Champions of prevention

In a month dedicated to the cancer prevention, a special event was starring the Italian volleyball champion who beat the disease to win the most important match of her life.

Oct 2023

"The monsters we don't know are the scariest." Some monsters, however, can be fought with the weapon of prevention, which plays a key role in the course of a woman's life. So says Eleonora Lo Bianco, a professional volleyball player whose career, from top-level teams to the national team, is studded with successes: national championships and cups in Italy and Turkey, European titles, a gold medal at the world championships and two World Cups along with several individual awards.

In October, recognized as the "pink month" all about prevention, the volleyball champion was the special guest speaker at a seminar organized by Avio Aero's Health Ahead (the affinity group of employees who promote awareness and dissemination for health and wellness) and shared her experience of "fighting" one of the most infamous monsters of all: the breast cancer.

Eleonora, nicknamed Leo, has always been a top-level sportswoman busy with training sessions and international competitions. At the age of 8, encouraged by her father, she began playing mini-volleyball and soon joined the under-14 first team. Busto Arsizio (Milan, Italy) in 1999 was then the steppingstone that represented her first season in the Italian Serie A. Since then, she has obtained many victories and satisfying achievements.

On the left, Cristiano Dalla Lana, Lead Project Management Specialist, hosting the event with the guest Eleonora Lo Bianco.

She could have thought of everything except facing the terrible obstacle of illness. Following a training session, she noticed something strange about herself, but thought it was something that would soon pass. It was only on the advice of her mother that she agreed to be examined, and after several clinical examinations, she discovered that what seemed unimportant to her was, in fact, not so unimportant.

"Fear is normal, it’s normal to feel lost. But you must try to react by sticking to life and the resources that each of us owns, and that we may not even know completely, until the moment when we necessarily have to pull them out," Eleonora remarked.

"You feel helpless, you don't know how to act." However, after an initial period of despair, Leo felt her determination kick in; she did not want the opponent to score a point against her. Following the doctors' advice, she had surgery, accepting the removal of part of her breast, the ensuing psychological effects and, finally, radiation therapy. "It was not easy to accept my new body," Eleonora said, but with the help of her family and team and her own fighting spirit, she was able to return to the court in a few months, defending her title as a volleyball champion.

Eleonora Lo Bianco with the Italian national volley team, ph. credits Cucchetti GetSportMedia.

“Fear is normal, it’s normal to feel lost, but you must try to react by sticking to life and the resources that each of us owns"

“It was wonderful to be back on the court, but also very difficult,” the champion added. “I felt like I was a kid and making my debut again. It had only been two and a half months, but it seemed like a lifetime had passed. When I walked back onto the court all the spectators stood up and I experienced a thrill that I will never forget. Obviously my comeback was gradual because I had to regain my form and confidence. All the work I had put in for years had been disrupted by the disease. I had to find myself again in a different way on the court."

After her illness Leo decided to go to Turkey to see what it was like to be a "foreigner" in a country she did not know, partly as a challenge and partly to test herself. She had no intention of going home defeated. In between struggles, after four years, she won the highest Turkish championship: a very important milestone for her.

“Today I am experiencing volleyball from a distance - I am watching it on TV not practicing it. I miss being out there and taking part in competitions, but when I watch the national team I can identify with the women on the court and remember the adrenaline rush I had when I was in their place. I don't have any plans at the moment. I worked for a while commenting on games on TV shows, but I don't have any active commitments,” said Eleonora.

From the left, Carlamaria Tiburtini, Eleonora Lo Bianco, Cristiano Dalla Lana, Massimo Roberto and Fabiana Panni.

The topic of prevention is very important, and Avio Aero's Health Ahead team is always on the lookout for initiatives and resources to support employees. Eleonora's presence and testimony were invaluable to many people who have been or are facing a difficult time. And with pleasure, she herself enjoyed the company’s internal event experience.

"Avio Aero seemed to me to be an environment where the person is put first: it is a respectful environment. I think the event went well. I was able to talk to some of the women who came, and I think it is very important to be able to hold events that allow people to exchange views and experiences in person. I would like to thank everyone who came to the event and all those who are reading my story. I consider myself to be a lucky person, but it took a lot of effort and perseverance. I'm sure that anyone can find that strength they didn't think they had to face difficult times day by day."

Cover photo credits Cucchetti GetSportMedia