Cancer, the disease that brought her back to life

Cosmina Grigore. I could present her to you as she was before 2013, and as she is now. You may know her as she was before, since Cosmina had a sparkling career in Communication and Public Relations. She worked for British Embassy in Romania, Tarus Media, Oracle and for a lot of projects, until the Universe gave her a task of her own: to stay alive. Cosmina full-hearted believes that the breast cancer she was diagnosed with in 2013 came to heal her of a death she had already metaphorically experienced.. And since not only the metastases can spread, but healing as well, from that moment on her entire family rolled over into a process of loving life, listening to the message that cancer came with. So you may also know Cosmina as she is now – nutritionist, patient coach, president of the Imunis Association, Pilates instructor but, most of all, lifestyle designer of her own existence. And of those people over whom Cosmina blows off a bit of her magic gifts.

When she was a little girl, Cosmina, whose name recalls of Cosmos, dreamt of dying somewhere in space, outside her planet, so she could get to know the Universe even more. And this wish to see beyond what her eyes could perceive seems to have followed her. She was that person who had the most outrageous ideas and she could never hide them. So most of her colleagues weren’t very thrilled with her, they had always something to work for, as a consequence of her creativity for which they weren’t prepared. Her little sister, tough, was fascinated and she kept on walking by Cosmina’s side everywhere, so she could learn from her.

Now and then along her timeline, Cosmina met people who seemed to hold the key to a new level of her becoming. A university teacher, an ambassador, bosses that she calls friends, pieces of a harmony-puzzle that was wisdomly prepared by faith, although the pieces didn’t seem to match to each other. “I grew up in the hospital, my mom was a nurse, my father a physician, so I’ve spent many nights there, I was basically the hospital’s kid. My desire to help people grew more and more and, many times, they would catch me next to an old man’s bed, ready to put him on a drip. They always came on time, I wasn’t doing any harm, but I felt this need of helping others, the same need I feel now. If I see someone who is suffering or is dealing with an injustice, my interior riot starts and I keep on thinking how to work it out”, Cosmina says. She would  have love to become a doctor, but she refused to go that way, because she hated to do as she was told to. Since her father was a physician and he would want Cosmina to follow his path, she chose another way: communication.

She was that type of person who, if you would kick out through the door, she would come back through the window and even create a new door, if there wasn’t any other way. When doctors told her that she will not be able to have children, because of her hormonal imbalance, Cosmina decided to try in vitro fertilization. She wanted to be a young mom and she was sure that one of her new work colleagues would be a great dad. “I told him, knowing that I couldn’t have children, that I would need to do in vitro fertilization and that I would like him to be the father of my children. He answered me back through a text message that we should first be together. I didn’t know he was into me and I didn’t know how much I was into him. And we started very technical. he was going to his sister in Scotland and he was coming back on 16th of august, so we decided to be together as soon as he would return”, Cosmina says. And they were and they still are.

A few months later, sad that she couldn’t have a baby, Cosmina wanted to share some Christmas gifts to the children that were growing at Valea Plopului. The priest that was taking care of the little ones told Cosmina and her husband that they were expecting a baby and that they should get ready. The ultrasound proved that to be right, so in less than a year, Cosmina and her husband, both 23 years old, were a family, being the parents of a baby girl.

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Back in 2013, the baby girl was 4 years old, and Cosmina and her husband were 28. Since her parents’ divorce all sort of changes took place and Cosmina felt like she was running out of air. The walk to the office suddenly seemed to be a highway to hell, she had given her best, until burnout. Her relationship with her husband was crumbling, there were pressures from the outside. Cosmina tried to figure out the direction she was going to walk further, of the following four months.

She had a pain that was ruining her existence and one day that pain became visible, when one of her breasts was looking different. “The first two doctors I went to told me that everything is fine, to relax. But my condition was worse and I went to another doctor, in the morning I got an X-ray and at noon she told me to come back for the mammography. I figured out something was wrong, but I wasn’t by far thinking at cancer, not even for a second, I didn’t think I could have something like this. She told me the diagnostic that was later confirmed by the sector resection, there was a carcinoma, almost stage II, with three invasive focuses”, Cosmina says.

Her first reaction was to get angry- for the first time she planned a holiday trip with her husband and now they were going to cancel it. She realised the severity of the situation only after she talked to her mother on the phone and she heard her crying out loud.

She suffered a mastectomy, 23 ganglia were removed one of them with a metastasis. The normal process would have been radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, but Cosmina followed only radiotherapy. One of her ex bosses and actual friend had just become a Health Coach and she helped Cosmina change her diet. Cosmina struggled to give up meat, dairy, cheese and eggs, suffering from withdrawal. She had instead a table full of all sorts of supplements and nutrients which she had never heard of and starting that moment they were going to help her recover. Lots of her symptoms got better and since Cosmina wouldn’t get any answers to some of her questions about chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, she consulted her doctor and she decided not to go further with them, even if many people told her that otherwise she will survive less than a year.

12985573_10208687743567258_2492476113829488310_nShe started reading, so she could understand her disease better. She thought that her cancer wasn’t there for nothing, it had a message for her. She understood that she had invested in that disease, by her chaotic schedule of working and sleeping, by exhaustion and by the lack of a relationship with her body. Even since her parents’ divorce, Cosmina had a lot of stuff to deal with that she didn’t know how to manage.

She expected that starting with her disease she will receive more attention and love, but her plans didn’t worked out as she thought they would, causing her even more suffering. So she found a way to blend the idealist part of her personality with the pragmatic one and she created a new ideal: to live. And to give herself the love she was expecting to receive from others. “The negotiation with God was like this: if You let me live, as long as you let me live I will find a way of being useful. At that time I had no clue how, at first I was a volunteer for children diagnosed with cancer, but I couldn’t do this anymore, I wasn’t strong enough”, Cosmina says.

