Genuine Suffering

Last winter I succumbed–I developed problems which I think are called cancer-phobia. The fear of getting cancer. People say it happens to hospice volunteers. I had panic attacks, I would wake up at night from simple colic and wouldn’t be able to fall asleep again, thinking terrible thoughts. Then I’d frantically pace down the corridor, pinch and prod myself everywhere, and cry. I found it hard to breathe, I inhaled air as if oxygen were shut off. I was shaking, and I was finding symptoms of every disease imaginable. If I had an unexpected bruise, which is normal since I’m active in sports so I don’t always notice being hit, I started to wonder. I couldn’t do normal things–writing, reading, having a conversation. I remember how we got acquainted with Nina in a hospice who had a lump on her hand which then grew and consumed the hand, which was amputated, and then the rest of her. We got acquainted, and several days later she died in pain. This lump remained in my head–an ordinary lump which killed a human being.

This is one of the most difficult problems we encountered in the course of our aid effort. We’ve buried many of the people we care for in the last three and a half years, which is very hard on us–you are helping people for years, knowing they have no chance. One has to look them in the eye, after all. And it’s difficult to do, knowing they have little time left. It’s difficult to pretend that next year they’ll watch their child pass exams, it’s difficult to ask how they are doing. It’s difficult to watch women lose their minds, knowing their children will be completely alone, without fathers and relatives.

But we continue to help.

Our Lilya.

Наша Лиля.


Lilya got cancer right before the war, and instead of getting treatment she was hiding in cellars from shells. Her house was in Lugansk, in the part that was heavily shelled. Lilya lost precious time, she had advanced cancer and the doctors gave her a month to live. But she needed some observation. Moreover, the family could not afford anything.

Lilya lives alone with her son, she can’t walk or take care of herself. She requires medications, diapers. There’s nobody to wash them, and one also has to eat and there’s no money for that either. The son is growing, he too needs assistance. He lived through the shelling, now his mother is wasting away. He’s in a rehab center where psychiatrists are working with him, he’s studying, but…

We got Lilya into a cancer hospice and she spent 4 months there, against all rules. Usually people there can stay for up to a month.


She was sent home, and we talking to a neighbor who was paid to help her, for about a moth and a half. Then she too gave up. “It’s very hard, psychologically, I can’t go on.” I understand her perfectly.
Our friends continually bring Lilya what she needs, all thanks to your help. The photos show our work over the course of several months.

Then we got in touch with a hospice in Novosvetlovka which admitted her. Not a cancer hospice, though, so it doesn’t have the necessary medications.

Zhenya writes: “They gave her a nice room, two beds, opposite of the desk. Easy to call the nurse. But…There’s no cell service, no TV service. We’ve tried to set up the antenna for two hourse, no success.”
We’ll try to get her into the Lugansk cancer hospice again, but the odds are against us.
They are heavily overloaded, people are in beds in corridors, there’s a long waiting list. Sometimes people die before being admitted. There’s nothing one can do about that…


After the move, Lilya’s mood deteriorated. She gained weight in the Lugansk hospice. Last time I saw her, she was in a combative mood, gave orders, told stories, smiled and laughed and all of our jokes.
Zhenya talked to the cancer ward director, wanting to find out what to do ho help. She responded–don’t torture her. Lilya complains her body is “like stone”, crushing her chest and muscles. They asked the director–“is that what we think it is?”. “Undoubtedly–cancer everywhere.”


Lilya is fading away. The director asked for a number to call, just in case. But there is no number to call. So Zhenya gave his.
Lilya has nobody else left.


This is Anzhela. We also met her in the hospice. She has female trouble–everything was cut off. She lost a lot of weight and her hemoglobin dropped. We brought her food, medications in order to increase the blood iron level. We also paid for a scan which unfortunately found small formations.
The cancer clinic refused to treat her, due to low weight and poor hemoglobin. But the doctors likely think treatment would be useless. We were called by the daughter, who cried and told us she sold everything she could to pay for the treatment.

