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Mario's Story

Marios_story_tI truly believe we must enjoy every day because you never know what curveballs life will throw your way. I will never forget the day the doctor told me I had a rare mouth, nose and throat cancer and a 40 per cent chance of survival. I was only 32 and a successful manager in the Italian fashion industry but suddenly I was dealing with the possibility of my own death.

But I'm a determined person and knew that if I was going to make it I had to give it 110pc. Failure wasn't even an option. The chemotherapy and radiotherapy I endured made me feel awful but I also knew that it was making me better. I no longer focussed on the big stuff but the little stuff: swallowing my pills, drinking a poweful cocktail of freshly squeezed fruit-juice and doing my exercises from being permanently paralysed. What made the ordeal worse was that I couldn't express how I felt because the radiotherapy had weakened my vocal chords.

When I was 33, I no longer had cancer. I was in remission. Just a few months later, my company IT Holding, offered me a job in Germany heading up its German and Swiss terrritories as their finance and administration manager, I didn't hesistate in saying yes. There was just one problem. I didn't speak German and I could only speak in a whisper.

But I believe you can do anything when you put your mind to it. I got up two hours early every day to study German and within six months I was fluent. By this time my voice had also come back.

Making decisions in life isn't easy but stepping out of your comfort zone is when you reap the rewards. I qualified as a commercialista, (Italian equivalent of a chartered accountant) in my home town of Cagliari, Sardinia. But a trip to the US made me realise the importance of knowing English. Three months after coming back from the States, I handed in my resignation notice and moved to the UK where I worked as an aupair to fund my language studies.

Thanks to my new language skills and my background in economics and accountancy, I then moved to Milan and started working for the Bolton Group before joining the logistics and transportation company,  Hangartner Group, as the administration manager for Italy.

From there, I worked at management level for Shell, in the UK and Italy, and for IT Holding in Italy, Germany and Switzerland. In 2003, I moved back to Sardinia where I was director of finance and administration for a well-known supermarket chain. I was a dirigente – the highest level of management in Italy.

But I wanted to make the most of the quality of life on offer in Sardinia. These days, I am a commercialista and a management consultant for small and medium-sized businesses throughout Sardinia, including Tiscali. In addition to my role as the co-director of How to Italy, I have also set up another company with two other business partners.

I am also a conference speaker, co-author of Starting a Business in Italy: how to set up and run a successful business in the Bel Paese (How to Italy I amItaly magazine’s Career Doctor.

Six-and-a-half years later, I've now been given the official all-clear. If I could choose to wipe out what I went through or to go through it again, I would choose the latter. Having had cancer has changed my outlook on life for the better. It has taught that the most pleasurable things in life are often the simplest and to seize the moment when you can because you might not get another chance.

Mario Berri


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