The years 2013 and 2015 were full of interior battles, from wanting to be dead to fearing of dead and than loving life, but Cosmina’s hard times didn’t stop there. She was nearly having a divorce, her father was also diagnosed with cancer, a bowel cancer in the IVth stage, with hepatic metastasis and he would lose the fight three years later. Also, Cosmina broke her hip while she was rollerblading with her daughter. “I thought that if you get sick with cancer, you are granted for life, nothing serious happens to you again. And I realised that it wasn’t like that, no, cancer is one way ticket that you can use, but you still have to work for life. Breaking my hip got me to bed and feeling useless, so after many others lessons, I thought about the things that I could do while I was in bed and I started a website for patients with cancer, and I started writing”, Cosmina says.

Also, she was reached by a patient with cancer and step by step Cosmina gave up her job and became a nutritionist, patient coach, Pilates instructor and even a president of the Imunis Association that she founded with her family and friends. Through her Association she held for free the New Patient Caravan in more than 20 cities all over the country and she informed and supported the patients with cancer in their recovery process, creating a support group. To sustain her other activities, she organised immunity retreats and even a started school with different modules for patients, so she could teach them in detail about what she had learned from cancer.

Her new way of treating herself, being present in her life and loving herself taught her also how to deepen her relationship with her husband. Both of them realised that, no matter the pressures from the outside, they are the core that needs to stay altogether and from that moment on they are working consciously for their unity, allowing nothing from the outside to influence them. Years went by until Cosmina managed to look at her body and find it feminine, without crying, to look at her hair that grew longer again, and, instead of her missing breast, to look at her beating heart. She came back to herself and to those who were loving her, even if their language wasn’t always the same.

20150919_112814And, specific to her, she got to promote a new idea people weren’t ready for: cancer came to heal her. And she is more than happy that she was sick, as she is happy everyday for being alive. She knows that, even if her dad is gone, cancer brought healing in his life too, because in his last years of life he got back to his family. And the pieces of the puzzle seem to match now even more.

Cosmina writes her feelings down  in a diary ever since she was in the VIth grade. In a moment she had hard time she wrote down that, if she would suffer from cancer, she could die, and that seemed to be a solution to end the pain. She changed her note and, instead of looking at cancer as a solution to die, she end up seeing it as a solution to live, to love, to be alive. And she hopes that one day she will be able to go to Africa, to help the children who, sometimes, don’t have the chance to enjoy life for many years.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

 

A love beyond death

Bianca Năstase. She dreamed of becoming a doctor, but instead, she ended up being a teacher. I believe there is no such thing as a coincidence since her story seems to be a life lesson. Bianca has been taking care  of both  bodies and souls. She got married to a man in a wheelchair and they had three kids – one of them with disabilities, and another one on the way when they were in a car crash. Her husband died and the baby and Bianca  survived, despite the odds. The life she lived could easily be turned into an award-winning movie. Bianca lost a lot: her beloved husband, parts of her soul, even her engagement and wedding rings. However, she never lost the love of her life. And she has conquered life – which’s architecture Bianca has learned to fully enjoy.

Bianca didn’t fail any of her exams when she was a student. She was so fascinated with the sea, that she was counting down the days left until she could go to Vama Veche and camp  on a wild beach. She used to go with a friend of hers, and they would spent all day swimming, and all night reading poetries, under the moonlight. It was the summer vacation after her third year of college when she has met her future husband. They met in a pub, the terrace was full, and since her future husband was in a wheelchair, he didn’t need a seat, so he just asked her if they could share the table.The dawn of day surprised them in the same spot, still talking. “The next day I already knew I was going to marry him. He asked me ‘Baby girl, what are we going to do if this fire keeps on growing?’ And I simply replied <<We’re gonna get married>> ”, Bianca says.

13710022_1801937450035433_7985137823498920562_nShe was amazed by his wisdom and by how Florin confronted all the impediments of being an architect. He grew up in the communist era when drawing didn’t seem to feed off, so he was obliged to properly work in a factory. But he didn’t give up on his dream – he dared following his dream even after a train accident left him without both of his legs. He always thought that that experience was something he needed, for his soul to be pulled out of the troubled waters he was in at that time and be put back on the right track. He managed to get a Master’s Degree, he was working as an architect, he was driving an adapted car and he was in love with Bianca. “I could see it in his eyes that he liked me, it was obvious, but it felt that he would die if I was to be gone. And I had this thought: finally a man that, although he is without legs, he is on his own feet”, Bianca says.

She called home ten days after they met. “My parents already knew from my friend who got back a few days earlier that I met a man without legs, and that I was calling them to let them know that I’m getting married. They didn’t approve of the marriage, my father thought that I’ll be over it in six months, so he didn’t allow me to go further with my decision until then. Florin  and I counted the days until the and since he was from Prahova and I was from Iasi, we talked  on the phone every night”, Bianca says.

Bianca (22)Her parents realized there was no turning back, and so the wedding took place, Bianca being 23 years old and Florin 31. They lived in different cities, until they’ve found their piece of Heaven, Bianca says, a village named Bughea de Sus. Not only her dream of living in a big city didn’t come true, but she had to go through the swamp five times a day so she could get home, full of mud. But she was so happy, that they’ve moved in before the walls were ready and there were no doors, so Florin had to make some walls on his own, some sliding doors on roller-bearings.

Teodor, Dimitrie, Ecaterina were born and only a few months later Varvara was on the way. Dimitrie was diagnosed with spastic tetraparesis, so he wasn’t talking and he was barely moving. The only things he could do and never stopped doing was to look deeply into the heart of the others and to laugh. “I just couldn’t wrap my head around his joy since I wasn’t feeling the same thing. I thought that only a crazy mom could feel joy for her disabled baby.  But my husband resonated with that bliss and he was the one supporting me through this”, Bianca says.

