the bone marrow aspiration.
-18th March 2004. We went back to hospital to talk to Dr. Xicoy. Test was fine although my defences were low. I had been given chemotherapy till February...
-19th March 2004. Another test ‒ X-ray on my spine.
-25th March 2004. More tests... X-rays, CT scan. It hailed a lot and the surroundings of the hospital seemed full of snow!
-31st March 2004. Both my brother and I went to hospital. At 10.52 I phoned Xevi to tell him my brother was ready to have some of his stem cells taken.
-1st April 2004. Xevi and I went to hospital to get the test results. They were all positive! We visited the isolation rooms at José Carreras Leukaemia Foundation, where I would be admitted for a whole month.
-14th April 2004. Admission day.
-15th April 2004. Today they applied the catheter. It had been a long horrible hour and I was feeling dizzy. I start chemotherapy ‒ a session in the morning and another one in the afternoon.
-16th April. Chemotherapy.
-17th April. Chemotherapy. Today I had the first visits from relatives! My auntie and my uncle, Montserrat and Antoni, and my cousins Pepi and Rafael came to visit me. Also my brother came later on.
-18th April. Chemotherapy, and more visits!! My friends Isidre Caboti and his wife Fina Mora came along with Marta Casas and Montse Godayol from La Colla Castellera Capgrossos, which is an association both Xevi and myself belong to.
-19th April. Chemotherapy.
-20th April. Chemotherapy. All my in-laws, Joan, Fina, Jordi and Helena came to visit me. I hadn't been feeling really well and I had been vomiting for the first time.
-21st April. Chemotherapy. Both my brother and my aunty Lola came to visit me. Today was a horrible day as I was vomiting a lot and even fainted due to my anaemia.
-22nd April. Rest day. No more chemotherapy, I was given saline solutions instead. Today I was vomiting again.
The day came. At 11.30 I underwent the transplant. Thirty minutes in total. Funny bit is that, for some reason, during the whole operation I smelt something that made me think of cockles!
As the tradition goes, on that 23rd of April I had my red rose. It could not be a natural one, though, so Xevi and my nieces Miriam and Laia drew me some. I was feeling quite weak for the whole day with a headache and discomfort...
-24th April. The day after. I felt better. Both my brother and my friend Laura came to visit me.
-25th April. I felt cheerful. Xevi was with me and we both listened to Anastacia's music, which helped a lot. In the afternoon my cousins Pepi and Rafael paid me a visit, and my uncle Miquel phoned me too.
-26th April. I had a nice morning. However, in the afternoon, right after tea, I was vomiting. My little finger on my left hand hurt but it might have been a bad body position.
-27th April. Virgin of Montserrat Day, the patron of Catalonia. My defences started decreasing and my in-laws paid me a visit.
-28th April. No news.
-29th April. I had a fever up to 38ºC.
-1st May. My brother Josep María, Montse Gomis and Pep Bosch came to visit me. I had a fever in the afternoon.
-2nd May. No remarkable news. My friends Isidre and Fina paid me a visit.
-3rd May. Hair started falling out. I was injected with two blood bags!
-4th May. I was feeling much better with the news that I might be discharged at the weekend!
-5th May. Neus, one of the nurses, shaved my head. That way I wouldn't see how it falls out little by little. I had a fever in the afternoon.
-6th May. The catheter was removed and stitches applied.
-7th May. The zone where the catheter was, hurt badly!
-8th May. No remarkable news. Today, just ten years ago, Xevi and I started going out!
-9th May. Some of my friends came to visit me: Marta Casas, Quim Boixet, Isidre and Fina. Mari Carmen, one of Xevi's cousins, phoned. Ad Tomàs Tapies, from Colla Castellera association also phoned home.
-10th May. Xevi went back to work due to the progression I had made.
-12th May. Defences were rising correctly!
-13th May. If nothing unexpected happened I would be discharged on Friday.
-14th May. I was discharged and I received lots of presents as soon as I got home ‒ a bunch of flowers from Dolors Pérez, another one from Marta, Fina and Montse and Xevi bought me a watch!
I am now 36 years old and ever since that moment in 2004 I have had regular check-up. I would like to thank all the doctors and health-care staff in Can Ruti (Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital), especially to all those who I dealt with most: Dr. José Tomàs Navarro, Dr. Juan Manuel Sancho, Dr. Christelle Ferrà, Dr. Blanca Xicoy, Dr. Natàlia Lloveras, Dr. Montserrat Batlle, Dr. Albert Oriol and the rest of the excellent team!
Also special thanks to José Carreras Leukaemia Foundation, my gynaecologist Dr. Estel Aluart, Dr. J.A. Hernández in Mataró Hospital, my brother Josep María for his never-ending generosity and Xevi, because he has been with me day after day...
To everyone, friends and relatives, who kept me company in those moments... THANKS A MILLION!! IF THIS EXPERIENCE HELPS SOMEONE GOING THROUGH THESE DELICATE MOMENTS... I WILL BE MORE THAN SATISFIED MYSELF.
GO FOR IT! DO NOT THROW IN THE TOWEL! LIFE IS CRUEL... BUT IT ALSO HAS ITS UPSIDE! CHEER UP... AND GO FOR IT!!
I would like to dedicate the following songs to everyone who stood by me during all those difficult moments - family, friends and doctors/health care staff: "With a Little Help From My Friends" by the Beatles and "Amigos para Siempre" [Friends for Life] by Sarah Brightman and Josep Carreras".
Help people like Olga Noè 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