Bonus chapter: Never Alone

Happy New Year! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends and looking forward to an amazing 2018.

As we were going through the final editing of the book many chapters had to come out not to interrupt the flow (oh it was painful – it felt like choosing between your children…) but thanks to the magic of blogging I can still share these here. I hope that these lines will add a bit more context and background to my story. Over the coming weeks I’ll be posting a few of these. Enjoy!


Never Alone

Cancer couldn’t have come at a worse time – not that there is ever a great time for it – as it hit during my last year of high school. Alongside my battle with cancer I had to sit final exams, look after my younger brother who had just joined the same boarding school, and manage my life with a family scattered throughout different countries. (I can see in hindsight that high school exams are not worth so much stress, but back then they felt like everything and represented that next step in my life.)

Since I was a child, it has been my dream to live and study abroad. I was fortunate to grow up in an environment where international travel, overseas visitors and different languages being spoken around the house were part of everyday life. Through hard work and of course some luck, my parents had drastically changed our family circumstances, which culminated in the move from Hungary to the beautiful city of Vienna in 2003. The distance itself is not huge but the difference to our lives was substantial. My parents have sacrificed for years so that my brother and I can have a better life, and for that (and for just about everything else) I am eternally grateful.

I always had that lingering feeling that there was life beyond the borders of Hungary and, at 18, I was offered the chance. “Pick any country,” my father had said one evening before we knew about the cancer, “you can go live and study there”. Now, to make it from the Hungarian education system (which by all accounts is demanding) to an international university was not so common back then. I needed almost perfect grades to have a fighting chance against the children from international and private schools. On top of this I had had to deal with cancer. To say that this was a bit challenging would be something of an understatement. I had to accept that whatever my current situation may be, life went on. I had goals I wanted to achieve but to get there I had to make changes.

Once I realised that cancer was an unavoidable reality, I wasn’t afraid of asking for help. After my friends and teachers understood what I was going through their help was never even in question. We worked out a schedule with the school so that I could fit classes and exams around chemotherapy. My friends created an informal support group. My brother, who was about 15 at the time, looked after me like an older brother would when I was wiped out by my treatment. My mother and father, while managing the move from one country to another, put their lives on hold and made my life and health their top priority. Their love and support pulled me through the dark months.