Love Is the Answer

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| This is the 216th story of Our Life Logs |


When I head out to my daily walk in the park, I like to remind myself of the poems I love the most, many of which I know by heart. I breathe the crisp air deeply and the smell of pine fills my lungs. Then, I think of the days when I was still a little girl, playing all day. Happy and free.

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I used to come back home with my feet dirty from crossing the fertile land of my country. I was born on November 13, 1944, in a tiny village called Lyubenova Mahala, a beautiful piece of Heaven-on-Earth located in Bulgaria, Eastern Europe. Both my parents used to work as farmers, which was quite common for most of the people in my country back then as we were a part of the Soviet Union. I was the first child to give my mother and father a taste of parenthood before my sister was born several years later. They gave us the entire spectrum of love, care, freedom, and knowledge.

Love is the answer-church
The church my family and I visited every week. This church is sacred for us because of a terrible tragedy. 1013 innocent people were violently killed while trying to hide from the Turkish armed forces on July 14, 1877. Every family from the village has lost a beloved one in the massacre. (Image source: bg.wikipedia.org)

In school, I chose to study economics, and as soon as I finished my education, it was time for me to start practicing what I had absorbed. At the time, finding a job was quite painless. One of the good things about the reign of the Soviet Union was the way the government encouraged and supported fresh graduates in securing reliable jobs, so at 19 I began working in a bank.

The bank was located less than an hour away from my home village in the city of Radnevo. Each day, I traveled by train, always reading or taking in the landscape. After two years of this commute, I met a witty, rebellious, 25-years-old boy with lively eyes. I thought he was a bit impertinent and perky to approach me so straightforwardly, but I gave in to our conversation. He was living in the village right next to mine—a mere 1 kilometer away. So at some point, he started coming to see me more regularly. I guess there was something about his openness, his vital energy, and outspoken character that stole my heart for eternity. I was 22 years old when I married that boy, and I couldn’t be happier.

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I had a highly respected and reputable job, a loving and reliable husband, and was confidently walking towards fulfilling my dreams to be a successful woman. On November 25, 1966, I became a mother for the first time and finally understood what it felt like to fall in love forever as I held my tiny baby boy in my hands. And by grace, the feeling came crashing back a few years later after the birth of my second son.

Together, we lived under rent in a cozy apartment in the city of Radnevo. My husband and I both worked hard to bring up our boys, but the efforts did pay off. We managed to buy the apartment we lived in and stop paying rent, and we were pinching pennies in order to buy two more apartments as we wanted to provide a home for each of our sons. My elder son got married to a girl from the same block of flats where my family used to live in. To me, she wasn’t a daughter-in-law, but simply the daughter I never had. And just like that, in 1990 I became a grandmother. What a joy—what a thrill that overwhelmed my entire being when I got the good news! I literally started dancing around and clapping my hands from happiness.

Our younger son also got married, and I was blessed to welcome my second daughter-in-law into the family and later become a grandmother for the second and third time. I felt as if I was not touching the ground when I walked – my happiness was that immense.

Love is the answer-baptism
Attending the baptism of my granddaughter. My husband and I are wearing our favorite white silk shirts (on the left). My elder son is the one holding the bouquet of flowers (on the right).

I pictured my retirement as a fairy tale. My husband retired in 1990, while I joined him in 1998. We had planned to return back to his family house in the village of Liubenets. We wanted to give our grandchildren the most beautiful years of freedom. We looked after cows, sheep, goats, chicken, pigs, and acres of land where wheat was growing in golden clusters. It was a paradise, it was a place of undisturbed peace and tranquility, where one could watch the sun rising over the fields over and over again. But my heaven was about to get broken in tiny pieces.

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It was March 8, 2005 when I was diagnosed with a severe case of breast cancer. I discovered an odd clump in one of my breasts one night after taking a bath. It never even crossed my mind that such an illness could hit me at my age. I was visibly healthy, energetic, and nothing pointed out to the probability of this terrible disease. When the doctors examined my case, they were pretty straight-forward to announce that there was no other chance for me to survive but to cut off my breast in order to remove the metastasis. Little did I know that the operation which followed was about to be the easiest part of the battle with cancer.

When I woke up in my bed in the hospital, I could barely grasp a breath. The pain was so intense, so sharp and overwhelming that for a certain amount of time I simply wished I was dead.  It was difficult for me after the surgery. You look at the mirror, thinking to yourself, “Who is this person over there?” My mind refused to accept the picture which revealed in front of my eyes. I felt handicapped. My confidence as a woman was terribly wounded. All I knew was that I didn’t want to live in depression forever. I wanted to be myself again.