Bianca (8)And he kept on doing so until 20th of December 2005. “We had just moved into our new house three days prior, Dimitrie was three years old at the time and he had an appointment with his physician. Teodor was five years old and he had a festivity at his kindergarten that day, so we left him there. We also left Ecaterina who was eight years old with my goddaughter, for a few hours. And we left with Dimitrie, my husband was the one was driving. I was feeling very sick, Dimitre was crying louder and louder, because I’d moved in the front seat and I’d told him that I wasn’t able to turn around anymore, so my husband looked for a second in the rearview mirror. We crashed into a cement mixer”, Bianca says.

Her husband, although he had suffered severe injuries, told the doctors to take care of Bianca, because she was three months pregnant, and the doctors did as he said. Florin died, Dimitrie was taken care of and after that, he was sent home to  his relatives, and Bianca was taken to a hospital in Ploiești. Her spleen was removed, her liver was also affected, her ribs were broken, her lungs were crushed and Varvara was still in the womb. Neither of them seemed to survive, so the physicians asked Bianca’s family to give them  approval for abortion, hoping they will be able to save at least her.

When Bianca recovered from the coma, everybody told her that her husband is kept alive by machines. They were all afraid that she wouldn’t be able to take the news. After a dream she had, she knew Florin was already in Heaven, so when she finally got the news, she didn’t act very surprised. For almost two months she stayed in the hospital, for recovery procedures, learning how to walk again, and wanting, no matter what, to give birth to her fourth baby.

In spite all the danger and warnings that she was to have another baby with a handicap, because of the treatments and all the X-ray she went through after the accident, Bianca gave birth to a healthy Varvara. However, Varvara got infected with Staphylococcus Aureus in the hospital after she was born, so in less than two weeks doctors thought she would die, or at least that one of her legs will be cut off. Bianca literally pulled out the baby girl from the arms of one physician and ran elsewhere for another opinion.

That was the time when Bianca says she had a fight with God, warning Him that, if something bad happens to Varvara, she is not to be held accountable for her actions anymore. “Varvara went into surgery, the physician told me that her leg was still there, but that will be shorter since her cartilage won’t grow normally anymore. After a while, he saw her again and he asked me ‘What did you do to her, ma’am? There’s nothing here left for me to say. Her leg is completely recovered’. I then understood that when the physician says ‘no’, God says ‘yes’”, Bianca says.

With the help of her family, although her mother has been diagnosed with cancer, and later on her father was as well, Bianca managed to physically recover, after the accident. “When I got back home, Teodor couldn’t even look at me, my face was covered with scars. He kept on asking me what happened, but he wouldn’t let me finish. A miraculous thing, in the day of the accident, when he was at the kindergarten, he had to create a Christmas card. Instead, he created a collage of black velvet and a yellow piece of material, it was a lighting candle, next to a little branch of fir. The governess told me that he made it at 10 AM, the exact time of the accident. He couldn’t  have know, it was in real time, but somehow he felt that his father was dying, so he lighted a candle”, Bianca says.

Therefore it was no need for explanations, the kids knew their father was in Heaven, where there is no suffering, and they grew up not only by remembering him or seeing him in the pictures, but being conscious that he is always there and that he is answering their prayers. Just like they know that their father listened when living in Oradea for a few years, so Dimitrie could benefit from a physiotherapist help, it snowed with big snowflakes, despite the fact that in Oradea it’s usually not snowing. But it was Christmas, and kids prayed for some snow.

 

12698411_1734927946736384_2078504489750566951_oWith the help of some kind people, Dimitrie underwent multiple surgeries, and he is now able to move  his hands a little more and he is passionate about technology. He knows how to use a laptop, search for online tutorial classes, keen on learning more, although, theoretically, he doesn’t know how to read. Practically, he finds everything he needs and he laughs when his mother feels left behind with everything he has learned.

Teodor has inherited his father’s talent to draw, so he has read all the descriptive geometry manuals that are used at the University since he was in the VIIth grade. Instead of architecture, Teodor will choose car design. “Another very beautiful memory I have, once Teodor and I went into the attic to find his father’s drawing from when he was a student, we wanted to make a movie. And Teodor comes to me with this drawing and he tells me ‘Look!’. And I asked him ‘What is it?’. And he told me ‘Don’t you recognize it?’. I remembered seeing something similar at Teodor, but that drawing had his father’s signature on it and I didn’t understand what’s the connection. And Teodor said to me ‘It’s exactly the same car I have drawn’. It was exactly the same car, drawn from the same angle, Teodor had just discovered his father’s drawing and was shocked”, Bianca says.

10999332_804943099561032_3852002495451371029_oTeodor and his sisters, still students at the same school where Bianca teaches, wanted a second father, one they could be able to touch. Bianca understood their need and she could’ve been gone for it, if the second father wouldn’t also meant he would be her second husband as well. Though she had hard times when she felt shredded to pieces by loneliness, leaving her unconscious, Bianca knew that, beyond what her eyes could see, she was not alone.

Eventually, her heart got its peace, and she learned that, in hard times, when she didn’t know what’s the right thing to do, she only had to ask the questions, and the answers would come in other ways than words. In the same way that she received a car,among other gifts, that she needed to carry Dimitrie with. This is why she thinks that planning is worthless. All she wants is to keep her faith alive, as she managed to do in all those moments when everyone else had lost faith.

And people find it hard to believe that Bianca hasn’t lost her smile and her mind, that she is still running to a wild beach with the same fascination. That she is rather stunned by all the miracles she has lived than regretting being filled with regret. Her soul healed along with the scars on her face, so Bianca has only one word left to describe life: wonderful.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

 

An autistic child, a change for the whole world

Carmen Ghercă. Known today as a volunteering president and vice-president of ANCAAR Iași and FEDRA, two organizations for autistic children and adults. But 21 years ago, Carmen was the mother of a boy who would be diagnosed with autism, in a time when doctors wouldn’t give him any chance of evolution, even more so, advising Carmen of abandoning him. With her husband’s support, Carmen did everything she could to prove them wrong, and furthermore, she started helping other parents  who have children with  special needs. These children need love  more than anything else, not isolation.

