I got sick in May 2011: a lymphoma. Usually in these cases, It might seem like a tragedy. Not for me. I don’t know why. I was calm. I told myself that it was a disease like many others.
I underwent all cycles of chemotherapy and after I went into the sterilized room for the transplant. In that moment my disease was detected with precision: a mantle cell lymphoma stage four B. The lymphatic system was completely compromised. The doctor said to me: “Fabrizio, this disease is, unfortunately, incurable. What we can do is trying to preserve your life as long as possible”.
Once learned what I was suffering, I began to search informations in the web, and it was a disaster.
In that time I attended a Benedictine monastery. Sometimes, when i was too much stressed because of work, I drived the car to that monastery. In a room, in complete silence, I liked spending three or four days with those monks, who were so quiet and discreet. I became friend of Pierre, a religious suffering from multiple sclerosis and therefore forced on a wheelchair. When I told him what it happened to me, he told me about the Sacrament of the Sick. He said: “Take this Sacrament, it’s a beautiful thing, it is useful not only to the body, but also to the soul.” I welcomed his invitation. I had to decide where to receive it.
At that time Andrea Polidoro, a dear friend of mine, was walking his first Cammino, the Via de la Plata, so I said to me: I go to walk! My wife Dominique did not oppose. I immediately bought the ticket. Few days after, I was walking.
I went out of the sterilized room, I had very low immunity, I was protecting me from external attacks with a mask, I had to be careful with other people, I was forced to eat canned food. He had become a non-life.
I was interested in the Camino de Santiago a few years before, but when you are working hard, leaving for a month is something almost impossible to achieve. After learning more in different websites to understand what I needed, May 6, 2012, I was in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Unconsciously, perhaps…
When I got off the plane, I removed the little mask from my face and I said: “Stop! I’m not ill”. You can’t start to walk to Santiago worrying about what you eat, what you do, every place you go: in that way you can’t fully live the experience.
To be honest: the first day the climb was really hard, I thought I would die! But there I had a very important meeting. When I stopped to eat, a man came up to me. His name was Pierre.
Pierre has never left me, he accompanied me up to the Plaza del Obradoiro in Santiago.
I want to say that I went to Santiago with my legs! But I was taken, escorted, cared for by a group of people who seemed to have a definite job to do: take me to the goal.
I walked, the days passed and I was getting better. Usually on the way you toil. I saw people who abandoned, which stopped with foot pain, tendinitis. I have not even had a bladder. I was fine.
I was started with the main intention of receiving the Sacrament of the Sick. Every late afternoon I was going to Mass, regularly, and sometimes I asked to the priests if there was a chance to take that sacrament in Santiago. They replied that I would be arriving in early June, in the midst of thousands of other pilgrims, with the ever full cathedral. They told me it was impossible.
I was resigning. But the Walk gives you what you need. So one day I found myself walking with a Sicilian boy in shorts and shirt, and we started talking. Why you are going to Santiago? And on the way tongues are loosened easily.
I told him my story and why I was on a pilgrimage. To my surprise the guy was a Franciscan, and he told to me that he would have given that sacrament in Santiago.
It happened: after walking a few days together, he preceded me in the arrival in the city, and when I reached the goal of my journey, I really got what I was started for: he gave me the Sacrament of the Sick in the Cathedral of Santiago.
The party with all the friends met on the way was beautiful.
Santiago was just my first destination.”
This is just the beginning of a long and fascinating story, narrated in the book “Camminare guarisce” (Edizioni dei Cammini, 2016) by Fabrizio Pepini and curated by Massimiliano Cremona, also purchasable at the link in this blog.
Photo by Ornella Gabrielli