Natala Chitiashvili, 34 years old, Tbilisi

“When I was 23 years old, I got married, loved my husband and my child was six months when I divorced him – we fought constantly. Since then, he has never helped me with anything, nor is he paying the alimony, and now that Niniko is 10 years old, he has seen her probably seven times. I moved back to my parents, who stood by my side and from then, I’m raising the child alone. I soon found my first job; I finished first the faculty of the history of diplomacy, and then the public administrations. I worked at government administrations, but my department was closed and I had to leave.
In 2016, I decided to start my own business. My friend has his own brand of clothes and suggested to me to buy a printing machine – he would print first orders with me and later I could take orders from other companies as well. He gave me his office too. It was a very kind gesture from him. I started with one small machine and I managed to now have my own sewing company with all kinds of services to take all kinds of orders. The company employs seven women in a full-time job. The pandemic affected us, like almost every company – we even had to stop for a while, which was a big loss, but from August we’ve been able to recover fully. Our customers still seem unable to place orders as they did before, but slowly they are getting back on their feet.
Shortly before the pandemic began – in February, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, it was the first stage, the metastases hadn’t spread to other organs, although it was still very difficult physically and emotionally as well. In February, I went with my friend – Irina Kurtanidze to Turkey, where I had the surgery.
The first emotion I had, when I heard about my diagnosis, was fear of losing breasts, which probably every woman who had this issue has experienced. In Turkey, a great doctor performed the surgery. After the surgery, when I opened my eyes, he came and told me, not to be afraid, my breasts were in their place. I’ve never seen such a good-looking doctor. When I was diagnosed and he sent me for an examination to rule out metastases in the brain, I sat in the corridor and I felt so bad that I didn’t even think about my breasts. My friend, who was of course, very nervous and always apologized for having to go through all this because of me, talked to the doctor. He told her that this was a very difficult period, my friend was alone there and now, she could count him as her family. He cared not only about me, but he realized that this was also emotional for people around me and took care of her too. Irinka told me that later and I cried.
In March, I went to Turkey again, this time to start chemotherapy. This time too with a friend, Levan Berdzenishvili. Due to the pandemic, hospitals were closing and covid care centers were being set up; the situation was so bad, that they couldn’t even admit their own patients for the chemotherapy. We were locked in a hotel room for a week, they did a very rare exception – I was remotely assigned to chemotherapy courses and was given a prescription. I bought medicines there and when I came back, in addition to the suitcase with my personal belongings, I had an extra suitcase full of medicine. It so happened that I took the last flight from Tbilisi to Turkey and from there I arrived on the last flight as well.
The first chemotherapy course was very difficult. The first few days are the hardest to handle – somehow, you leave reality, you don’t realize where you are. Every noise made me hysterical and I was so stressed that I was asleep from shock all the time. Hair loss was more difficult than chemotherapy and the surgery – it took me several months to overcome. My hair was part of my identity – I had long hair, which I sometimes pulled to one side, and sometimes to the other. Forgetting these habits was very hard for me when I would touch my hair and instead of hair, there was a headpiece. I also bought a wig, but I couldn’t use it even for a day, I felt uncomfortable with myself. Chemotherapy always causes hair loss and suddenly you realize that you become part of something that you weren’t a part of yesterday. I read everything about hair loss; before that, I had no idea that I would lose my hair after the first chemotherapy and it turns out, as is usual, that hair loss starts two weeks later. For the next two weeks, I was touching my hair every day and after two weeks, when I thought I was a rare exception and it didn’t happen to me, I tried and my hair started to come down like a doll’s hair. I cried so much… my friends even suggested – if you want, we will shave our hair too, just to make you feel better, but I couldn’t look at another shaved head. The most difficult thing here was that you have to act against your will and secondly – the perception of your identity is no longer there and it’s very painful.
During chemotherapy, my daughter took amazing care of me, she was coming and kissing me while I was sleeping. I think that this period has made Niniko a grownup. I tried my best so that she wouldn’t feel the fear of losing her mother; I kept telling her that nothing was wrong with me and I wasn’t in danger, and I know she believed me. My family also helped me a lot, my parents, my sisters. Right now, everything is fine, I have to check in again in November and I’m a little nervous.
When all this was gone, I got stronger again and in August, I and my friend – Tatuli Tsipuria got an idea to make a brand – Eya We have interesting handmade bags, clothes and we take care of every detail. Our products are already on the market and my future plan is to strengthen our brand. I want to create interesting accessories and clothes that will be available for everyone.”
Author: Nino Gamisonia
Photo: Geda Darchia
Translation: Mariam Kajrishvili