Carmen was born 46 years ago and she believes she was gifted with a passion for kids. Her dream was to become a governess, but she ended up having a career in IT. She met her future husband and six months later they got married. The moment she found out she was pregnant, she was over the moon, and for three years, everything seemed to be as it should. Then there were signs that Robert wasn’t behaving normal: he would stay away from the other kids, he wouldn’t turn around when his name was called out, if he was focused on something that he really enjoyed doing, he wouldn’t look into other people’s eyes and, although he was big enough to start talking, he simply wouldn’t. Carmen and her husband decided to take him to a doctor.

They have walked a long and complicated road together, going from the general practitioner to different specialists in ORL, Psychology, both in Iași and Bucharest, but nobody seemed to narrow down the problem. Several months later a neurologist wrote down autism as a diagnostic. “As simple as that, a written diagnostic on a piece of paper. No other information, no explanation about what it means and what can we do. I got home, tried to find some details on the Internet, there were only a few, in English, with specific terms; tried to find some books, but they also had little information. For months, we were like heading towards disaster, a dead end without any chance of getting out”, Carmen says. Facing a severe diagnostic that nobody had any clue about, Carmen and her husband were living a nightmare.

Not only were their questions left unanswered, not knowing if Robert’s autism is a genetic disease, or if it’s their fault as parents or not, but they weren’t even encouraged to find a solution. “One of the physicians we went to told us to our faces that we have no chance with this baby and that it would be best we abandon him and think about having another one. You can imagine that when even a physician you go to for help or advice is telling you something like this, as a parent is something terrible. I was simply exhausted, I was suffering from depression, insomnia, my mind was filled with  these thoughts about my kid’s future, it was awful, we thought our life was over”, Camen says.

They have tried dozens of alternative therapies, quackery, bioresonance, they desperately searched for a kindergarten that will accept Robert along with the regular kids. They used to find him all alone, in a corner of the room, so he wouldn’t bother the rest. This was until they realised and accepted the fact that Robert has a different brain and that he needs to communicate in his own way, a way that can really help him.

13198427_1271381472874179_6057185732998961940_oWith the support of Star of Hope Foundation and Ancora Salvării Foundation, Robert followed a specialized therapy for the last few years and started studying at a school for children with special needs. He is to graduate from sophomore year in 2018. His development was contrary to the initial expectations. “Robert is non-verbal, but we learned to communicate through sign language; he also learned to write and read and he can explain to us what his wishes are, we even have an app on the tablet that helps him put pictographs together, and all this are decreasing his frustrations, because an autistic child gets frustrated when he fails to make himself understood by the others”, Carmen says.

11115606_1007197312625931_3931928181564455202_nHowever, Robert is not the only one making progress. Attending classes for parents held by the Star of Hope Foundation’s specialists, Carmen found out that she is not the only mother of an autistic child in Romania, as she thought she was, so she started connecting with other parents and specialists in and outside the country, following the advice to set up an organisation that can bring them closer. This is how ANCAAR Iași (National Association for Children and Adult with Autism from Romania) was founded in 2003, Carmen being its president since then. ANCCAR is now helping 30 kids and 60 parents, in a special support center, through different projects, some with European finances, some thanks to donations.

11081195_1010688562276806_2765242334713107497_nAlso, in 2010 FEDRA (Federation for Autism Spectrum Disorder People’s Rights and Resources) was founded, Carmen now being vice-president. Not only that she got to visit different organizations around the world to gain more experience, but she also got to militate for the rights of the people with autism at Bruxelles, through a petition. Aware of the fact that her mission, although not an easy one, is still ongoing and it will be until the day she dies, she believes that, going through this experience, she has managed to change herself in a positive way.

Last, but not least, Carmen enjoyed her husband’s support, and despite other families that usually break up, mothers raising kids by themselves, Carmen’s family become stronger than ever. Encouraged by other parents who have decided to have a second child, even though the first one was diagnosed with autism, Carmen and her husband faced their fears and this is how Paul was born, 13 years ago. A healthy child who gave them the chance to experience another kind of parenthood, making their family love turn bigger and having a wonderful relationship with his older brother.

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Since parents’ bigger fear is usually their autistic kids being left helpless, after they grow old, Carmen hopes that a center for people with autism will be founded in Romania to also to have, as she has seen in other countries. A place where adults with autism, without being isolated or discriminated, are encouraged to become independent and their activities are welcome. She believes that there is hope, as she had faith in Robert’s development, in spite all the barriers they had to face. Most of all, she believes that God has a plan for the kids and adults with autism, so their life can be beautiful, even though they are different.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

The courage of saying No to an abortion and the miracles that followed afterwards

Cerasela Soficu. Many of us don’t know her name, neither do the strangers who stop her on the street to ask her how old she was when her baby was born. She didn’t plan to have a baby and she wasn’t even asked if she wanted one. Although she wasn’t expecting him, Cerasela chose to keep him and, more than that, to protect him and raise him as a single mom. If I were to resume her story in only one word, there wouldn’t be a better one than courage. The courage to believe there is always a way, and even miracles, in a time when it seemed like she was going against the stream.

When she was a little girl, Cerasela remembers she was trying to blend into the wall, like she was trying to disappear or at least to pass unnoticed. She was so shy, that she kept herself silent for hours until her sister came home from school and only then she would tell her everything about her thoughts and emotions from that day. She had a hard time connecting with the others and  her parents weren’t to close to her either. “They were present, but cold, I don’t know why, maybe nobody taught them to act differently or this is the way they have been raised as well. They told me to study, to be the top of the class, and I was. For many years I was until I got tired. I was so tired that I wouldn’t even go to college, I made an effort to finish it, but that was all”, Cerasela says.
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She finished her studies, but the need of affection chased her, so she continued looking for it in the people around her. The moment she met her ex-boyfriend, she thought her pain will finally vanish. “At first I was bragging about him, told my mom he was such a nice guy, always putting up with me… I’ve then realized he was capable of some things that wouldn’t even cross my mind. I got to know him better and we were constantly fighting, I told him many times that I want to break up and that we will not get married, we even lost respect for each other. But he insisted, kept telling me that I will calm down, he wasn’t even listening to me”, Cerasela says.

