A colleague enlists artist’s help to make peace with her diagnosis
Giving her brain tumor a name helped Gabriela Chiummo face her new reality
June 7, 2023
Gabriela Chiummo has learned that sometimes terrible news can lead to the greatest joys in life.
As a senior specialist of regulatory affairs for our company’s Animal Health team, Chiummo moved almost 6,000 miles from her home in Brazil to Germany in 2018 for work. Soon after, she began experiencing consistent headaches. One day while out grocery shopping, she lost her sight.
It only lasted a few seconds, but it was enough to send her to the doctor.
A surprising diagnosis
Chiummo compares her first experience in an MRI machine to meditating. She was calm, almost soothed before she was given the news: she has a meningioma, a type of brain tumor.
“I wasn’t sure how to react. In movies they show people hearing this kind of news and the words being spoken stop making sense – that’s what happened to me.”
“The world just stopped, and I was in complete shock. I went to the appointment alone, obviously not expecting this outcome. I didn’t know if I should call my husband, cry or contact my mom in Brazil. I had to carry on with this information, but it felt like I was living in a daze.”
To help face her new reality, Chiummo decided to do something unconventional, but very personal.
“I decided that I wanted to name my tumor because I name everything,” Chiummo said. “My house has a name, my car has a name, everything, so I decided I should name my tumor too since it’s here. It’s living with me, and we need to communicate, we need to communicate well, since it’s going to be there not paying rent. I need to make the most of it.”
She named her tumor Rosângela.
She even took it a step further, and an artist living in Brazil, Julia Larotonda, helped bring Rosângela to life as a cartoon character. This enabled Chiummo to visualize and get to know her new, unwanted guest. Rosângela has glasses and wears her hair in a side ponytail, just like Chiummo.
Endless support from friends and family
Once she finally told her friends and family about the news, she was warmed by the outpouring of love and compassion she received.
“Everybody was so amazing,” Chiummo said. “I received so much love, so much kindness. Everyone was offering help in some way, by either visiting my mother to comfort her or being there to help support me. I was most surprised when my colleagues in Germany even offered to attend doctors’ appointments with me to help translate, in case there was a language barrier.”
She said so many people were willing to help, that it really put life into perspective.
“People think that I’m crazy – but I think I’ve never been happier in my entire life. It’s like I’m really able to focus on the good parts, and no matter how bad it gets, I’m so lucky to be surrounded by this support and love.”
- Gabriela Chiummo
As she continues to meet with doctors, learns more about her tumor, Rosângela, and determines next steps, Chiummo says it’s easiest to take it a day at a time.
“I cannot control what’s happening, so I have to live in the present moment,” she said.
Using her new outlook to inspire colleagues and friends
Chiummo said the news of Rosângela changed her perspective on life, and she wants to share her story to help others dealing with similar situations.
Chiummo has been part of several of our company’s employee business resource groups (EBRG) to connect with colleagues around the world. Now, the connections feel more personal.
“I had the chance to participate in a mentoring program, and it was amazing,” she said. “Everyone is connected in some way, and I’ve been able to meet wonderful people who I can share my story with and potentially spark some inspiration to continue working toward creating life-saving medicines. How can I possibly complain about the life I’ve been given?”