A few weeks ago, I had an appointment with my doctor to thoroughly discuss and review all the different actions I have taken to reduce my digestive problems. Conclusion was to completely skip the tiresome and for me ineffectual diets, and instead try a change of medications and focus on general well-being. According to my doctor, my digestive system will hopefully get out of the cancer-fighting, survival mode, and gradually realize that I am okay.
Well-being is normally one of my best traits, but I must admit that I for a while have felt off-color. Luckily, the trip to Abruzzo gave me a much needed well-being boost. Every since, I have tried to keep the “Italian flow”. For me that includes plenty of daily physical activity and yoga, as well as coming back to doing things that bring me happiness and joy.
Speaking of happiness and joy, last weekend I attended a lovely party in Baden to celebrate my 25th work anniversary with ABB. Altogether, more than 150 people with 15th, 25th, 40th or even 50th work anniversary were celebrated. Even though I have not been able to work that much lately, I look back at my 25 years with much pride and joy. I have enjoyed the continuous learning, being challenged, empowered and trusted, but most of all I am extremely grateful for all the talented, inspirational and amazing people I have been fortunate to work together with. Thanks to all of you, I am who I am today!
Now I am back in the everyday routine, and I try genuinely hard to keep the "Italian flow" and excel in the art of well-being. That is what is most important to me!
What do you want to be remembered for? This is certainly an interesting and thought-provoking question. It could be understod as a way to somehow "live on" also after you are dead. The more apparent answers would be via your children, and if you are an artist via your art, or via your music if you are a composer. Another view, is to answer with a list of adjectives, you would want people to use when speaking about and remembering you at your funeral. By applying that on today, you could see it as a way to get direction and purpose in your life, if you were to live and act accordingly.
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, some of the top adjectives on my "To be remembered for list", would be: caring, positive, open-minded, supportive, joyous, generous, committed, self-reliant and ambitious.
My unexpected cancer diagnosis, painfully forced me to deal with thoughts and feelings I did not expect having to handle until much later in life, if ever. My priorities have changed as a consequence of the uncertainty of what the future holds, and I am much more focused on being in the presence, enjoying and appreciating what I have. I have come to realize that my "To be remembered for list" has somewhat changed and some more altruistic and unselfish adjectives, have advanced from further down on the list and have made their way into the top, these are: humanitarian, compassionate and grateful.
Humanitarian and compassionate: Expresses my desire to contribute to the greater good, and not only use my strengths and competencies for the benefit of my family, my employer and myself. Grateful: I do not take things like health for granted any longer. I am fortunate to be alive and grateful for every day! An excellent quote by Ashley Fern:
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Unquestionably, these are positive changes and I am happy to have seen them happen. Now it is up to me to continue living and acting accordingly.
So what do YOU want to be remembered for? And more importantly, are YOU living by your answer?
Last week I got a painful reminder how cruel and deadly ovarian cancer is. Three women, whom I have gotten to know in the patient organization that I am part of, died. Every death, is one too many, and three in one week is hearth breaking and devastating. The only way to prevent deaths in ovarian cancer and to save women's lives, is via advances in cancer research. Many researchers around the globe are focused on finding a way to early detect and possibly even screen for ovarian cancer, as this would be the most effective way to save lives. Today far too many women are diagnosed when cancer has already started to spread, thus making it more difficult to treat.
I have, together with my Foundation's board members, visited Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, to learn more about current ovarian cancer research. Karolinska Institutet is Sweden’s largest centre for medical academic research and its Nobel Assembly selects the Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine. We met with Professor Kristina Gemzell Danielsson and Senior Lecturer Angelique Flöter Rådestad. We visited the research lab and got an excellent presentation of ongoing research projects within screening- and diagnosis methods, treatments and patient care.
My fellow board members and I, now have a much better understanding of ongoing ovarian cancer research, which will be useful when deciding on projects to fund. Lena Wäppling's Foundation has just opened up for research funding applications, and I hope we will receive many applications, before the deadline on December 31st.