Although they didn’t get along with each other any more, Cerasela wasn’t ready to let go. “We weren’t right for each other, we had totally different ways of seeing things, I knew that, he was also a video games addict, tried to tell him that being 32 years old he should be more responsible, but he had no desire to change. And time passed by like this, because I was afraid of being alone. Although it was a toxic relationship, at least it was one”, Cerasela says. After a few months of being in this relationship, she found out that she was pregnant. While she is now at peace with what happened, back then things seemed to be completely out of control.

After fighting in the middle of a park, when Cerasela told her ex-boyfriend that she will keep the baby, but she will not marry him, her ex-boyfriend ran to her parents to tell them she was with child. The next months weren’t exactly what a woman pregnant with her first baby would wish for. Cerasela’s sister, married and pregnant as well, cried the entire day when she found out what happened. Cerasela’s parents, although they’ve helped her a lot after that with raising Emilian, at first they were mad at her, constantly telling her to get married and often blaming her.

Her ex-boyfriend, Cerasela says, was so perplexed that she didn’t accept getting married, that he rejected the child, telling everyone that it wasn’t his. “He was so determined on getting married, that he even told me that I can get an abortion, if I don’t want to keep the baby, only to marry him. He then told me that if I don’t marry him, he will not take any responsibility for the child and he kept his word. I didn’t want to get married just to  end up like my parents, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I knew what a child feels when his parents are fighting, I was that child and I didn’t want Emilian to feel the same way as I did”, Cerasela says.

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Her baby boy is two years old now and he started speaking, dad being one of his words. “He only saw him once. After I calmed down, when Emilian was seven months old, I took him to his father’s workplace, so he can meet him. I feel that a child, no matter how old is the child, misses one of his parents. His dad held him for a while, said ironically that he’s beautiful and that was all. I tried to explain to him that our relationship is different from their relationship, as father and son, but he didn’t seem to understand. And I couldn’t go further because he had already found someone to get marry to and now he has another baby to care for”, Cerasela says.

In spite her sad story, Cerasela believes that ever since Emilian was born, miracles started happening. She would only receive a 50 euros allowance each month, since she didn’t work long enough before she got pregnant and she wasn’t eligible for more. Even though she had no clue about the way she will raise him, she knew one thing for sure: God was going to help her. Getting in touch with Provita Department (Metropolis of Moldavia and Bukovina), she was given everything she needed before and after Emilian was born. “Ultrasounds, blood tests, clothes,a baby bed, they paid for all of it and it meant so much to me. When I got pregnant, I had no support, I felt terrible, got a job in the third month of pregnancy, tried to hide the baby, cried every night. Provita also helped me to go to therapy, there is a shrink that I can go to anytime. Some people may say I’m a dreamer, but I’ve received everything I prayed for, without even getting to tell someone I needed those things, and that really was a miracle”, Cerasela says.

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Giving birth to Emilian also helped her to become independent, something she always wished for, but never got the courage to do. She moved away from her parents, got a job, while Emilian was still going to daycare, but the biggest change was about her health. “It may seem a little weird what I’m going to say, but I believe this child came to being so he can change me. My life wasn’t too clean and tidy and, although I had my share of mistakes, I guess I’ve managed to take the right decisions afterwards…”, Cerasela says.

Although she is 27 years old, Cerasela is short and she weighs 92 pounds, so she looks like a child carrying around another child. She can see a certain look on people’s faces, but to her, these are only chances of telling her story. The story that helped her find out that a baby is a miracle and, no matter what, keeping him can only lead to other miracles. This is the message that Cerasela has for all the other mothers who sometimes might feel helpless: there is help. And there is always a way to choose life.

***

This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the
edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is
welcome.

 

A journey that still goes on

Alexandru Luchici. Founder of the “euRespect” Foundation, responsible projects creator, a lobbyist for people with disabilities to have a beautiful life. Because Alex does love life. He loved it in 2006 when diving into the shallow waters of the Danube’s Delta left him paralyzed from the shoulders down and before that. But, most importantly, he kept on loving it afterwards.

Alex’s dream was to become a tour guide. To him, the nature which he had admired in all its forms meat home. As a child, he was passionate about animals, biology and especially about the beauty of the birds, he grew up with the song of the birds, as he used to travel to the Danube’s Delta and to climb up the mountains. The summer vacations spent with his grandmother were the best, so one day he would put that house on the must-see travel list for the tourists to come. He was aiming to show those passing by something wonderful they could keep in their hearts.

Active and optimistic as he was, Alex returned home from Iasi, after graduating the first year of college, to attend an independent film festival that took place at Sfântu Gheorghe, in the Danube’s Delta. He met there with some tourists and he was going to show them a shipwreck, when Alex decided to first take a dive into the water of the Delta, to cool-off. His life journey would completely reroute on that day of 18th of August.

Aware that he had just broken his spine and not being able to move anymore, Alex tried to keep his head up and not let his mind dwell. He was telling the others how to get help, encouraging them. They were expecting some pretty long hours back to the shore, with a water ambulance, then a land ambulance transport and a helicopter transfer to Bucharest.

Starting the moment of the accident, Alex realized that his optimistic nature was a gift that, more than ever, had to be put to use. He spent three months in the intensive care unit in Bucharest, intubated, and another year in all kinds of hospitals, because of the complications that occurred afterwards.

Although sometimes he felt like he was overwhelmed by pain, his ultimate suffering was seeing his family and friends hurt. “I couldn’t stand seeing them like that, they were petrified. I would look at them and, you know, I don’t have a hard time smiling, so I would smile and tell them to just talk, to defuse the situation a bit”, Alex says.

