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Petre Ion, a cancer survivor, the newest Give Life volunteer: “Life has given me tons of chances. I want to give them back”

When the doctor tells your family you have only two more months to live, the way they come together can really make a difference. And if the road to recovery includes a lot of help from the physicians, your chances of being cured increase substantially.

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This isn’t a doctor giving interviews to journalists, it’s former patient Petre Ion, cured of a form of blood cancer in Romania.

Petre Ion (who was a firefighter in Gaesti before being diagnosed with lymphoma) is the best patient a doctor could ask for: he accepted the help of a psychologist during the treatment, he had a family to support him during his years of fighting the disease, and he followed the doctor’s orders with no hesitation. He’s one of the patients saved by the doctors at the Teaching Hospital of Bucharest, where the Give Life association recently inaugurated the fourth transplant center in Romania. When he had his stem cell transplant, the hospital still didn’t have sterile rooms; they could only be found at Fundeni, but the new center created by our association now has five sterile rooms, where hundreds of patients with various types of cancer can be saved every year.

A big-hearted man

You probably know Mr. Petre Ion from the TV. What you don’t know is that he has decided to become a Give Life volunteer. He was declared cured by the physicians (having had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and having undergone a stem cell transplant at the Fundeni Clinical Institute), is now retired and wants to use all the experience accumulated during his years of treatment in the benefit of other patients who might need his advice. He has already helped every neighbor or relative who has asked for help, with a complete involvement and dedication, and now he has decided to offer his help in a professional manner, through the Give Life association.

The secrets of healing: his family, the therapist and the doctors

For the former fireman, the lymphoma diagnosis came after a few visits to the doctor’s office in 2009. “I had the first signs of illness at the seaside, while on vacation. I was at a hotel, everything was fine, but I couldn’t eat anything and I had the chills. I went to get some blood work done in Targoviste, then they sent me to the Foisor Hospital of Bucharest. They did some tests and first said it was nothing serious …”, he told us in the office of Give Live.

“They told my brother that I only had two more months to live”

Before leaving the doctor’s office, he showed him a lump on his clavicle. “The doctor slapped his head and said “Oh my, I know what this is …” They performed surgery a few days later, did a biopsy and the diagnosis was clear: cancer”, the man tells us.
At the end of 2009, he got to the Teaching Hospital. “Another option would have been to go to the Fundeni Institute, but I’d had a relative die there when I was a kid, so I said no. The doctors at Foisor didn’t tell me how bad things were, they just told my brother that I had two more months to live”.

“I save people for a living. I’m not afraid of dying!”

Around the same time, his mother was diagnosed with a tumor and died shortly, on the 3rd of February 2010. As for the disease he had, a form of blood cancer, he didn’t know too much about it, because the doctors never told him anything straight. “I found out by chance, from another patient. I was wondering what I was doing in the Hematology department and he told me point blank: «You have cancer! This is where they treat cancers!»”

After the first chemotherapy sessions at the Teaching Hospital, he had the first complications. A mass in his colon sent him straight to the O.R. As luck would have it, it wasn’t cancer. After 11 days of not eating anything, the man who once weighed 90 kilos now weighed only 45.

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Petre Ion, during his chemotherapy sessions

A patient gave up the transplant, because he couldn’t pay for the drugs

In the end, he got to Fundeni, the place he had avoided, but the only one where he could have the transplant he needed. “The waiting list was miles long, but one patient gave up, because he didn’t have the money for a drug that cost about EUR 1,000. I felt like going on a trip, so I went to Hungary myself and bought it.”
The former firefighter had an autotransplant, which means he received his own blood, which had been harvested before the treatment, in November-December 2010. The stem cell transplant finally took place in April 2011.
During his treatment, he went through a lot of moments that scarred him. “For instance, at the Teaching Hospital, when someone was about to die in my ward, they moved me to the day treatment ward, the place where they usually harvested blood samples. I stayed there for a couple of days and when I went back, they’d tell me who died”.
His family and the therapist who wouldn’t leave him alone at the Teaching Hospital helped him fight the disease. “The therapist at the Teaching Hospital was very nice. Other patients didn’t want to talk to her, because when you’re feeling so sick the last thing you want to do is pour your heart out. However, she managed to trick me, by asking about my son (whom I badly wanted to see playing handball), in order to get my mind off the disease. It was a trick that I accepted, because it was good for me”, Ion says about the benefits of therapy.

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Dr. Ana Maria Vladareanu and Dr. Horia Bumbea, the doctors treating leukemia patients at the Teaching Hospital

Guarded by his family with candles in their car

His family didn’t abandon him either, even though he’d just divorced his wife before getting sick. “My uncle and my brother slept in the car outside the hospital during the time of the transplant. They even had candles on them, in case something happened…”
Ion got home ok, and other close ones came to his rescue. “I didn’t have a wife any more, and I couldn’t live alone in Gaesti… A cousin who was on maternity leave offered to take me in. She cooked for me every day, even twice a day when I was sick from all the drugs and couldn’t stomach anything”.
As live “gave him tons of chances”, the former fireman is now offering to help anyone who thinks his experience could come in handy. He has already started to help other patients on his own initiative. “I helped by taking them to the hospital, talking to them. I was very impressed by a young woman who called me because she had no family in the country, all her relatives were in Spain. She had TB and leukemia and she used to call me and ask me to go see her. She passed away quickly because of complications.”

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A Teaching Hospital ward that has been renovated by the Give Life association, where leukemia patients can stay when they go in for their regular check-ups

However, Petre Ion doesn’t give up so easily. For any person that asks the association for help and thinks that his experience could be of use, he won’t hesitate to jump in with a piece of advice, psychological support, or taking the patients to the hospital. Meanwhile, the oncology departments renovated by the Give Life association with the money we get from private sponsors (using the facility for donating 20% of the profit tax) or individuals (who donate 2% of their income tax) will be ready for the people for whom destiny has something difficult in store.

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One of the five sterile rooms in the new transplant center at the Teaching Hospital

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