My illness gave me the chance to begin a new way of life
Anya Trishechkina, our heroine for May, spent a whole year in hospital. Her treatment was tough, and she found herself in intensive care several times. It was impossible for her to always keep her spirits up. But she found support from her grandmother, who fought against the illness alongside her, and from volunteers and doctors. After her recovery, Anya’s life has changed completely, and she considers that a victory.
You graduated from university last year. What are you up to now?
Last year, I finished my bachelor’s degree in Labour Economics, and I’m now working at Russian Railways. The job is fairly monotonous, but I understand why it’s important, and that motivates me to give it my all.
How did you find out about your illness? How did your treatment go?
I discovered my diagnosis (acute lymphoblastic leukaemia) the same way as many children—almost by accident. I had a fever that wouldn’t go away, but no runny nose or coughing. After a few weeks, my legs started to ache as well. At that point, my grandmother couldn’t take it anymore and took me to a hospital. The doctors gave me a blood test straight away. Once the results were in, I was locked away in hospital. At first I was in Saratov, and then they transferred me to the Russian Children’s Clinical Hospital in Moscow. That’s the place where I battled for my life and health.
At first, the doctors told me that treatment would take several months, but in the end it stretched out to nearly a year. My body took a very long time to recover from each chemotherapy course. I was also very anxious when I heard that my hair would fall out. I remember that I even asked my mother to take me home: “Mum, let’s just get out of here. If I’m already losing so much now, what’s going to happen later?”
To say that I was suffering would be an understatement. Even so, I was having a better time of it than my loved ones. Being with a sick person is harder than being sick yourself. While a person’s ill, they become helpless. You want to help them, but usually nobody knows how to do it without doing them harm instead. In hospital, my grandmother was the one there with me. You could say that we overcame my illness together.
So you think your grandmother was suffering more than you were. Did you find some way to support her?
We were a perfect team. Despite her age, my grandmother managed to drag me out of hospital to go on walks around Moscow. She wouldn’t let me get depressed when I was feeling sad. And for her, I was a kind of restraining force. Falling into panic is as easy for her as breathing, and I was able to stop her from getting too anxious.
Your treatment was fairly lengthy. What kind of attitude did you adopt to it?
When things were going relatively smoothly, I just went with the flow. But twice I got sent to intensive care, and that was a real ordeal and I found myself burning out emotionally. That’s when I found help not only from my friends and loved ones, but from volunteers as well.
I was particularly good friends with Lyusya. Once she said to me, “What do you think you’re doing? Get out of this state you’re in. You life’s not over—you’ve got it all ahead of you. What matters most right now is for you to defeat your enemy and get your health back.” Her optimistic outlook was infectious. We could spend hours sitting together and talking about anything that came to mind like the best of friends. With her, I didn’t feel like a patient, and I forgot all my problems.
How did you find out about the Podari Zhizn Foundation?
It was from Lyusya that I learned that the volunteers were being backed by a serious organisation, the Podari Zhizn Foundaiton. I learned that its people were working to help children like me, as well as our parents. The Foundation doesn’t leave people to face their troubles alone. It gives them hope and faith in the future.
When you were finally released from hospital with a clean bill of health, what kind of welcome did you find at home?
When I was in hospital, I often thought about how I’d come home and see my friends again. But nothing worked out the way I’d expected. I couldn’t go back to my old life. I came home and nobody—and I mean nobody—wanted to be around me. I don’t know why it happened that way. When I was in hospital, I’d reassure myself that my friends and acquaintances merely didn’t have the time or opportunity to write to me. But then I realised that they must have simply been scared of something, or unwilling to bring illness so close to their own lives. In the end, they just left my life. After that, I retreated into myself. But now I understand that at that point we simply had different goals. Mine was to recover no matter what. My friends’ was to be liked by their peers, to start new relationships. Still, until I finished school I was living as if on an uninhabited island.
Did your life change when you went to university in Moscow?
Before my illness, I was overly superficial, like most teenagers. I didn’t spend time thinking about the future. I was entirely satisfied with studying in Saratov and then coming back to my home town of Rtishchevo. But I guess because of everything that had happened to me my priorities changed, and I decided to apply only for higher education in Moscow.
Then, once I was in my first year, I brought my doctor, Nadezhda Vladimirovna, my student record. And she said to me, “I hope this gets filled with nothing but As.” And you see, in that moment she set me a target! She believed in my abilities, gave me the very support I had so longed for from my peers. After that, I put everything I had, all my passion, into my studies. My reward was a first class degree. I was able to find a common language with my fellow students as well. I won’t lie to you, though: I’ve never completely got over my old grudge against my schoolmates.
How did these trials influence your character?
While I was ill, I’d often ask myself what I’d done to have to suffer like this, but now I think, “That’s just how it went.” All in all, I chose to see my illness as a second chance, an opportunity to start my life again, but do it differently this time. To spend less time worrying about trivial things, not make mountains out of molehills… Sometimes I forget that myself, especially after a hard day’s work. But then again, compared to when I was ill, everything I have right now is wonderful. I can walk, go for a wander outside, breathe without a mask, and my hair looks fantastic. I have no limitations, I’m alive!
That’s great! And what would you wish the children receiving treatment right now?
I wish them patience, because that’s what matters most. Also, you mustn’t live in the past and hold onto it, or it might come back to bite you later, the way it did with me. Just understand that everybody has their own path in life, their own road to walk. Don’t give up and keep moving forwards, towards the goals you’ve set yourself.
Gift of Life thanks all donors and friends of the charity for the invaluable support. Together we give children and young people like Anya a better chance to beat cancer. To keep helping, please visit Giftoflife.eu/donate