Chapter 10. The mind runs, even when the body hurts.
“In the morning, when you get up, smile to your heart, to your stomach, to your lungs, to your liver. After all, a lot depends on them.
Thich Nhat Hanh”
I had chosen not to waste my residual energies whining or getting angry, and in this I was quite successful. Relying on myself was a pretty wise decision.
But people say that war is also a loss for those who win, and this is a great truth. When you’re there, in your small armchair, however gently the nurse connects the bag of poison to your arm, and as much as you’re determined to keep up with that bombardment of poison droplets, the hero’s role is precisely the last you would like to play. You feel helpless. You are like a child who, in a moment of anger, punches his puppet: after awhile, he is ragged and the puppet keeps on smiling undaunted.
That’s why I did give a beautiful smile to my guest (my cancer) and I started running, as if nothing had happened …
Chemotherapy – which is blessed, I say – basically translates into an exchange: you are alive, but you have to leave something of yourself “on the field”. I do not want to make a list of pawns to pay, discussing what is better or worse: to lose either sight or hearing. The exchange can undermine your ability to concentrate on important things, like eating and digesting. Chemotherapy can knock out your taste buds, it can cause you the (total) loss of hair, it can take away the voice or the sensitivity of the limbs.
And there is another thing that in the war of life against death – or of chemo against cancer – I had to leave on the field: sexual desire. I wish I could have had children so much.
But it was a reasonable exchange, as it came to choosing between life and death.
I took the time I had chemo as a period of bargaining with my cancer-guest, during which I was ready to accept that I might be in circulation only for a while, but it would be in my best way.
I did not want that war, but I had to fight it. As smart as it was, my guest trying to colonize me, he was missing something I had, something that I have. He is completely emotionless, he does not feel anything. But I had known the fear, and turned it into courage.
The initial brain metastases had transformed me into a child inside a forty-year-old body, and forced me to learn to walk a second time. That period of great troubles (chemotherapy treatment) lasted nine months and I call it the rebirth: it has no scientific basis, but it is just what I feel. And after all, are there not nine, months needed to be born the first time?
From the knees down, even if stuck with a pin, I did not feel anything. I did not feel the prick. Alone, I could not walk straight. It was the same with my hands. I also had difficulty in fastening my shoes.
But, while in the fall of 2012 I was not even able to drive a car because I could not push the pedals, in the summer of 2013 I drove to go on vacation on the island of Elba, with my mom and dad.
The cure? A mixture of drugs, tenacity, confidence on the part of my parents, and a total absence of resignation.
All of this, combined with my passion for running, led me to believe that I would always need to push myself. First I had to walk and did little more than two steps. Then a little over two o kilometers, to tell the truth. I remember. I walked from my house to the roundabout in Elce and back and it would take up to an hour and a half. It is difficult to establish who was winning at that time, whether me or my cancer.
But I never lowered my guard, the mind can run, even when the body suffers. I am a sick person who is aware of being sick, but who does not feel like that.
Every day, since then, my body reminds me that I am sick, and my mind reminds me that it is in charge.
Every day since then, when someone asks me: “How are you?”. I reply: “Better than I can”.
Always, better than I can.
Chapter 24. Only one thing is incurable: idiocy
“I have learned that people should make their words soft and tender, in case one day they havee to eat them.
I’m not fervent internet user, but over the, years social media has been precious companionship of great help. Posting my thoughts, seeing them multiply and then return to me in the form of hugs and encouragement made me stronger every day, in my intentions and actions.
The good, as always happens when it is put into circulation,h becomes everybody’s heritage. Post after post, comment after comment, now it is no longer possible to determine who does good for whom: if me for my followers with my “forward all!” or them with their comments. How many times people have thanked me for the positive energy transmitted, and how many times I thanked them for the support received during the most difficult days, when I had to regain my strength to put it ( the cancer) back on the ropes.
I can not describe the many posts, unless I write a second book. But I can guarantee that every person, every thought, every word was medicine for me. A natural medicine. I have already taken chemicals in abundance.
I must admit that I receive support not just from graces and answers, but also from questions asked by those in search of advice because they are in similar conditions or are assisting a sick family member. Many people see me as an example and consider themselves honored to have met me, but they don’t know how lucky I am to feel I am useful to them! …
The good done to others has healed me, and it keeps on healing me.
Even with all of that, cancer is always a step behind me. It is selfish, it only thinks about nurturing itself and ends up getting stuck, while I nourish myself with the love I receive, but also with the love I give. And I am happy. There is no match.
