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By Romina Mayani Nankani, CYE-CYL

When life hands you lemons, you decide what you want to do with them, right? What shapes us is often the way we perceive the situations and challenges we are faced with. We rise, we fall, we fight, we surrender. One thing we cannot take for granted is the power we have to keep going. And this interview, is one that will surely be a great eye-opener of your own take on life. 

“Luisandro, thank you for being so honest and open about your journey. How did you become who you know yourself to be today?” 

I could immediately hear the contagious positive energy in his voice: “Romina, firstly it’s a pleasure to be able to speak about my experiences. Even if it helps motivate one person, it will surely give them a reason to live differently. As a young boy, I was always very keen to take care of myself, involved myself in sports and that went into my teens. I enjoyed working out and trained very often. I was also extremely ambitious. My older sister Michelle, who is now watching me from heaven, was working in London. So, at the age of sixteen, after completing my GCSEs, I decided to head to the UK. I enrolled in an accounting course and began working quite soon after. 

One day, walking through Earl’s Court in London, I was approached by a model scout from Milan. He prompted me to consider doing modelling. I was seventeen at the time and thought its too soon. Matter closed and off I went to continue doing what I was focused on. 

What about my daughters? My family? I could not face the possibility of death!

At 21, I was approached again but this time it was by a fashion photographer. With the encouragement of my family, I took the plunge and signed up with an agency. It was all so intense and such a fantastic time in my life. A lot of hard work though. I was shooting in London, Greece, Colombia, Scotland, LA, and Miami for brands such as Versace, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana to name a few. And I worked with well renowned photographers. What an experience!

Eventually I took the call to come back home and settle back down here. The highlight over the next few years was that I became a dad of two beautiful girls. I didn’t know what was coming to me though. 

I continued my training and positive self-care regime, but things were getting harder for me to carry out. I felt tired, my body was not the same and I developed swelling in different areas. I decided best to see a doctor. What transpired from that one visit, was beyond a nightmare. My bloods were alarming. I was told I needed to fly over to London and be seen to by specialists in Royal Marsden Sutton Hospital – all I could think about were my two girls!

I endured painful biopsies and several tests; I could not leave the hospital. The diagnosis came in and I suddenly was presented with my biggest opponent, chronic myeloid leukaemia. I broke. What about my daughters? My family? I could not face the possibility of death! I began treatment almost immediately, but the leukaemia continued to advance from chronic to acute. I was losing weight rapidly.  One of the days, my body temperature was extremely high, and I entered a semi-comatic state, unable to move or even open my eyes. I could hear the doctor tell my mother “We have done all we can, now it’s up to him to try and fight”. With great despair, she looked to the nurse standing by her and asked, “What can I do now?”. The nurse who was of Irish Catholic belief replied, “Have faith and pray”.

The prayers and support, those were my vitamins to keep trying.

In that state, must have been a few hours later or the day after, I had a breath-taking vision. I was standing by the rocks overlooking Caleta Beach, beautiful and bright and I felt full of energy. It was my push, my drive, my fight to not lose this war with my body. And the prayers and support from people, those were my vitamins to keep trying. 

After the 3rd round of chemotherapy (this was by the 9th month), there were no signs of leukaemia! I did however need a bone marrow transplant desperately. My sister Marie was my donor. The most precious angel who saved my life! I remained in the UK for another year and I was only able to see my kids a handful of times. But each time, I knew I would make it for them, my loved ones and for myself. I wanted to live. 

I was able to return to Gibraltar, but unfortunately, I developed Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD). It is a disease caused by the body’s adjustment to the bone marrow transplant received from a recipient with slightly different genetics.  I was swollen, very tired again and I could not recognise myself in the mirror with everything I had endured. But No! I was not going to give up. 

At 5.45am every morning my alarm would go off. There were days I had no energy to turn over to switch it off. But I made it my goal. I was going to try to get up and start my training again. And you know what? I did it. And I didn’t give up! I fought and I persevered, and I did my best to conquer my mind and push my body. Today, I am 2 years cancer free and I feel like a whole new person.”

I can’t even describe how many times I held back my tears and felt goosebumps listening to his story. “Luisandro, can I ask what drives you today?”

“I motivate myself to keep going. I have tattoos on my body which tell my story. The phoenix is one of my best symbols. RISING FROM THE ASHES. And I am due a new one soon a Lion, my symbol of strength. I see the person I am today, and I am so grateful to everyone who helped me along the way and who sent such fantastic messages throughout. My family, my friends, the GHA, my doctors, clients, the list is endless and of course my father and sister who are no longer with us. 

I always say there are 2 roads in life, the easy one and the hard one. You have the choice. Try to challenge yourself with your own hard effort to overcome your obstacles, and you will come to see the change and the beauty you have achieved from your hard work. We all have that capability.” Luisandro Moreno. 

This is but a brief insight into this amazing person’s world. I personally learnt a lot from my conversation with Luisandro and it sprinkled a fantastic dose of inspiration and encouragement to keep living life no matter what comes your way. I really hope it does for you too. 

Luisandro is currently the Director & Owner of Phoenix Real Estate. If you would like to get in touch with him you can do so on [email protected] 

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The Gibraltar Magazine is your monthly business, entertainment, and lifestyle source. Providing the community with the latest breaking news and quality content since 1995. Every month, 100 pages are packed with gripping features from a cross- section of the Gibraltarian community in business, culture and leisure. We have pledged to support the wealth of local talent, constantly promoting young artists, musicians, authors and entrepreneurs and presenting what’s on around the Rock. In the business section, we focus on finance, property, and gaming industries. Embracing the latest technology and updating our website daily, we’re able to provide increased and up-to-the-minute information. The magazine has been operating for 25 years, which speaks volumes for our forward-thinking team who strive to take a fresh direction each month, as well as our loyal readership and confidence of advertisers.