While Alex helped them smile, his family and friends helped him go through the recovery phase. Crowdfunding campaigns were made, to cover the surgery and the recovery procedures costs, as well traveling to Germany, Budapest, and China. Almost 120.000 Euros were transferred into Alex’s bank account, some of it donated by complete strangers, and his heartfelt emotions are still vivid to this day when he recalls his experience.

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The day he left the hospital wasn’t by far a sad one, as we might think. In spite the fact he was in a wheelchair now, Alex was focused on something else.

“I yearned to get out, to breathe fresh air, I couldn’t care less about the wheelchair. I had lost so much weight, but it didn’t bother me. It was my inner state that was important”, Alex says.

He tried even an experimental stem cells treatment, hoping that his bone marrow lesion diagnostic could be changed. He felt better, being able to breathe without a nebulizer, but he couldn’t still regain his mobility. And I’m saying still because Alex never ceased hoping. He is confident that someday physics will advance enough to find the cure he needs. Until then, he calmly continues to smile, turning every day of his life into a precious one.

The road he had walked along with his girlfriend before and after the accident, for many years, has split and became one of friendship and giving. They founded “euRespect” so they can support other people with disabilities.

When I had the accident there weren’t all these information channels. I have had, for a very long time, the impression I was an isolated case. But, through the recovery phase, I have met many people with the same problem as mine, after diving or another type of accident. So I started to connect with them, to see what we can do to overcome this. I started a blog and wrote about myself and after that, I have received a lot of messages from a lot of people, family or friends of those who have suffered an accident. I think this it’s very important: an advice given at the right time regarding the medical evolution or a good word can change one’s life when is facing hard times”, Alex says.

And so he decided to do more than writing on his blog. Although he had lived difficult moments, not knowing what his life will look like after the accident, Alex knows that he is part of the lucky ones that didn’t isolate, that weren’t put down by depression. Keeping his memories before the accident intense, willing to create new ones and connect with people, he was aware that it’s not his state the one stopping him from having an active life, but the social barriers.

The fact that some people have the tendency to keep the distance, not knowing how to react, the absence of a wheelchair ramp in a public transportation vehicle or that he would bump against a sidewalk, trying to go get some fresh air, made Alex to expose  all these problems and even take action to change it, through his foundation. The donations, the 2% income tax or the tax on profit are the ones that make his dreams come true. The Foundation has different awareness projects that bring people together, the ones with disabilities along with the ones without them, so it can change the general perception about disabilities and develop an inclusive society.

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We want to emphasize the value of the people with disAbilities in order to create opportunities for them, to become active citizens, being hired or having a dynamic life in any other way. Through our projects, we managed to help financially those who needed recovery procedures or to offer school materials to students with special needs at a high school in Iași. These are small projects, but powerful. Now we are keen on a new one, we wish to create tourist routes for people with disabilities in Iași. Actually, I have found my way back to my passion for Geography, I could say that I have discovered a new route towards it”, Alex says.

Invited to Brussels and Iași to speak about the access the people with disabilities have to assistive technology and a tourism strategy, Alex has managed to bring his ideas to light and he hopes that the municipality will cooperate so they can put them into effect. With an income around 200 Euros, insufficient to cover all expenses, Alex has learned, by himself, to work as a graphic designer as he still needs regular medical assistance and recovery procedure. A significant input was his brother’s breakthrough, QuadJoy, a machine that helps Alex work on a laptop, by moving his lips.

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Alex also managed to get a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree, after the syllabus was adapted for him, so he can send projects and be evaluated. At the same time, he has adjusted his car, so he can get in easier, with an elevator, and along with his care giver, he goes on many trips,  including to the Danube’s Delta, in Tulcea. Because, as I said, Alex never stopped to really love life.

***

This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

A mother’s love is the strongest force

Liviana Tane. The one who started her traveling project “Around the world in 100 books” (“Ocolul lumii în 100 de cărți” in Romanian). Some of you may have been her students in the past year at The Writing School workshops. Or you may know her as a former colleague since Liviana worked as a show producer and news station editorial coordinator at Realitatea TV and DIGI24 channels. She may have helped you write your stories, but she never told you about hers. The one that lifts you up and then smashes you straight into rock bottom. One about the financial crisis, house eviction, break up, about a single mom, depression, and about losing it all, twice. In spite of it all, life has had an amazing way to get back at her, by providing her with solutions where she wouldn’t even have dreamed of looking.

Liviana’s neighbors remember her as being that girl with plaits who was always reading books. She secretly learned to read when she was five years old after she saw her mother fascinated reading for hours and hours. The Pardaillan Knights series was Liviana’s first serious reading, in the first grade. “I recall that we had this moment, we were going out, my mother and I, and for her to make me go, she would have to say each time ‘I’m also buying you a book’, and she always did that, so I was reading the entire book on my way back home. The whole walk was like this, I would hold my book, reading, and my mom would make sure that I wouldn’t stumble, by holding me by the dress I was wearing”, Liviana says.

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She was a desired child. Her mother had two boys and she took the risk to bear one more, although she was suffering from a critical cardiac disease because she wanted a girl so badly. After she gave birth to Liviana she felt into a coma for three days. She hoped that the girl would remain home with her when she grew up, but Liviana, rebel as she remembers being, was the first to leave home. She went to Bucharest so she could become a lawyer, but she turned out to be a journalist. The Romanian language was the one to take her there and the one to save her life a couple of times, she believes. She owes everything she is to television, since it’s the place where she learned how to be a woman of skill.

In 2009 Liviana’s life was an ideal one. She had a life partner, she was the head of the News  department at the most important news television at that moment, she was involved in other projects and had plenty of money so she wouldn’t have a care in the world. She went to the bank and made the decision to buy a house and a car and she didn’t think there’s any chance for that puzzle to crumble. She then thought it’s the right moment to have a baby and this is how David was born.

