I am moved and extremely grateful for the avalanche of love, hurray cries, kind notes of support and encouragement, that I have received ever since announcing the start of my Foundation. I want to say a warm "Thank you!" to all of you who have given donations! Every Krona, Dollar and Euro you have donated, will help us supporting ovarian cancer research projects, thus taking us one important step towards our goal to improve women's health.
During the last week, I also had my every three month follow-up meeting with my oncologist, to review and discuss the latest CT-scan results. As I have written in earlier blogposts, the days leading up to these appointments are nerve wrecking, as scanxiety kicks in. This time I had even more butterflies in my stomach, as I had experienced increasing digestive problems. Therefore, I had done a colonoscopy, which revealed nothing but an intestinal system in complete imbalance after my surgeries and treatments. This was of course a relief, and it can hopefully be better managed with a fiber-reduced diet. However, the doctors wanted to await the CT-scan to confirm that my cancer had not metastasized. Scan results turned out to be great, with no signs of any relapse. I continue to be cancer free! I celebrated with a cappuccino and a croissant, before taking the train to Zug for the live podcast, on World Ovarian Cancer Day. And do not worry, I did have a glass of champagne later that evening.... 😉
Ever since I got my totally unexpected ovarian cancer diagnosis, I have felt I wanted to change the course of my life and somehow contribute to the greater good. I guess this is a consequence of seeing how fragile life can be and how quickly things can change. Several ideas have been running through my head: volunteer work, supporting cancer research, fund raising and many other.
Today, I am proud to announce the start of Lena Wäppling’s Foundation! My foundation wants to make a difference in an under-financed area, where the need is huge: gynecology and mainly ovarian cancer. Every year about 65.000 European women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 43.000 die every year. In Sweden the statistics are even worse, 700 women are diagnosed every year and 550 die. New treatments and screening methods are urgently needed to reduce these numbers. My Foundation will use its yearly return on investments, as well as donations to support research within the field of gynecology, mainly ovarian cancer research.
The Foundation is based in Västerås, Sweden and I am chairing the board. I am joined by Karin Swärd Lindberg, Jonas Eriksson Bergdahl and Leif Wäppling. We do this on a volunteer basis. We are passionate and determined to develop the Foundation, where every donated Krona, Euro or Dollar goes directly to research.
If you want to help us help, donate via:
Sweden: Swish: 123 360 7058 or Bankgiro: 341-7284
Via PayPal: see link on our webpage
or bank transfer: IBAN: SE11 6000 0000 0003 1976 7051 BIC: HANDSESS
Name of account: Lena Wäpplings Stiftelse. Bank address: Handelsbanken, Box 363, SE- 72107 Västerås, Sweden.
Thank you! If you want to know more about my Foundation, go to the webpage: www.lenawfoundation.com
I believe I have found my new way forward, and I am excited to contribute to ovarian cancer research. Hopefully, new treatments and screening methods will be developed, making ovarian cancer easier to detect and treat, hence improving the survival rates.
Today it is World Ovarian cancer day. A lot of events take place around the world to raise awareness about ovarian cancer, and to make sure women with cancer, as well as their families and friends get the very much needed focus and attention. Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of all female cancers. No screening methods exist today and the symptoms can be vague and are often confused with less severe illnesses. Therefore most women are diagnosed once the cancer has already spread, making it more difficult to treat.
I try to contribute as much as I possibly can. For me it is important to give ovarian cancer a face, show that cancer can hit at any point in life and make sure we talk about gynecological cancers. I am on my way to an event at Astra Zeneca's Swiss head quarter, where I will be participating in a Podcast. The Podcast will be presented live on stage and will be live-streamed to several Astra Zeneca offices around the globe. I am looking forward to a great event and will for sure link to the Podcast, as soon as it it available online!
I am also participating in the Swedish Ovarian Cancer Patient Organization's campaign movie 700550. See link. The number comes from the terrifying Swedish statistics: 700 women are diagnosed every year and 550 die. Knowledge and early detection are key: every woman should see a doctor if having symtoms like bloating, eating complications, abdominal pain or urinary problems.
Do you want to make a difference? Contribute to cancer research!
Four years ago I started a nice tradition by taking my older daughter on a longer "Mother and Daughter trip", as she finished grade 9. I wanted to show her one of the big cities that I normally would go to for business. The two of us went to Shanghai and Beijing and had a wonderful time sightseeing, shopping and enjoying the excellent Chinese cuisine.
