They say that life is a journey; some fly through life and some take the train of life.
They say life is a journey that never ends. But the truth is that the journey called individual life, even if we pretend we don’t care, has an endpoint of which we are all afraid, because we do not know if it is the terminus of this trip or just a stopover to a new journey.
In the first years of my life, I traveled by train. Slowly. I stopped at every small depot. In some, I spent less time then I wished, in others I wasted more time that I should have.
I lingered for years in a train station that didn’t have much to offer, but it didn’t bother me much. At the time I had no idea when will my train would start rolling again or what was the next stop. Although unhappy, I indulged in the heat and dust that that station had to offer.
One day, I received a “ticket out.” It happened two and half years ago when I learned that I was suffering from some form of cancer in an advanced stage: Lung Adenocarcinoma, ALK+, stage IV, metastatic mediastinal and in the brain.
My life’s pace changed decisively. Before my diagnosis, I could afford the luxury of “wasting time.” After my diagnosis, I learned that time was the most precious thing I had. Every minute was important. Frantically, I started looking for answers to questions that flocked in my head. My illness pulled me out of the slow pace in which I languished, forcing me to find quick and creative answers to financial questions such as: How to procure thousands of euros every month? How could I sustain my treatments cost?
With an advertising background, I started a fundraising campaign and survived by small but numerous donations received from ordinary, generous people. But I had to find not only money but also a way to get the medicine worth 10,000 euros per month and which was not yet legalized in my country.
I did not know any influential people in the pharmaceutical world, so I joined LinkedIn. There, I wrote a direct message to the Novartis representative in my country, asking for help. One connection lead to another, and I managed to get in touch with a clinic in Israel. There, an oncologist wanted to help me get the medicine, which at that time I could buy due to a sponsorship I received from a company in Romania.
After several e-mail exchanges with my new oncologist, I agreed to travel to Israel, which was the only way I could get the drug. I did not know who or what I would encounter in Israel, so one morning in early June last year I took a plane, confident that I could handle things. I was thinking how lucky I am. I was happy that someone was waiting for me in Israel with an answer to my problem.
I reached the cabinet of my oncologist. While staring at the cabinet’s door, I anxiously waited for my turn. I sat on one of the seats in the hall. Near me, a young man dressed in a suit was looking at me curiously. I learned that I was the only patient he had ever met who didn’t have a pharmaceutical representative to handle the acquisition and transportation of the drug. This worried me! I thought to myself: What if I am not able to get my lifesaving drugs? Was this whole trip for nothing?
Then it was my turn to enter.
When I entered the oncologist’s office, I suddenly felt relaxed – like a spell had been lifted. Behind the desk, a pleasant looking man – with a round face and nice features, unshaven, wearing a salmon-colored shirt and a kind look on his face – was sitting across from me. After an exchange of greetings, he invited me to sit down. I felt he studied me for a moment, and then he started to ask me medical questions while writing things down.
Everything in life has a price – above all, these kind of mundane services between people. While sitting in the office, I was trying to formulate a sentence in order to ask the oncologist how much I owed him for his services when the oncologist’s voice interrupted me by saying: “I do not want any payment for my services. I just want you to heal.” Then he smiled and returned to his writing.
To this day, I do not know if I was thinking out loud or if he was reading my mind. I only know that I felt comfortable and safe for the first time after my diagnosis in the company of an oncologist, just like when you relax next to a fireplace and watch the slowly-burning wood while knowing that everything will be alright in the end, like in the movies.