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The financial crisis which hadn’t been a problem until then would destroy everything Liviana had succeeded to create. At her boss’ favor to continue her maternal leave and not going back to work that year, because he wouldn’t be able to pay her, and emotionally vulnerable, Liviana accepted staying home. Three months later found herself in an unimaginable financial dead end. “There would’ve been the three of us who had to live from that allowance: my baby, his father who had lost his job and I. And we also had to pay each month the mortgage which was twice as much as the allowance.”, she says.

The stress of that time affected the 10 years long relationship Liviana had with her life partner, causing them to break up, Liviana becoming a single mom. The bank threatened with eviction, she sold the car, trying to cover her debt, but they were bigger every day. To make things worse, nobody wanted to hire her. She had such an impressive career, that everyone thought she was overqualified.

“My expectations weren’t big at all, I just wanted a job that could offer me the chance to buy some formula for my baby. It was that simple…But everybody imagined that they couldn’t afford my services because I would be too expensive”, Liviana says.

Afraid not to end up homeless with her little boy, after she had already lost her partner, her TV job, and her car, Liviana made some huge efforts to keep the house, believing as she was taught that she would be stronger by owning a house. A vicious circle, trying to make ends meet, until the day she decided to give up.

The bank evicted her and she took her son and moved next block, in a rented apartment that had two rooms.“I instantly felt that all the burden was discharged and I realized that not having a house and a partner is not something that defines me. On the contrary, I was overwhelmed by the situation, I was crying at nights, having panic attacks, hell broke loose. Knowing your kid is in the other room and you haven’t got any clue if you can afford to buy more diapers, but still having to keep up the appearances…It’s an enormous conflict”, she says.

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The hardest thing was that she wasn’t even able to talk to her family about her situation. She had been financially and emotionally supporting them, her parents being sick, Liviana’s brothers being away. So that conflict kept on growing on the inside.

“It was horrible and I have been physically affected also, trying to protect myself, to fence everybody off, so I gain weight a lot, I was weighing 104 kilos (229 pounds). I haven’t spoken with anybody, kept it all to myself, I guess my family doesn’t know, not even now, what was that nightmare’s real dimension”, Liviana says.

And the nightmare didn’t stop there. The fact that she had given up and the house was repossessed didn’t miraculously covered her huge debts. Finally, she managed to find a job, one that got her to her career starting point, she was a website editor for a European project.

“Journalists know that this is an entry-level job, so from where I was the news head department, having been to CNN, a superheroine, now I was the girl writing the website content. But it didn’t seem not one second to be under my dignity, I was coming from a world where every job and opportunity was a life savior”, she says.

The project’s communication director moved abroad, so Liviana got his job. She didn’t seem to be able to stay afloat, there were always ups and downs. The project was over after a while, so she had to look for a job again. She started working again as a TV producer and took on other projects as well, so she managed to recover from her losses.

Her savings were a few tens of thousands euros, borrowed other tens of thousands, trying to open up a Communication and Media classes school and, for the second time in her life, she lost it all. Her business attempt proved out to be a failure. Another experience she didn’t say a word about. I had a breakdown, the worse depression I could have suffered from. Last summer was a nightmare for me. I send my son to his grandmother the whole vacation, I think I saw him twice. And for three months I didn’t leave the house”, Liviana says.

She had a very good friend that would come and drink a lemonade with her once or twice a week, just to be sure that she was still alive, but not even him knew about Liviana’s situation.

 

She was going through such a hard time that she can’t remember how she lived. The only details her mind is giving her access to are those related to David. The distance between them was the one that helped Liviana grieve all she had to, but, at the same time, David was her only connection with the real world. Without that one, Liviana doesn’t think that she would have been able to go forward.

I don’t know if I would have looked up for solutions because there were moments I felt like completely giving up and then I would hear his voice telling me ‘Mom, I’m a little busy now, talk to you later, bye’, and then hanging up. And I said to myself that this is a careless child, why should he worry because of me? That wasn’t my job, my job was to assure of him being exactly as he was: careless”, she says.

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So Liviana kept on finding solutions, for David didn’t have any time to spend on problems. She gathered all the strength left and she started taking steps to get out of that story. She received an invitation to master a storytelling class, for free, at a bloggers woman school and she said yes, her class was very appreciated. From that moment on life surprised her.

I guess I was lucky then, very lucky, for keeping myself together and because the solution came from where I have never expected. Now that you are asking me, I can figure out that the solution was in my childhood, with the first letters handed under my brother’s board, with the first letter, those first books and my mom carrying me not to stumble. I got home to myself, also having David who is pretty much the same age with me at that time”, Liviana says.

It has been a year now since life had revealed her one thing after another, things that she didn’t even searched for, but found her home. Turning 40 years old, she wishes to live the rest of her life by showing what she has learned so far. She has succeeded once again to recover from losses, by working hard, and soon as she will move with David  in a three rooms apartment, still rented, but closer to David’s school.“I’m at the highlight of my life, living now that happy moment, the happiest of my entire life, when I can do whatever I want to, and if I can’t find my place, I’m creating it”, she says.

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So she has founded three projects: “Smart Schooling”, a media project for high school students, another one for the ones who love writing, “The Writing School”, running storytelling workshops in different cities, and the newest one is called “Around the world in 100 books”. Once a month Liviana goes to a European city following the steps of a writer she admires, so in the following ten years, at least, she will do these things that she loves most, reading, traveling and writing, teaching others to collect chapters in their own stories. Proving that you can make a living out of writing.

Above all, she wishes most to be on her own two feet, looking at the glass half full, so David can have a healthy model and to continue wanting to be a man of skill, just like his mother is. David’s father used to come visit once a year on his birthday. For the past two years, he didn’t.

If anything, this story is about unconditional love, the only one that can’t become rusty because a financial crisis, the only one that makes David shout with joy “You are the best mom a kid could wish for and I love you!”, and the only one that kept Liviana alive. So much, that she can still trust herself and the others, enough to say “yes” again, in case a new relationship will show up. She confesses that she is not looking for one, but, for the first time, she is not rejecting it. If it will come knocking on the door of her heart, it will find her home.