I would mention the words of a doctor who wrote to me. I do not know him personallybut he wrote to me: : “I read your posts and I think that there is no medicine in the world better than the desire of being there, the will to make it and the joy of living every moment intensely as you do. We need a vial of Leonardo Cenci in every drug cart in every hospital.”
Let’s face it: how can I give up, leave the field, if I can still be a vial of positive energy for someone?
A few clouds in this beautiful clear sky: some people question whether I am really sick and … “who knows that he has not created everything in art?”. This is a nice example of incurable idiocy.
Bypassing the fact that I was a decent seller of detergents, I would never be able to sell five years of lies. I wonder what twisted mind could decide to endure several cycles of chemo, swell like a balloon, paralyze the legs, undergo continuous MRI, CT and … I stop here, otherwise I’m serious about writing the second book.
I really wonder who would go so far and why. After obviously having agreed to the script of his comedy with pulmonologists, oncologists, nurses, family members …
And would you do this, to talk to school kids? To celebrate Christmas with oncology patients? To engage in fundraising to support projects that restore dignity to the life of cancer patients?
I say this because all those activities are gratifying but challenging. They are wonderful but tiring. And even the interviews and participations on TV are exciting, but stressful. I am sick with cancer, not with media exposure.
For a disease, the term ‘incurable’ should not be used, because a disease is never ‘incurable’ (at best it can be ‘ineradicable’), just as it often happens with lung cancer. In fact, doctors are taking care of me and they will continue to do so in all phases of my disease, until the terminal phase, if this is going to be its outcome.
Once the incurable / ineradicable misunderstanding concerning the disease has been eliminated, there is only one thing that is really incurable: idiocy.
I do not think I am omnipotent and I too surrender myself to such stupidity. I take note with regret of someone’s need for ‘bad’ news, “scrappy news”, ‘unbelievable news”.
It is true that malice and evil take notice, but each of us, first should not echo those sentiments; we should echo beautiful gestures, good behaviors, and actions that make the world a better place.
Quotes from the book:
“I want to say once again to those who are tempted to leave it to cancer […] that it is really worth it to modify negative thoughts. Why concentrate on the fact that the chemotherapy drops fall faster or fall more than they should? I prefer to enjoy every single grain, to focus on every single drop.”
“My illness, however serious, perhaps because it is so serious, prompted me to heal my life: to gain control of my mind, to direct my thoughts in positive areas, to commit […] to adopt the best attitude. It can be done. Really, it can be done.”
”Many people consider me an example and are honored to have met me, but they don’t know how lucky I feel to be helpful.”
“I have been healed by the good I have done for people. Even in this respect, cancer is a step behind me. It is selfish, it only thinks about nurturing himself and ends up getting stuck, while I nourish myself with the love I receive, but also with the love I give to others.”
”After five years of unforeseen life, today I know I cannot finish my day without smiling at someone or at something. Not only am I now an incurable optimist, I also recovered from my previous life when I did not even look anybody in the eye. I said few graces, I neglected my emotions…”
”Optimism, guys, optimism! Before thinking about what is wrong, make a list of all the things that go right. In short, think about those things that we take for granted. Do not get caught up in depression, be positive, be strong and perseverant: do not get discouraged by the first obstacle.”
”I do not know if either of us is a coward or if we are brave … I do not know if I am a coward or brave. Perhaps, it depends on the circumstances in which we find ourselves. What I do know is that, when they gave me four months to live, I did not want the fear to steal all of my days.”
”I realized that believing was just the beginning of the beginning; I realized that trust, a smile and optimism would need to be the fuel with which I would have to constantly supply myself. All of my muscles needed to be trained and strengthened: those of the body, those of the mind, those of the soul. I realized that I would have to do this despite everything. Despite … despite fever, vomiting, exhaustion and skin rash.”
”It’s true, I’m sick and it’s true that I’m calm.”
”Today, the awareness that I must not play my host’s game empowers me. I must take the initiative. I must be able to dictate some rules good for me. And one rule, this is undoubtable: negativity attracts negativity and positivity attracts positivity.”
”Not everyone is able to react. Fatigue, therapy, pain … and then the thought that … what good is fighting against a foretold end? I did not have, I do not have, the right to choose for others. But I can testify with my presence the positive effects of the choice of not abandoning the field when the game seems to be lost, without hope.”
“I did not just run my oncology marathons of my own, I often returned to the hospital to joke patients like me who were there for the therapies. I spurred them on to go out, to move, not to hand it over to the disease.”