On 31 October 2017, a decidedly unpleasant radiologist sent me off with the words, “You’d better find a surgeon”. It was official: I had a tumour of the pancreas. I was at the Regina Margherita Hospital in Rome’s Trastevere quarter, where my family doctor had arranged for me to undergo an urgent, total-body CT scan. I was there with Gloria. Of all my friends, she seemed best able to handle eventual bad news.
Until then, no one else had been aware of my doubts, or of any of the medical examinations I’d already done. Two days earlier, I’d gone for an ultrasound exam all by myself. But in the case of the CT scan, I felt I needed a friend by my side, simply to stay connected with the rest of the world.
Of course my doctor had known what was going on all along. Let me introduce you to her right away, because it’s she who first saved my life: Francesca Stampi, a brilliant family practitioner who never fails to listen and understand before reaching her conclusions.
This all took place 19 months ago, and since then my life has been turned upside down. But for the better. Which may sound strange, but it’s true. And today I’ve finally decided to start this blog. Actually, I began writing on the first day of my first chemo treatment, on 14 December 2017, when I opened the Fish Post (‘Posta Pesce’ in Italian) on whatsapp, bringing in all my closest family and friends, my comrades in countless struggles and my companions from various moments in life, just to keep everybody up–to-date on my health.
The result was an extraordinary community which has never left me alone. It has helped me in endless ways. It has entertained me. But during this same period I also made the acquaintance of countless patients suffering from tumours – female patients in particular – along with their family members. I took part in closed Facebook groups. I witnessed admirable examples of strength, undaunted life, professional skill and competence, as well as healthy doses of public healthcare and research, but also a great deal of difficulty and confusion when it comes to finding the best path forward, to understanding what to do next. And I discovered that there are no small amount of fraudsters and con artists in this world as well.
I decided that the time had come to move beyond my private Fish Post group (which will stay in operation, seeing that I can no longer do without it) and try my hand at sharing ideas, thoughts and information on a larger scale. I hope no one will feel offended by my sincerity, and at the same time I hope that my reflections can contribute something to others.
My dream would be to lift the spirits of every patient with a pancreatic tumour, in fact of all patients with oncological conditions, helping them to navigate their way through the Italian healthcare system, giving them information on where to find the best doctors, on how to make sure that they are respected, even when they have to deal with arrogant, unhelpful individuals. But luckily I know full well that I lack the gift of omnipotence, so I’ll be happy simply to make somebody smile, to keep them from being bored with what they read and, if possible, to spark some interesting discussions and exchanges. I’m also counting on hosting posts by people with more knowledge and experience on specific topics than myself (I’m not sure that’s something you do on a blog… well, on my blog, it will be). Welcome to my world!