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Cancer and Scuba Diving – Gabriella’s story

Cancer and Scuba Diving – Gabriella’s story

When a member of our GTS community came forward to talk about how she achieved her dream of scuba diving after being diagnosed with Non Hodgkin Lymphoma in August 2008 which started from her elbow and then spread into both sides of her groin, we all read with a small tear in our eye. A tear for happiness, for bravery and for a woman, who we didn’t know, but we are now connected to through the love of the ocean. Gabrielle, 50, kindly shares more of her story with us here. 

Dear Scuba Diary, This Time I Won

This time I won! 

I won my innate resistance to all what I cannot dominate or master.  

I let it go, what will be, will be, I thought… 

I arrive on time for my first time scuba diving, but there is traffic at the club, more than usual, they say. There’s a group of people coming from Milan who has subverted the normal routine of a Sunday morning at the diving: everybody is engaged to prepare himself and all gears for the second turn out on the lake. Need to wait for the boat coming back from the first turn, by now from too many times with the Milan people…My instructor is with them and I need to wait. In the meantime, all guys at the diving help me find the best gear: wetsuit, mask, fins, boots and I start to dress up, like a middle age knight helped by his attendants. 

My photographer friend arrives and in the meantime also my instructor, visibly angry and irritated by the behaviour of the previous group… But, despite of this, he is immediately friendly and kind with me, and starts to find out and prepare the rest of the gear I need, BCD, weights, regulators and tank. 

“After the first convulsive period, where all exams and stadiations are to be done, I started thinking over and over, all day and night long… I had to be strong at home: my two children aged 17 and 12 are old enough to understand, but still young to bear this heavy news! “

Cancer and Scuba Diving - Gabriella's story

Some few instructions and we are ready to go: a small wheel cart helps me to transfer all my gear from the diving to the boat, descending finally towards the lake, in a sunny Sunday morning. Everywhere, tourists who are coming to enjoy the day and lay in the sun, just like at the seaside, every corner is occupied by a towel.

Now it’s my turn: the instructor gives me the latest indications, while my friend is already in the water, I’ve almost not noticed it, until he asked to pass him down his GoPro, ready to record all my experience. 

I put on my BDC, regulator and mask, and sitting on the board slightly slip out and back and in a while I’m in the water. 

A bunch of bubbles is all around me, I cannot realize where I am and cannot breathe … By instinct, I hold my breath, until I come out of the water, don’t know how… take out the regulator from my mouth, I feel like a clumsy penguin,  but they say it’s normal, it’s the first time, I just need to remember to BREATHE!!!

Sounds ridiculous but that’s it, it’s not so simple as it seems!!!

My instructor says to put my head in the water and breath… OK! Now I got it! We start to go down slowly, he is in front of me, leading me by hand. 

At the first sign of annoyance in my ears, pinch my nose and exhale: compensation works as well! I’m down in the water and everything’s going on : cannot believe it! I’m down there, in reality a little bit bouncing right and left, but for a while it’s ok. 

At every breath, bubbles of air invade my visibility but I think it’s normal, until some water starts to flood my mask. Try to do what my instructor explained me at the diving, but no chance. While I try and try, something wrong happens and more water enters my mask and I suddenly inhale and have water into my throat! Panic! Start coughing and I ask immediately to go up , in a while we are out of the water and my buddies are trying to calm me down, saying to breathe and breathe and stay calm, everything’s fine and nothing bad can happen. 

I don’t give up: even though I’ve been coughing for a couple of minutes, I am not scared, even if I thought I said once “cannot stand anymore…” . I’m ready to go down again, head down and we restart. From now on, everything’s going better and better, I start to see a quantity of small fishes, a pikefish, some fresh water shrimps: oh, what a beautiful world!!! There are branches of trees went down in water, that seem to be an art masterpiece, sun rays among them give a fabulous ambience, like modern sculptures! We cross over with other divers, go down again a little and it’s already time to go back! 

It’s done! I feel fantastic: I had dreamed of, for many years now, and now I’m here in our beautiful lake, very few minutes by car from home!!! It’s really a pleasure now taking away all the gears, and just float with wetsuit and talk about the experience I just lived with my buddies. 

And suddenly I think:  fuck off lymphoma, that still last year obliged me in this exact season to start again, with Pet, bone marrow biopsy, medical visits, check-up, exams and so on!!! 

This year, I won! 

Life is wonderful: I go up into the boat and I enjoy every single second of the travel back to the shore, in a wonderful Sunday morning of a hot July! 

Thanks Ale and thanks Renzo: I think I will be back soon!!
With endless gratitude,
(18 July 2015)

“Down there, there are no thoughts about therapy, check-up, doctors and hospitals … down there I’m alone with myself, just hearing my breath and astonished by that wonderful world that only we divers can see! “