A black marker pen and a piece of paper! These were sufficient to give life to the Fear that was whispering to me for some time. It was July 2019, in a hospital room, almost three months since I had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. It was the first time in my life I was asked to face this disease. What did it mean to me? A gloomy human being, with big, protrusive, black-colored features … I stared better at him… Was it a human being? No, it was not; it was a little child’s shadow! It was sitting on a chair waiting to be reprimanded by me, as any parent does to a child who has cheated and knows that the time of punishment has come, and punishment must be accepted! I did not reprimand it; instead I sat next to it, stroke its hair and we talked. What can one learn when a little more attention is given to what one is afraid of!
So, I learned, that leukemia is a type of cancer that is up to 100% curable, that by being a blood or platelets donor one does not only assist people suffering car accident injuries, but also those suffering from blood cancers, among which from leukemia. I was surprised. I did not know that only 3 out of 10 leukemia patients are a match with their kinship donors. The others refer to an international pool of donors where the prospects of finding a donor match is 2,000 to 1, thus making the increase of voluntary bone marrow donors even more important. I did not know that bone marrow transplant is a highly safe process which requires both parties’ healthy condition and that it does not require surgery, being a process similar to that of collecting platelets. The Fear also showed me that not all heroes wear capes. A white gown and a glittering smile are enough for certain ordinary people to acquire superhuman forces to another’s fairy tale. Finally, and even more importantly, I learned to listen to it, not to suppress it, to assist it to become productive, to give it space to express itself, to understand what it wants to tell me, to pay attention to the present moment because it is the only thing I have, to help today and not wait for tomorrow… Because sometimes tomorrow is far away and I may not be able to assist then, or it may be me or someone close to me that needs help.
I put the marker pen down. I stood up and gave the sketch to one of the fairy tale heroes. He took it devoutly, like the priest who tries, at sunrise, to interlace his prayers, like giving shape to a rosary. He put it carefully in an envelope as if he was following a ritual. Few days later I learned that he sent it fighting leukemia, to promote the value of giving, the importance of fighting, the necessity of our co-existing with Fear, not of silencing it. So, listen to your fear. It always wants to tell you something, it will always have something more to teach you and it will always function as a tool of spreading the positive aspects of every one of your stories, as soon as you understand its importance and you offer it the fighter’s mantle.
I owed this story to every child, every young adult, every grown up, every old man who fights against cancer. I owed it to Emma whose story made me understand that the value of fighting is the fight for freedom. I owed it to all those silent fighters who know to listen to their fear, to make it a friend not a foe in their fairy tales, who do not give up and continue to fight with the hope to make a better world. Finally, I owed it to the unsung heroes in white gowns and glittering smiles…