'This is enough for me, just being alive': Doctor reveals how she got back on her feet after cancer diagnosis

Since being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Paola Domizio – renowned pathologist and mum of two – has faced some difficult days. But there have been lovely moments too, and this December she and her sons are sharing these special memories at the Marie Curie Light Up Christmas tree. 

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 when my twins boys were five months old. I underwent treatment – chemotherapy and a mastectomy followed by radiotherapy.

It was very hard being diagnosed, particularly with my background. Very hard. I was a pathologist, so I was used to making cancer diagnoses. I could visualize the cells and what they were doing going around my body.

For about a year after I went back to work, I found I couldn’t make cancer diagnoses. I was too close to the patients – too involved – even though I didn’t know them.

When they found that there was still some tumour left, I went through a period of quasi-depression I suppose. My boys were very young and I was scared of leaving them without their mother. In July 2015, nearly two years ago, I was given just three to six months to live. The chemotherapy was doing nothing. That was when they referred me to the Marie Curie Hospice, Hampstead.”

Overcoming my fears

“When I first went to the hospice, I was in a really poor sort of a way. But then they introduced me to the gym there! That sort of turned everything around. Slowly, slowly, slowly I started to build up my strength and started to eat again. The pain started to recede. Things started to get better and better.

Now I can do things like go on holiday, go out and enjoy art galleries, and really lead a fairly normal life.

I feel quite good really – very good compared with before. I put a lot of that down to Marie Curie and what they’ve done for me at Hampstead.

I still go every week. There’s a lot of camaraderie between us – a shared bond because we’re all suffering from the same thing. We gain strength and comfort from each other. I’ve made good friends. It’s a very warm, nurturing and positive environment.

I do lots of alternative therapies as well. I’ve done massages, reflexology, craniosacral therapy. So I’m a convert to alternative therapies.”

Supporting my twin boys

“I’ve got twin boys, Aron and Sasha. They’ve been seeing a psychologist from Marie Curie as well. Marie Curie was the only place where we could find a child psychologist who’d see them on a regular basis. There’s not a lot out there for kids whose parents are sick.

They love it. They love going to see Marco. When it’s near the time they’re always saying: ‘When are we going to see him? When are we going to see him?’

Our Christmas memory

"When it was Christmas, the boys  did a carol concert for our family. They sold tickets to members of our family and raised £50 for Marie Curie. They came up with the idea of charging people for entry to our house on Christmas day. We had 16 people around. Front row seats were £1, back row 50p. They made a little programme and everything! Seeing the boys perform at Christmas is a memory I'll never forget.

Marie Curie has helped with everything in my life really. Daily activities. My strength has got so much better and it’s helped me with getting around. I just plan to keep doing what I’m doing with their help. This is enough for me, just being alive.”

Paola and her boys attended the launch of the world's first memory-powered Christmas tree, where Paola shared special memories of her sons' Christmas Carol concert in aid of Marie Curie. You can help us light up our Christmas tree by sharing a memory from 4 December using #LightUpXmas and watch the fairy lights get brighter.