But as soon as my family came to the hospital to pay me a visit, everything changed. The pain was still the same; however, my spirit was different. Seeing the glowing eyes of my grandchildren was like a ray of light which made me want to keep on struggling, just to see them grow, just to be able to see them graduate, to see them have a family of their own. How could I possibly leave them? How could I leave the love of my life behind and let him take care of the land and animals all alone? So, I made the conscious choice to be happy, and gradually made peace of mind with my body’s appearance.

While love flowed through my veins to bring me back to life, my body still refused to tolerate the unbearable pains. Cancer can drain the last bit of hope and energy, recklessly sucking away your motivation as you are faced with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and all the ugly consequences from the treatment. It took me more than five years to recover and turn my life back to normal, but desperation was not an option. I had made the decision to be there for my family.

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One hot summer afternoon, I was away from the village when my phone rang. I got the news that my husband was found lying helpless on the ground in our backyard after getting a sudden heart attack. I was in shock. My husband was the type of person who was always full of energy. He had plans for 20 years to come!

He was immediately transported to the hospital where the doctors fought for his life. Despite their efforts, he passed away three days later.

I couldn’t comprehend what was going on. Seeing my husband lying in his coffin opposed to seeing him eager to work, live, and laugh was something I could not swallow. What is the meaning of life anyway when it smashes all of your plans without a single drop of sympathy?

I kept refusing to accept his death for a full year after he had gone on to the other side.

I didn’t want to go out or talk to anyone. I felt apathy to life. Food didn’t give me pleasure, my favorite TV shows became annoying, my will to live had simply disappeared. Despite the fact I couldn’t indulge in the delight of a good meal I kept gaining weight as I ate to suppress the pain in my heart. My blood pressure started playing bad tricks on me but I paid little attention to my doctor’s advice.

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My kids desperately tried to help me out. They sent me to a rehabilitation program which was focused on treating women who had suffered cancer and other serious illnesses. It was during this rehabilitation program that I met some of the most amazing people—women who shared a destiny similar to mine; fighters who never gave up even when loneliness, pain, and fear seemed impossible to overcome.

Love is the answer-Minka with friend
Enjoying the beautiful weather during the rehabilitation program with one of my friends (I am the one on the right).

Suddenly, I was illuminated. I realized I was not alone. Everyone in this world goes through dark moments at some point in their lives, but for the sake of the ones who keep loving you deeply, you can find the strength to go on. I realized there were so many places I wanted to visit, so many positive emotions I craved to feel. It was not my time to give up. My heart was still full of love, and full of eagerness to keep exploring, to keep expanding my horizons. And so, I made the conscious choice to embrace a healthy lifestyle routine.

I started training each and every morning, doing simple gymnastics, such as squats and stretches as soon as I woke up. I started taking my daily walks in the park. I haven’t ceased going to rehabilitation regularly every two months, where I enjoy spa treatments, fitness training, and tons of laughing with friends. I drink two liters of tea a day and take a glass of red wine along with my dinner.

Love is the answer-Minka breakfast
One of my healthy breakfasts – homemade pancakes with homemade quince jam (also my grandchildren’s favorite treat)。

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And while I am just about to celebrate my 74th birthday, I am confidently walking towards my 100th Jubilee. When dark thoughts try to plague my mind, I remind myself that whatever you are going through – whether it’s good or bad – there’s not a single thing in this world which can take away the love you have in your heart. Every day is worth living. Even though nothing remains the same, I say there is one answer which is always relevant and always right, and that answer is Love.

Love is the answer-Minka stairs
The stairs I walk to enter the park while reminding myself of my favorite poems.

For Life there is nothing

I would not dare.

I would fly

a prototype plane in the sky,

climb into a roaring

rocket, exploring

alone

in space

distant

planets.

Still would I feel

a joyous thrill

gazing

up

at the blue sky.

Still would I feel

a joyous thrill

to be alive,

to go on living.


(
Faith – by Nikola Vaptsarov)

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This is the story of Minka Neycheva

Minka grew up in Bulgaria, was blessed with a loving family, and a job she described as “not simply a job, but a passion I was lucky to embrace.” Little did she know that life was about to face her with breast cancer. Having her femininity terribly massacred, Minka had to cope with the sudden death of her beloved husband just several years after the operation. Sinking in with severe depression, pain, and inability to find meaning in life, Minka was lucky to take part in a rehabilitation program which helped her rise up from the flames of despair. By sharing her story Minka wants to spread the power of Love and bring hope to the people around the world who need it the most.

 

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This story first touched our hearts on November 8, 2018.

| Writer: Milenitta Zhelyazkova | Editor: Colleen Walker |
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