The Story of Mariella and her Glioblastoma

In these days I received an email from Franco that told the story of Mariella and her battle with glioblastoma. I decided to publish it in its entirety because it is also a beautiful love story and how together we can face the difficult challenges that life sometimes puts in front of us.

“Mariella and I met in 1990, I was 36, she was 34. We were both coming from the failure of our respective marriages. At that time she had one child and I had two. We immediately liked each other and fell in love in a few days and after a few months we decided to make a home together. Our lives, quite disastrous, slowly took shape again, the clouds of the past years gave way to a beautiful blue spring sky. We were happy as perhaps we no longer expected to be: the best years of our life! So travel after travel, Christmas after Christmas, birthday party after birthday party, the years passed light and carefree and we, like two kids in love, had entered the fifties without realizing it.

In October 2006, as soon as we returned from a short vacation in Alicudi, where we stayed for a night on the beach, almost until morning, looking spellbound at the celestial vault studded with millions of stars, as we had never seen in our life, that only the clear sky of that wonderful Sicilian island gives you the possibility to see, the glioblastoma knocked on our door. Mariella was a young woman in perfect health, she controlled herself methodically, so when her colleagues at work warned me that she had been taken to the emergency room, I immediately thought of her heart. I flew the scooter to get to the hospital as soon as possible. I saw her confused, with a lost look that I will not be able to forget. The doctors were doubtful, the only thing I knew was that it was an epileptic seizure. It took days to know more or less the diagnosis close to the truth: they told me it was an astrocytoma.

We went to the Besta in Milan, which I found myself surfing the internet by myself. In my city, Messina, the head of neurosurgery of the university polyclinic, as well as, at the time, rector of the university, after defining the diagnosis, specifying that it was glioblastoma multiforme, told me that it was not operable and that the time that she had no more than three months to live.

In Milan everything changed, Mariella was operated on, the tumor in the left parietal area removed, and radio and chemo removed the monster for about four years. The brain operation lasted more than 10 hours, left her with some minor side effect. Mariella had a slight aphasia, she read and wrote with some difficulty, she could not stand the noises and often watched the TV with the volume almost turned off. Unfortunately she stopped singing. She was a singer, albeit an amateur, of good talent and her exercises in her house delighted me and much of the neighborhood.

In those four years we had an almost normal life, only a little slower, however with many trips, many visits to our children scattered in various cities in the north of Italy and a wonderful cruise in the Aegean Sea. A second epileptic seizure was the signal that the glioblastoma, unfortunately, had not forgotten us, in fact it returned. New operation at Besta, radio and chemo. This time the results were heavier, all the problems of the first operation intensified, but they left Mariella a fair amount of autonomy.

Two years later we were going by bus with friends to a sanctuary in the mountains, when Mariella began to have a tremor in her right leg that she could not control. I understood immediately, I took her to the nearest emergency department and there, at the hospital, she had the third epileptic seizure, which stated the return of her disease. The resonance of the following day confirmed my suspicions, but this time the situation was dramatic. The tumor had re-formed in an inoperable area, we had to give up.

These were three months of suffering, for Mariella who was slowly dying out and for me who could not help her in any way. In the cold, rainy, dark and sad afternoon of January 25, 2013, Mariella left this world, I hope to go to a dimension without pain and disease, where she will be able to get back that sweet smile that I loved so much.

I have continued to live, I have changed cities, I have a new partner, we are happy and we love each other. However, I do not forget the glioblastoma, I am always available to give my help and I am sure that one day it will be defeated and that day I will want to celebrate to honor Mariella’s courageous fight against an enemy that has been won, but has not defeated her, because she never lowered her head, never stepped back, and her legs never trembled. (To Mariella)”.

I hope you enjoyed this story. It is a story of love and hope. Franco dedicated it to Mariella, and I dedicate it to all those who today are fighting against glioblastoma that, like Franco, I am convinced we will soon be able to tame.