Fundación Josep Carreras - 30 years IMPARABLE against leukaemia (VIDEO)

"When I got sick, I thought that if I had had a chance in a million to survive, this was to be mine. Who could tell that 30 years later the Foundation would get thousands and thousands of #imparablescontralaleucemia (unstoppable against leukaemia)." - JOSEP CARRERAS

Last 14 July marked the 30th anniversary of the Fundació Josep Carreras: it was established on 14 July, 1988, exactly one year since Josep Carreras himself was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when he was filming La Bohème in Paris. Throughout three decades, the Foundation has achieved so much, from the creation of the REDMO, the Spanish Registry of Bone Marrow Donors to a majestic research institute, composed of three campuses, exclusively dedicated to leukaemia and other blood diseases.

To celebrate the 30 anniversary, the Fundación Josep Carreras has presented a wonderful interview, or better a dialogue between two leukaemia survivors: Josep Carreras and Spansh journalist and former patient Elordi García. Josep Carreras welcomed her at the IJC - the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute at the Campus ICO - Germans Trias i Pujol (Can Ruti), Badalona.

You can watch the full VIDEO in Spanish here:

As stated before, this is much more than an interview: it is an intimate conversation about life, between two former patients sitting opposite each other, sharing their experience.

Among other things, Carreras and García explained the circumstances and their reaction to their diagnosis, their indescribable joy to the first time they experienced back again the wind blowing on their faces, or even their first shower after a long time spent in a sterile room; furthermore, they stressed the fundamental role of family and friends who had always supported them during their treatment, as they provided an incredibly strong motivation to fight.

"It helps because, in a given moment you can abandon yourself and tell them what you really feel, how you feel, what your fears, wishes and hopes are. However, they also need to see how much strong and determined you are when you are,  so that they  - to say it clear - suffer less."

As regards the role of music, and in particular to what the Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto no. 2 meant to him in that circumstance, he said:

"(When I listen to it now) I can feel exactly the same again, in addition to with what I feel now. But particularly what I felt in those moments. All my feelings of hope, anguish... the chance to make it or not.  They were hard moments, of course... but of great hope as well."

In addition, it is an opportunity to learn more about how the Carreras Foundation was established and about the activity they have carried out in 30 years.

As Elordi García pointed out, their task has marked a "before" and "after"; in facts, 30 years ago the word leukaemia sounded much more scary to patients in need of a bone marow donor, as transplantations weren't performed in Spain yet. Now, approximately 80% of children and 50% of adults can heal.
However, the first reaction after the diagnosis still is "Why me?", which you don't think of, for example if you win the lottery or something great happens to you.

Let's focus on some Josep Carreras' statements about this.

For sure, every patient feels the same. You think 'Why me?', and then you find out that in the next room there is an 18-month-old baby boy suffering from leukemia, and then you realise 'Actually I'm lucky... because I'm 40. If an 18-month-old baby has leukemia, I've had a fantastic life until now, so I am going to fight for it.' 
They are very difficult moments, but then you think 'This is a temporary situation, which can be overcome. I mean, I'm not going to be forever like this. If I am lucky enough to overcome this disease, to win this battle, I will be more or less again the same person as before, physically. In the moral aspect, a much better person instead, in my opinion'.
(...) So, what really matters is the human quality of people. And I believe that once you go through this situation, you change in some way. You mature, and maybe learn to value altruism.

I thought about it from the very first moment. I spoke to nurses, not only doctors, but especially nurses and the health personnel, and I used to tell them (very convinced and hopeful as well) 'As soon as I recover, I will sing concerts for the fight against this disease, to try to help other patients'. But then I changed my mind and thought 'No! I will create an initiative which leukemia on all fronts, committed to support scientific research, in the social aspects... anything we can do to help. And so it was. I was incredibly lucky to have extraordinary people by my side.

As Elordi García stressed, Josep Carreras created the Foundation exactly one year after he was diagnosed with leukaemia, which is quite impressive, "a titanic task" to quote her own words. He did that to show his gratitude to society and scientific community aiming to find a cure for every patient.

One week later, on 21 July 1988, he offered the first charity concert for his Foundation, which also marked his very first comeback recital during his recovery: it took place at the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, in front of a large audience made of 150.000 people.

After financing the reform of the Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit of the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, where he received the treatment at the beginning, in a few years Carreras created more branches of his Foundation, in the US (Seattle) and Switzerland. In 1991 the Foundation created the REDMO for patients in need of a transplant from an unrelated donor, and in 1994 the Foundation launched the "Pisos de acogida" social program, which consisted of providing apartments to the low-income families forced to move close to the hospital in order to assist their sick relative.
In 1995 Carreras established the José Carreras Leukämie Stiftung in Germany and the first edition of the José Carreras Gala was held that same year: until now, the Galas have raised over 200 million Euros.

These were just the first steps taken in less than a decade. Find out more by checking the 30 year timeline of the Foundation here:

And if you need more numbers, watch this VIDEO.

When Elordi García asked him to suppose a final date for leukaemia and for the future of the Foundation he said:

"When you ask me that question, my most immediate answer would be "tomorrow", but besides optimism we have to be realistic as well. I sincerely believe, in my ignorance, that leukemia will be completely eradicated from our society by 2032, and that each patient will recover."
"Again, I speak without any full knowledge, according to what I read and I am told. I believe that there will always be people, both in he private and public sectors, who will be committed to improve not only the patients' quality of life, but also eradicate diseases such as leukemia, or other ones that could unfortunately arise in the future. I see it with optimism, I could not be more optimistic. Life has treated me in a way that I must be optimistic, and I am. I mean, I think that soon, in a decade or so, we will defeat leukaemia as well as anything that will come after, if necessary."

At the end, when she asked him what had provided him more satisfaction between his professional career, and his humanitarian work in which he has worked so hard, this was his reply:

"They are very different kind of satisfactions. I consider myself an extraordinarily fortunate person for the profession that I have been able to pursuing for so many years, which has given me moments of huge happiness. The possibility to communicate through my voice, through singing, is something priceless, isn't it? However, each time a year and a half old baby recovers from leukaemia, thanks to a bone marrow transplant and a donor identified by our registry, this is beyond compare. It can not be compared to anything else that life has ever offered me.

From the Blog Josep Carreras, the deepest and most sincere CONGRATULATIONS and best wishes to Josep Carreras and his Foundation, for being IMPARABLES against leukaemia for over 30 years, until it will be necessary!