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Patient story - Stella Appiou

“You never know how strong you are, until the moment comes where being strong is the only option you have”

Summer of 2021 was ‘my’ summer. 

I was happy! I was about to turn 50! Half a century of life! What a joy it was! It may sound funny, but honestly, I felt complete! I had achieved my goals, I had my health, my family; what else does a person really need to be happy?

It goes without saying that we celebrated. And what a celebration it was to turn 50!

We celebrated and honored every single one of those years. We gave it our all; danced, laughed, hugged. So many wishes for many happy and healthy years to come!  

What tragic irony! Because really, ’you never know what’s coming’. Two months later, my own personal marathon would begin.

In the autumn of the same year, in September, I noticed that my body was changing. My stomach had bloated and for some reason I had difficulty walking. A lump had appeared on the right side of my uterus. I would touch it but feel no pain.  

I was hoping it would only be a simple cyst that I would have removed and jump straight back into my life as normal!

I didn’t panic. I had in any case booked an appointment with my gynecologist for a PAP smear, so all was well! You’ve got this, come on I thought, you’ll deal with it, no problem. No need to panic, after all life is full of challenges, and we are strong. No need to worry. Easier said than done, of course. In my bad luck, I was proven to be lucky as I had a gynecologist who knew what they were doing. They cared for me and guided me through the whole process without wasting any time.

The tests were done, and the results were in, so I went to visit my doctor. The moment that I received my test results will forever be seared into my heart, mind, and soul. It will never fade away. It was a very fine line, that moment before and after hearing the news. To give you a good idea of what it felt like, it was literally that ‘morning after a party’ feeling, with a huge instant hangover. It hit me like a truck. Time froze when I heard my doctor say, “it’s cancer, and it’s malignant, stage 1 to 2.” A thirteen-centimeter tumor in the uterus (which ended up growing to 18 centimeters by the time I had surgery). I would need surgery immediately in the hopes of preventing excess fluid from building up and affecting other areas of the body. A course of preventative chemotherapy would also follow to stop the cancer from spreading. 

I didn’t react. I didn’t feel anything. I froze.

I thought the doctor was talking about someone else and that I was just a spectator to this news. It was like I was watching a serious movie where the main character would not have a happy ending. It wasn’t because I was oblivious or invulnerable to this disease, but perhaps I was a bit too arrogant about my health. 

Its normal that on hearing this news, you immediately start thinking about the end. 

!!Big mistake!! 

Then unfortunately, the feeling of fear follows, which in my brain never existed. I consider myself a colorful person, and fear was grey. An ugly ‘monster’ had taken over. It created negative emotions and turned my soul to ice; it froze and stopped fighting. 

A few hours after the announcement I was overcome by a torrent of emotions. The terms “it’s cancer”, “it’s malignant”, “surgery”, and “chemotherapy” kept flashing through my mind like a bright green pharmacy sign. Only on my sign the letters were bright red! My mind was buzzing…….Words and images were swirling. Dark thoughts that I don’t even want to think about anymore.


That was the biggest challenge I had ever faced. I felt like my whole world was falling apart. My smile, my positive attitude and my colorful soul were all gone. The sparkle in my eyes and the light of my soul were starting to fade away. I was being dominated by this ‘monster’. It won, and unjustly took the throne in my brain. 


  • Did I cry? Of course.
  • Was I scared? You bet!
  • What was the first thing on my mind? My children and my husband. 


Me! The strong one who could take on life’s challenges. The fearless one who always supported others and always looked on the bright side of life!

Me! Who never allowed fear to rule, now let it completely take over.

How ironic!

It’s been years now that I’ve learned to keep my cool when times are hard. And I believe that there is always a solution. The only thing we cannot prevent is death itself. Having said that though, I still was far from ready to hear that (not that anyone ever is).

I believed and still believe that when you overcome your fears and face a problem head on, whatever it may be, anything is possible.

After I managed to calm my emotions and panic, and logic took over, I managed to push the ‘monster’ off its throne, cleared my mind, wore my smile and my positive energy, and stood my ground.

Though it goes without saying, that was not easy to do. But where there is a will, there is a way, and since my doctors were optimistic, I decided to take this situation step by step.

I didn’t share my ‘problem’ with relatives and acquaintances. Only with those who are very close to me. I didn’t want to see the sadness and fear in their eyes, and I didn’t want to be treated any differently. I didn’t want to answer the how and why and relive it all over again. I just wanted to stay focused on my goal with my positive thinking, my smile, and the beautiful colors of my mind.  