The plan was of course to do something similar with my younger daughter when she finished grade 9 last year. As she is not at all interested in big cities, but loves animals and wildlife photographing, a big, bustling city was out of the question. Therefore we had planned and booked a safari trip to South Africa. Everything had been arranged and we were set to go in April 2018. You all know, 2018 was really bad for me healthwise, so there was no chance in the world that we could go. In a spur of optimism, I decided not to cancel the trip, but to postpone it one year. By doing so I maintained not only a strong hope for a better 2019, but I had something enjoyable to look forward to and really strive for doing when my health improved.
Last week my younger daughter and I could finally go on our trip! We stayed in safari lodges in two different private game reserves, connected to the vast Kruger National Park. I had never been on a safari and did not really know what to expect, but it turned out to be a fascinating and thrilling wildlife experience. We were pleased to see that all the game viewing was done with great respect to the animals.
It was of course exciting to see the Big five: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo, but overall I found it even more interesting to just enjoy the lush, beautiful sceneries, the sounds and all the thriving wildlife: insects, birds and mammals. It was also fascinating to do bush walks led by an armed ranger, and learn more about the wide variety of insects and plants, and get really close to nature. On one of the walks we got a bit too close, as we almost walked into two mating leopards. Then even the cool ranger got a bit nervous...
I feel privileged and truly blessed to getting the chance to spend one-on-one time traveling and experiencing other cultures with my fantastic daughters. Thank you for hanging out with your mom! Love you ❤️
With Easter approaching, I am reflecting and thinking back, to where I was one year ago. Last Easter I was neither in shape nor in the mood for any Easter egg hunt, as I had just completed my second chemotherapy. A week earlier my younger daughter had shaved my head, as I could not stand seeing my hair falling off in clumps. As a result, I did not recognize myself any longer when looking in the mirror, seeing a totally bald person.
In hindsight, losing all my hair was hard and it gave me the "cancer look", making it obvious to everyone that I was seriously ill. Nevertheless, I could adjust and I gradually got used to the new me. Going through six cycles of chemo was of course tough and I suffered from some side effects. However, with the help of half a Pharmacy, most of them could be managed.
One effect of the chemo drugs that I never got used was the post-chemo "run over by a truck" feeling. The hours just after having got the infusion were the worse, with a strange, horrible sensation of not only being totally exhausted, but mentally and physically severely bruised and battered. After a week or two, this feeling slowly wore off. I sincerely hope that the chemotherapies I have undergone, have killed all cancer cells, as I definitely do not want to be run over by a truck again.
This year I feel a lot better and I look forward to the Easter break. In between painting Easter eggs and enjoying some sunshine, I will watch the amazing Netflix series Our Planet. If you have not seen it yet, do so! It contains some extraordinary wildlife scenes that will impact how you view our planet and what needs to be done to protect it. Happy Easter! 🐣
Why do we talk about cancer in military terms? "He is a warrior and is fighting his cancer. She is heroic and is winning the war." I am fed up with the language of war. If you die from cancer you do not give in and “lose”. That suggests you lacked courage, did not try hard enough and were beaten. Cancer is a decease not an invading army, and I believe we should use the same language with cancer patients, as with anyone else who is ill.
The battle language also suggests that having cancer is a one-time event that you as a patient controls. I know that almost every patient is prepared to do what it takes in order to survive, and believe me treatments are extremely tough. However, survival is not something you as a patient alone can control, it depends on so many other correlating factors: cancer type, cancer stage, spread, patient's age, genetic predisposition, surgery outcome, treatment response etc.
Language matters, but why is the language of war used when talking about cancer? My theory is that we in a way are stuck in the past, when most cancer types were a lot more deadly than they are today. Surgery and treatments have developed immensely over the last 10 to 15 years, and today three out of four persons diagnosed with cancer will survive. I guess before all cancer types can be treated and cancer is seen as a fully curable decease, the image of cancer, as an invading army, an immortal alien no human body can resist, will prevail.
"We still lose too many people to cancer. If things work out and people do well, are they any more a hero than somebody who did everything they needed to do, but unfortunately the disease was stronger than they were?"
Len Lichtenfeld, Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society
One of my passions is alpine skiing. Since I grew up in Sweden, skiing was an essential part of the culture and tradition. I started skiing at the age of two, by standing in front of my grandfather on his skis, going down a small hill, loudly screaming: faster, faster, faster!
The Stone Age
It almost feels like I grew up during the stone age and not in the seventies, when thinking of the equipment being used in alpine skiing, when I started. My skis, with practically no side cut, where heavy and a lot taller than me. Safety equipment, like ski stoppers had not been invented. This resulted in plenty of extra exercise when I had to run down the slopes chasing and trying to retract my skis after having fallen. The ski boots hardly had any insulation, giving my toes permanent frostbites, since I was too stubborn to take a break indoors when my feet got cold. Ski pants and jackets where not waterproof, and where made out of thick fabric, resulting in me not only getting wet by the snow from the outside, but also from the inside from sweat. Merino wool, Gore tex and breathable textiles had not entered skiing at that time. Nevertheless, I had found my passion and kept on skiing with my parents and sister. Today alpine skiing is a vital part of my own family’s tradition.