***

This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the
edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is
welcome.

Meeting life at the last floor

Mircea Serediuc, also known as Tzury. A nickname that would change his life. You may know him as a public speaker, TEDx speaker, Android developer, volunteer, but, most important of all, experience creator. Similar to some colors put chaotically on an easel by a painter. But it turned out to be the most beautiful creation when the colors got to fuse.

His eyes are green and may seem a little nervous, his deep voice reveals a strong decision to open up, to be alive. Tzury’s story is, from my point of view, the one of an emotional abandoned child who traveled an adventurous and explosive road, so he can learn who he is. You could admire him for a lot of his achievements, as you will find out as we get close to this coverage end. But their real value comes from the fact that the stairs he used to reach them are the same he went down, before, one by one, in what we can call a hell of a pain.

“A kid doesn’t care if you are a manager, a CEO, whatever… No, a kid wants to play with the man sitting beside them. My mom was a quality control manager, my dad was a businessman…”, Tzury says.

His parents had important titles, so they offered him everything, except their presence. He grew up until he was 5 years old with his grandparents, facing an acute urge of belonging, wanting, more than he could realize, to be seen, accepted, loved for who he was.

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This is how we grow up, with ‘Don’t embarrass me’ forged in the back of our head. We disconnect from the reality we are living in so we can make others proud, so we don’t abash ourselves, so they can continue loving us. Shame is telling you that you’re not good enough. Not that you should feel guilty about anything. You define yourself as a man that doesn’t know how to draw or do this or that. And then I got to ask myself, do I even want to be good at this?!”, he says.

He was put face to face with a system that would crush his identity, both at school and at home. To meet the expectations his parents had for him, in a social context, even in his own imagination about what he should be, so he can have the right to exist. And as he felt that he couldn’t relate to those unbearable patterns, his emotional unbalance was rapidly surfacing. He became obese, weighing 137 kilos (302 pounds).

Nine years he had been bullied, his fellows were calling him Tzury, they refused to play with him unless he had a ball to share. He hadn’t had a girlfriend until he was 24 years old because, as he recalls, he was fat…

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And so, years went by playing video games, he had found a friend in alcohol, desperately seeking for any kind of external validation. And when he managed to date a girl, he found himself drowning in pain, after a breakup. The abandonment seemed to stubbornly take bite after bite out of him. “When I realized I had to stop running away from pain and actually face it, live it, I had some pretty rough times. I kept thinking I didn’t deserve that…Watching girls passing by and not having the guts to ask them out. And I had put so much pressure on myself, blaming myself that another night passed by, and I kept on failing on finding someone. And I kept on crying, kept on getting drunk until I eventually got tired…”, Tzury says.

The worst time of his life was when he found out that his dad wasn’t really who he thought he was. His father not only got sick, fighting with diabetes, which he had neglected, along with a cerebrovascular accident, but he had also kept silent regarding some things that would leave a lot of scars.

He had to make a decision, not an easy one, but a necessary one, to take his father to an asylum. Also being the man in the house, a role Tzury silently took over from childhood. After a second cerebrovascular accident, the man he idealized had died. Seeing his father on the battlefield, with his weapons down, after yet another breakup, Tzury was standing on the last floor of a building, thinking about taking a leap.

Without any hope left, identifying himself with his father before he had died, Tzury learned how to defeat death, by choosing to take the first real step towards being alive. He woke up from this suffocating pain, so he could be alive. Just like he had done ever since he was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. “I had the chance to work with this shrink who asked me: ‘How many children were you?’ And I replied: one. ‘And how many were you supposed to be?’ I don’t know…I’m the lucky one who got to live…”, he says. So he decided to stick around and see what happens next.

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In his new journey which, somehow, started since his dad got sick, over 40 kilos of unbearable emotions were released, he discovered meditation, a method of bringing peace to his mind, he paid more attention to his sleeping schedule, so he could find vitality from within and he started working out. It took great courage, but, with professional help, he started creating new experiences, he wanted more than just filter some information.

“Six months I walked through the world, I went to a ‘You got Humor’ audition, I had a stand-up comedy number, I gave skydiving a shot, I collected funds so I could teach children from Kenya, Indonesia, and Mexico. I was also a mentor at a public speaking workshop, I took dancing lessons, I even dressed up as a woman once, anything you can think of that could make me experience shame, so I can feel it and not run from it…”, says Tzury.

In spite of it all, he mastered finding his way home, coming out of his shell. “I belong, I belong to myself, it took me a while to figure it out. It all starts with self-acceptance, and this is not quitting, this means finding another way to get there, because if you quit, it’s you that you’re quitting on, it’s you the one who doesn’t get another chance. People quit because they believe they are not good enough,  they start comparing”, he says.

That one experience that may seem singular, but it isn’t.

“I believe that the things that we need most are within us, somehow. But, in the same time, you need someone to sit next to you, to help you figure out some things. It’s live driving, you always have this blind spot and you need someone that can see. Not to get addicted to, but someone you can be mirrored in, from another perspective, there is always hope”, Tzury says.

How he got to accept the name Tzury: at the end of a play, as an actor in a troupe of people who weren’t officially accepted as actors, the entire auditorium was calling out his name, cheering for him; he realised that his place was on stage, so he continued going on all types of stages, calling himself Tzury.

He dreams of having a family, a child whom he will not abandon, and a community of people who can look into each other’s eyes and say “I know how it feels”, even though this is often accompanied by shame, fear, and doubt, things he continues to encounter, but now he can also joke about them. He strongly believes that each of us is born with a mission, and his mission seems to be that of telling how he accepted himself, so others can accept themselves too, and then tell their stories. Regarding his phenomenal intuition, as he names it, he thinks he has to live more so he can figure out how to use it properly.

***

This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.