And this is Tanya.
Completely alone, no husband, one young son, no relatives, a tiny pension. Six chemos in a year. There was hope, but not there are metastases in the lymph nodes. Her hand is like a stone–the growths are there too. There’s no point in operating.


Nobody has told her directly the true state of affairs.
Tanya is awesome. In spite of everything, she’s not surrendering, she’s fighting and hoping.
She planted dill in her garden.
Tries to not even think about her illness.

I would like to say one more thing, perhaps a banal one, perhaps for one hundredth time, but–live your life to the fullest. Don’t think up problems. Life is so short, and anything can happen at any moment. We spend so much energy on unnecessary emotions. We simply understand what genuine suffering is. I say “we”, because it also concerns me.

Big, no, huge thanks and a low bow from all of us to those who participate in our aid effort, who continue to read me, and who reads these posts to the end. I don’t know if I would be able to read something like this. It’s not simply difficult, it knocks your feet from under you. Such pain.
Please label contributions specifically intended for “our girls”, as Zhenya calls them, “Cancer”. But I want to say that even if nobody contributes anything, we won’t abandon them.

If you want to join the aid effort for the people of the Donbass, please write me in person through LiveJournal, facebookV Kontakte, or email: littlehirosima@gmail.com. Paypal address: littlehirosima@gmail.com.

Хочу сказать одно, пусть банальное, пусть в сотый раз, но – живите полной грудью. Не придумывайте проблем. Жизнь так коротка и в любой момент может произойти что угодно. Мы так много тратимся на ненужные эмоции и переживания. Мы просто не понимаем, что такое настоящее горе. Я говорю “мы”, потому что это и про меня.

Pretty good news

That happens too. We have pretty good news, although maybe that’s not the right phrase to use when you are talking about someone with advanced cancer…In mid November, I wrote about Lilya, a woman who got cancer in ’14 and wasn’t able to obtain treatment because her house was right in the line of fire during the bombardment of Lugansk in the summer and fall of ’14. Time was lost, and all the evaluations said the case was hopeless. She remained home to die–there are lines to get into the hospice, people are laying in the corridors….((( She lost control over her legs and can no longer take care of her basic needs. We decided to try to make her life easier during her final days by finding money for a caregiver. But we also decided not to give in and try to talk to the doctors.
We spoke to the head of the cancer clinic and…


She’s now at the ward (it’s a miracle she was admitted) and is undergoing tests which will determine the type of chemo. I won’t lie–Lilya is past being curable. But the doctors said it might extend her life greatly if everything turns out well. She first has to raise her hemoglobin which is not simple to do.
It’s important Lilya keeps on living. She has a young son who is undergoing a difficult period. No father, no relatives to help them.
The boy would end up in a shelter, then an orphanage, he’d be all alone in a wartime Lugansk…What else is there to say?
But if Lilya lives for the next few years, these very important years in her son’s life, it will be an important accomplishment.

I want to thank everyone who sent money for Lilya. We are continuing our assistance, we bring medications, diapers, food, all of which she needs to raise hemoglobin. The family is broke.
We found a caregiver, she’ll start working soon. She’ll also take care of Lilya at the hospital. Cooking, feeding, washing. Zhenya and Lena spent a long time looking, one had to find someone who would not merely perform the functions but also someone to talk to. They will spent a lot of time together. That’s how it is.
Big thanks to everyone!
There’s one more key detail–Lilya is in the hospice for tests, the very same spot that was occupied by Ira where she was only a few months. We thought that’s a good sign. Ira was given a few months to live, but two years later she’s walking, taking care of herself, and living with her amazing daughters.

If you want to help the people of the Donbass, please write me in person through LiveJournal, facebookV Kontakte, or email: littlehirosima@gmail.com. Paypal address: littlehirosima@gmail.com.

Please label any contributions intended for Lilya “Lilya”.