Last weekend, I enjoyed the best possible skiing company, when spending a weekend in Trysil, Norway with Hasse, Johanna, Karin, Patrik and Niclas! You might think I am crazy to travel from the Alps, with its fabulous slopes and sceneries, to go skiing in Scandinavia, but then you have not met my amazing friends! I travel not mainly for the skiing part, but to hang out and socialize, eat superb food, drink good wines and have a great time. Last year I was unfortunately too ill to join. As my health condition has improved, nothing could stop me from going this year. This year was special as it was our 10th anniversary, and we celebrated with an extra glass of Prosecco.
Thank you Hasse, Johanna, Karin, Patrik and Niclas for a great weekend! I am looking forward to the next 10 years.
"Wow, you look good!" is a comment I have heard several times the last months. Please do not misunderstand me, I love compliments and I really appreciate every time somebody says that I look good. However, the well meant and kind comment, often comes with a question attached, that brings a need for explanation and justification. "You look good, why do you not work full time?" or "You look good, have you really had cancer?"
Many people hold the misconception that you must “look” ill in order to be ill. I have come to realize how it is for the thousands of people who live with illnesses that can not be seen on the outside. People who break their arm or leg, or experience another form of injury may be in rough shape, but others can see their injury and understand their limitations. With chemo behind me and the hair on my head having grown back, nobody can see that I am not 100% up to speed and still in the recovery face. I am of course happy that I have a healthy look, but it is somewhat tiring having to face skepticism and needing to justify that my appearance does not say everything about my health. For me this is hopefully just a phase when looking healthy but not being fully okey. However, it is beneficial to have experienced what people with chronic illnesses encounter. It is also clear that in order to know how people really are doing, empathy and a willingness to truly listen and understand, are required.
Please do not stop giving me compliments, just do it with the understanding that looks and appearance do not say everything about a persons health condition.
Somebody commented that I do a lot of things and always seem to be looking at the next project and after that the next one. It is true that I, for obvious reasons, am super happy that I am alive and can have things and projects to look forward to. However, I am also a rather lazy and easy going person that enjoy the simple pleasure of doing absolutely nothing or very little!
As I still need time to recover from the chemotherapy and build up my body again, my current tempo is lower than it used to be before I was diagnosed. I cannot rush my recovery and it is challenging, but I have become better at accepting that it is my present reality. A slower pace can also be pleasant and I try to make the best out of it. It is nice to be able to sleep a bit longer some mornings, do yoga, look up at the passing clouds and just feeling grateful to be alive!
Yesterday was one of those "doing very little days". I was tired and did not leave our apartment. I just read my book, ate Ecuadorian dark chocolate and watched Star Trek on Netflix. I had bought four different types of dark chocolate, and I tried them all! My favorite was the one from Los Rios with 72% cacao content. Very tasty and the perfect company for my "doing very little day".
We have lived in the same house, ever since moving to Switzerland, almost seven years ago. We have loved our house and it has been perfect for the four of us. Enough space for our two teenagers and their friends and easy access to public transportation, making it convenient for me to commute to the office and to the airport.
Ever since our oldest daughter moved out to start studying at university, we have felt that the house was getting too big for just three persons, and we decided to start looking for an apartment. In Switzerland many people rent and the housing offering is quite large. Nevertheless, you need to decide relatively quickly and be able to present references and employment confirmations.
Last weekend it was time for us to move into a newly-built apartment! Fortunately, we have known the moving date for a couple of months and could start the downsizing, sorting, selling and getting rid of stuff well in advance. We have sold three sofas, donated sacks of stuffed animals and found things we thought were lost. It was a time-consuming, tedious and boring yet fun, rewarding and satisfactory process. For example, we know that we do not need to buy any toilet brushes the coming years, even if we would change them very frequently, I do not need to buy any black socks at all and my husband would definitely make it to the finals of "Dismount and mount your IKEA closets in the shortest time".
Right now we are in the middle of unpacking all the boxes, going to IKEA to buy all the small, complementary stuff we need. Hopefully, we could soon start decorating and putting up curtains and paintings, but no stress, we will take our time. We already feel very much at home and adore our fantastic mountain view. Action 43 is completed, you are warmly welcome to come and visit us in our new apartment!
Support cancer research via Lena Wäppling's Foundation:
Hi, my name is Lena and I am a cancer survivor. I hope you enjoy reading my blog posts. If you want to subscribe, click on Contact.