I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 24th 2015. In the blink of a heartbeat, my life changed. I now understand that the illness jolted me back on track. Amidst the pain, the cancer was a blessing.
I dived into the experience and took notes along the way. I will share my story of what I lived through, what I did to heal, to be happy, to grow as a human being. In a series of posts, I hope some of you can benefit from my learning. There is much to learn when life takes an abrupt turn.
I was very happy in Stockholm, Sweden. I had just moved from my native Oslo to start a new job. My beautiful loft apartment was full of un-packed boxes. I was ready to start enjoying my new life.
The Kick in the Butt
Getting the messages that I had breast cancer, felt like being brutally hit. The doctor spoke to me in a soft, yet clear voice, but I felt that her words were kicking me, over and over again. Every kick felt more brutal than the previous one. I could not take in what she was telling me.
- You will not remember much of this conversation, but please remember one thing; you will be healthy again. For sure.
She was very sweet, the surgeon who delivered the message at Bröstcentrum, St Görans Hospital in Stockholm. She had illustrated my tumor like a bean on a pre-drawn sheet. The tumor looked cute, but the breasts did not look like mine.
Tears were slowly pouring down my cheeks. I felt the warm sympathy from both the surgeon and the nurse. It made the flood of tears stronger.
They presented my treatment plan: surgery the following week, followed by radiation therapy and finally hormone treatment. I unconsciously touched my left breast and held on to it. I tried so hard to listen.
I was brought to a room next door. The walls were painted in soft colors. A box of Kleenex was on the table. Did I want to speak to a curator? No thank you. It sounded like an institution, not a person.
- Do you have family in Stockholm?
- Not really
- But can someone stay with you tonight?
- I do not think so.
Bröstcentrum (The Breast Center) is part of St Görans Hospital. The building is old and beautiful. Those who have routine mammograms occupy the waiting room on the ground floor. I was there some weeks earlier and was irritated that I had to wait for my appointment. I used the time to catch up on e-mails.
Once you are diagnosed, you wait on the 2nd floor. In this waiting room, one can sense both the companionship among the women, but also the fear. Yet the patients with headbands or wigs were always calm. They were used to waiting. I found them scary, very scary. Was this my future?
I said goodbye to the nurses and went outside. It was a beautiful summer day. How could I tell Jakob? I had to call my dear son. But first I had to cancel the team summer lunch that was scheduled in an hour. I texted my colleague Jannike. Could she please step in for me?
- Hi all of you. I have breast cancer and the surgery is on Wednesday. I will be fully restored! Life is suddenly a bit different. Klem
I feel sorry for my friends who got this text message.
Overwhelmed by Advice
I am used to big and complicated projects. After many years as a global marketing executive, I am calm when everything is up in the air. When I have a lot to do. I know how to structure and lead projects. I automatically started my breast cancer project.
I had just moved into my new loft apartment in Stockholm and most of my belongings were in boxes. The planned surgery was in five days and I needed to get settled. Jakob flew in from Oslo and we worked with fun and gusto unpacking boxes, shopping at IKEA and getting my home all set so I could be sick.
I am a spiritual person and I have many friends who are experts in their fields of alternative medicine. This allowed me to reach out for a variety of advice. I wanted to aid my recovery process. I wanted to be in charge of my own healing.
Food was my first focus area. I already made healthy food choices, but with cancer, I wanted to learn about food as medicine. I ordered books on the Alkaline diet, Ayurveda eating, I threw away non-organic food from my kitchen. But I decided that champagne would continue to be part of my diet.
I wanted to become an expert in cooking healthy food. A raw-food apple cake was my first experiment. It took ages to cut the apples in thin slices, but I was determined to be patient. The result was terrible. The crust was sticky and sweet. It tasted like plastic. Most of the cake went into the bin and the project 'Best Healthy Chef' was over after a week.
I looked at all the books, the notes and lists that I had put together to help me heal. I was overwhelmed. I knew less than before. I had no idea what to put in my smoothie. If soy was good or bad? If Agave syrup was acceptable?
I eventually decided to eat berries, almond milk, organic fish and vegetables. But I worried about the amount of sugar in the berries.