The struggle goes on
"I am ready to eat the soil with with my teeth if I knew I’d get better and be able to see my son grow up"
Time is running against Natalia Malaniuc, a 27-year-old mother from Chisinau. She was diagnosed with a third degree sarcoma in 2000, and after many surgeries it spread to her brain. Despite several interventions, the disease advanced to metastatic cancer. She needs radio and chemotherapy treatments that cost 15,000 euros. In addition, travelling expenses and accommodation in Turkey or another hospital overseas are required for her rehabilitation. Mrs. Malaniuc’s sole support is her husband Denis, who, despite suffering from bone dysplasia, works in construction.
an article by MARINA LIŢA
Natalia Malaniuc wanted to become a doctor and cure or relieve pain in people suffering from cancer. "When I was three, my sister Anişoara died of cancer. At the same time my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Doctors suggested that she give birth. Thus, Tincuta, my younger sister, appeared", she begins. In the meantime, her grandmother also died of cancer. "She was already old when she was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus", says Natalia in a detached manner.
But the challenges did not stop here. Two weeks after Natalia's birthday, her mother died. "I was 14 when I was left without a mother, with a younger sister that I had to take care of. I said to myself then that I would become a doctor, but fate had something else in store for me", she says.
The sister, then the mother
One year after her mother’s death she had an accident while playing sports. "At 13, I started playing rugby. Our school had a team, and I needed to shed the excess energy somewhere. After my Mom died, I was more and more involved and then I overdid it. During a workout, I hit my foot and then everything started", she said, showing the scar left on her leg from surgery.
"I was diagnosed with a third degree sarcoma. Typically in these cases, the foot is amputated, but the doctor who cured me was a young professional, so he wanted to do his best in order to start a career and decided to do the operation. It was the first of its kind. Following surgery, the disease "shot", as doctors say. It passed to the brain", she stops for a moment and takes a deep breath. "After that, I became a patient of the Oncology Institute, and at the same time a patient of the Neurology and Neurosurgery Institute, going from one operation to another", says Natalia.
Love at the Oncology
At the Oncologycal hospital she met Denis, who would become her husband. "When was it? In 2007, I had the first operation on my brain. We already knew each other. I think it was 2004, yes, sure, the year of 2004. It's easier to remember certain periods of life in relation to operations that I had", she says, looking in a bag that showed the history of her life through MRI images, receipts and other papers.
"I had other thoughts, I was not thinking at all about boys and relationships. Usually, there are more elderly people hospitalized, but that year we were a group of youth. We spent time playing cards in the hospital. Denis is a good player, he always won. I had beginner's luck. Since then, we started dating. Years have passed, right, Daddy?" she turns to the man sitting on the couch.
As mentioned, Natalia’s husband suffers from bone dysplasia. "My body does not assimilate calcium and the bones grind. I feel better now, that’s what the doctor told me", says Denis. "Don’t forget about the jaw," Natalia tried to add, but Denis interrupted. "He said I am ok, I am well", whispered the man, the only support of the family. He works in construction, putting laminate on floors.
"When I was able to move, I worked, too. I had a tailor’s shop", Natalia says. "She was good at what she did”, mentions Natalia’s friend. “I remember that I came to visit with her friends, showing what we bought. Then she would start pointing what was not sewn well, or what did not suit us, and so on.”
She kept her optimism even when the doctors told her to quit. "When I was first with Denis, I decided that we would have a child. But every time something intervened. An urgent surgery and so on for five years, until one day when the doctor asked me to take a pregnancy test. When I saw that it was positive, I thought it was a joke. I did it again and the same result appeared. Without thinking too much I decided that I wanted this child. I did not care that I was preparing for the next operation, or that my health state could worsen. I am a woman, I was loved by my husband and I wanted to give the man that I loved a child. Many told me that I had to think about the child’s future, but how can they understand what I've been through?", Natalia tries to apologize.
In seven months, Ionut, a perfectly healthy boy, was born. But the mother was able to keep him in her arms only two weeks after his birth. "After the Cesarean, I was taken straight into another room for brain surgery. Again", she says. "She said she would not cry, but she could not stop crying when she saw the baby", her husband says. "He was so small. You could not see his head beneath the small hat he was wearing", she recalls.
Between surgeries and medicines
She thought it would be a girl. "I wanted to call her Ana Julia, in the memory of my mother and sister who died. A friend, Vanya, said that if I had a boy, I should give him his name. I did not like everyone calling my baby Vanya, so I named him Ionut. I also call him Nuţu", says Natalia. "She always does what she wants", mentions Denis happily.
Now she is preparing for surgery. "And another one... I stopped counting at the 15th," she says. All costs are paid by the family. "We did an MRI and I paid 2,000 lei. You can use the insurance policy, but I need to do it urgently, so there is no time to wait six months until my turn comes", says Natalia. Added to this is the cost of the drugs.
Natalia says it would be easier if they could get outside. The five-story block has no lift and the five staircases have no bars which could support her while climbing the stairs. "I carry her in my arms from the first floor to the fifth and back. She is so light, I can easily lift her up, that is an easy weight for me", says the husband, looking fondly at the woman he fell in love with at the first glance.