Those who knew told me “You’re strong, I’m not scared for you”. I don’t blame them! What else could they say, I would say the same to people going through the same thing. But it’s one thing to support someone and give them strength and another to go through it yourself. 

This lasted for seven months until the time came for surgery, healing from that and the subsequent chemotherapy. 

I asked what chemo would be like and what kind of side effects I would experience (aside from the usual hair loss etc.). No one can clearly tell you exactly what you will go through during and after chemotherapy. Truth be told, everyone’s experience is different. I read somewhere that Hippocrates said, “There are no diseases, only patients” and so, each of us is an individual, unique case.

This disease is smart, and smart beings evolve. So, it’s important to look at this being straight in the eyes and laugh at it. Laugh so loud that it hears you and understands that whatever it had in store for you, simply won’t happen. It won’t touch you; it won’t bring you down and make you miserable. 

I remember the first day I was going to start – just thinking about it now makes my eyes tear up. I couldn’t sleep on the night before. That feeling of the unknown plagued me. I was incredibly anxious. I had packed my things from the night before and I would be staying at the German Oncology Center’s (GOC) day care for about 6-7 hours. I had to make sure that I was comfortable, that I could keep busy and be mentally well enough to be able to help my doctor and the GOC team. 

That amazing support team that I had (and still have), was always by my side and for that I am genuinely grateful. My doctor, the oncology team, the nurses, even the women in the call center, all looked after me and supported me throughout my treatment. That’s the feeling I had. They were protecting me. If this had happened a few years ago, before the GMI existed, this would have been much scarier for me. As soon as I set foot in the building and met my team, I felt comfortable.

After the first treatment, and after I got past the stage of uncertainty, the anxiety had somewhat subsided. I decided that I wasn’t going to let the chemo and the whole process get me down, and I thought I’d look at this whole experience from a different light to make it more positive.

And so, I renamed my chemo to ‘cocktails’ – so it could feel a bit like ‘happy hour’. I turned the GOC into the ‘Andy Warhol Lounge Bar’ where creative people would spend their time. I was a VIP there. There was no need for me to call in advance and book a place, because the GOC team already did that for me. And so, I would go for my visits, at a specified date and time, just to get my free drinks… after I of course dressed appropriately. This kept me going for 4 months, every three weeks, for 5-6 hours at a time. I would make an appearance, with my smile, with confidence that everything would go well and in an outfit that would make me happy.

I am not here to mislead you. Not everything is perfect. It’s alarming what chemo does to a woman’s appearance. The person you see in the mirror starts to look like a complete stranger. 

Listen, you don’t have a choice. You have to learn to live with this new look. Honestly though, it should be the last thing on your mind. I had made a decision, I accepted my new self and simply said “Today I am who I am, and I love myself and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.” Not to mention the fact that I was carrying myself with confidence. When I had to be in public, I would tell myself “I am a fighter in life, people don’t know this, you should be proud of yourself, you are wonderful, and I love you”.

A year later and I’m still trying to recover from all this, to find my old self. Nothing’s the same as before. There are days when I suffer from the effects of my cocktails. I see the pictures of hairless smiles and I realize how hard I had it, and I still wonder how I found the strength to get through it all. I can see the struggle my soul was going through in my eyes and I’m proud of the battle I fought.

I’ve changed the way I feel, but I can’t put my finger on how exactly that is. Now that I have my cancer behind me and my life (hopefully) ahead of me, I reflect on it over and over again. I have the opportunity to account for what I gained and what I lost.

Cancer taught me to not forget to love myself. To take care of myself more. To not be strict and demanding. To love every single day the sun rises and be grateful for everything that comes my way. To be clear in what I believe in and to not compromise myself for anyone.

This is my personal testimony. If anyone reading this has gone through a cancer diagnosis, please, do not be scared. Have faith, not only in God but in yourself and in the team that is guiding you through this. If I went through it and made it, you can too. It’s not impossible.

Wear your favorite clothes, put some red lipstick on, smile and face the day. Step by step, you and only you can control your thoughts. Cancer will do what it wants to do, but so can you, and even better than it can. Color your soul, fill it with light, shine it so bright that it will get scared and run away. Don’t give up. As long as you’re still breathing, there is hope. You are stronger than you think. The best is yet to come, you’ll see.

Stay strong!

Thank you for listening to me.


Stella Appiou, September 15, 2022.

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Dr. Aris Angouridis

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