Defeat cancer and see the world: the story of a ward of the "Eva" center
At the Inclusion and Correction Center "Eva" near Kyiv, dozens of children recovering from cancer treatment, with various forms of cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, and other diagnoses, are undergoing rehabilitation. Professional speech therapists, psychologists, massage therapists, and rehabilitation specialists work with the children here. Therapeutic physical exercises, massages, swimming pool sessions, neurocorrection, and sessions with a psychologist are just some of the activities available to the wards of the center. The sessions are free-of-charge, as the operation of "Eva" is financed by the "Techiia Foundation”.
Since 2021, the center has provided rehabilitation to more than 400 children, some of whom have undergone several courses. Our heroine, Sofia, is undergoing a difficult recovery after cancer at "Eva." She was an average healthy child who attended school. When she was seven, her parents noticed something was wrong with her. Sofia began experiencing regular headaches, followed by frequent pain in her stomach and legs. She had difficulty concentrating and focusing. Her parents could not determine what was wrong and took her to various doctors for examination. Therapists, gastroenterologists, and orthopedists examined Sofia. When they found nothing, her parents took her to the Romodanov Institute of Neurosurgery. They discovered a tumor on her brainstem there and immediately scheduled surgery for Sofia.
Fortunately, the tumor did not reach the brain. The surgery was successful. However, such intervention does not go unnoticed. After the operation, Sofia stopped speaking, and her gait was affected. Her body suffered from chemotherapy.
"It was tough, but the doctor encouraged us, saying: everything will be fine. You will complete the course of chemotherapy, start rehabilitation, and your daughter will gradually recover. The most important thing is not to give unnecessary loads and not to stimulate the tumor," says Sofia's mother, Iryna.
Thus began the period of rehabilitation, which continues to this day. The process was complicated because cancer cells still circulated in Sofia's body. Therefore, the rehabilitation centers were afraid to take the girl for rehabilitation. Some of them even refused to perform massage procedures for Sofia. The only type of load that the doctors allowed for Sofia was swimming.
"For several years, we only focused on swimming, which greatly helped Sofia. Later she started to speak, held her head up on her own, and then we began to work on walking, with me supporting her under her arms," says her mother.
The family first came to “Eva” before the full-scale invasion, although they had planned a visit long before it. Today, Sofia visits the center several times a week. Sometimes she comes here every day, either alone or with her mother. Physical therapy, swimming, sessions with a psychologist, and interaction with other children are the main focus of Sofia's rehabilitation.
"At this age, socialization is no less important for her. Everything is here for that purpose, even a group of children approximately the same age. They gather and communicate. Children want to come here because of this. It's great. The psychologist works with the children individually and in groups. In these sessions, they dance, sing, and play various games. For example, Sofia acts as a tour operator, and one of the children comes to her office as a client, and they play out selling foreign tours. How often do you have conversations like that at home?" says her mother, Iryna, describing her daughter's favorite activities.
The center works with children in two-month courses. With this approach, it is possible to ensure comprehensive rehabilitation for young wards, track progress, and develop new habits for home exercises. The success of this stage determines how quickly and whether the child will return to a normal life.
"Many programs and benefactors are concerned with treating children with cancer and providing surgery departments with better equipment and expensive materials. There are fewer rehabilitation projects. Therefore, we are thrilled to see how the symbiosis of "Eva" as specialized professionals and us as a business helps Ukrainians to recover," says the director of the Techiia Foundation and managing partner of the TECHIIA holding, Oleg Krot.
Now Sofia is twenty years old. She combines rehabilitation with studying in her second year at the "Ukraine" University — visiting the center when she has no classes or after them.
"I really like it here. We do physical therapy, art therapy, and drawing. Coach Maksym praises me a lot and gives me various tasks. I love swimming in the pool. Honestly, I swim much better than I walk," Sofia smiles.
The girl says that in the future, she wants to work in a travel agency and sell tours to people. But first, she needs to finish her studies and visit as many countries as possible. She has already been to Germany and Egypt. And now, she dreams of seeing the United States, Korea, and Japan.