Link to Application
My Foundation is one of few focused on funding gynecological research and, to my knowledge, the only Swedish private foundation focused on ovarian cancer research. The interest and support from the academic world has been fabulous. I am extremely happy that we have secured an unbiased review by highly qualified medical expertise. The Scientific Committee of the Swedish Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (SFOG) will review all applications received and submit a recommendation to the Board of my Foundation for a decision on projects to fund.
Hopefully, we can somehow contribute to the very much needed advances in ovarian cancer research. If you want to help us help, donate today! Thank you.
An early autumn trip to Abruzzo in Italy has been booked for a long time. Both my husband and I have really looked forward to it, but with my never-ending stomach problems it has been highly uncertain, whether we would be able to go or not. A few days prior to the departure, I got a go-ahead from my doctor, and she felt I could benefit from a break from the everyday routine and that the Italian cuisine might do me good. She was absolutely right!
Yoga and fitness trip
My husband and I had booked a yoga and fitness trip to Villalfonsina in Abruzzo, on the Italian east coast. We felt that the the combination of yoga sessions, fitness classes and mountain hikes in a (for us) new part of Italy was appealing. It turned out to be a very pleasant and enjoyable experience, and we could relax, unwind and recharge. The location was magnificent, right in the middle of large vineyards and old olive groves, with mountain as well as Adriatic Sea view. We would love to return to explore Abruzzo even more!
I was practicing yoga regularly at the end of last year, but for some reason I put it on the back burner, when I started working. The trip gave me a yoga boost and I realized how much I benefit from it and that I should definitely get a simple yoga session into my daily routine again.
I am not sure if it was the Italian cuisine, the daily glass of red wine or the abundant physical and mental exercise, or maybe a combination of the three, but I do feel much better and have less stomach problems. I sincerely hope that this trip was a turning point, and that I now will be able to continue my recovery.
I have a bad habit of wanting too much and constantly overestimating my physical capacity. At present, my stomach cramps and digestive problems definitely do impact and limit my everyday life, which I hate to admit. With the gruesome time of cancer behind me, I just want to recover physically and be like any woman in her fifties. I know it is wishful thinking to assume that my year of tough surgeries and demanding treatments, would not have left any traces in my body, but I am not always rational. It is frustrating not knowing how long my physical recovery will take. However, I keep reminding myself to accept and just be in the presence and appreciate what I do have.
1 ½ time around the globe
One thing my doctor has recommended me, in order to reduce my symptoms, is walking. As I am sure you know, I am a nature freak and I clearly feel that being outdoor increases both my physical and mental well-being. I try to take a longer walk every day and I explore the hiking trails in our neighbourhood. I like to try different trails, and I have plenty to choose from as there in total are 66,200 kilometers of marked hiking trails in Switzerland. That distance equals to 1 ½ time around the globe, along the equator. So I keep on walking!
Status: escalating digestive problems and sleeping disorder, despite four months of strict Fodmap diet. I was not surprised that my nutritionist concluded that the Fodmap diet is not working for me and something else is needed. In an earlier meeting she had said that a rice cleanser, ie. three days of eating white rice only, would be my next step. Honestly speaking, I like rice but only eating it for three days, does not sound too appealing to me. Needless if that would be the solution, I would of course do it.
I was utterly surprised when my nutritionist said that, after consulting other experts, the next step for me would be a wholegrain and high fibre based diet, which is a complete opposite of Fodmap. I have not eaten any wholegrain products at all for a few months and now that is what I should focus on. Well, I clearly do not mind, and I welcome the shift of my breakfast from yoghurt with cornflakes to yoghurt with berries, dried figs, flax seeds, sunflower kernels, crushed rye and wholegrain müsli. In addition, I should start every day with a glass of warm water. According to my nutritionist, drinking warm water has a positive impact on the body, as it helps breaking down the food in the stomach faster and keeps the digestive system on track. There is also a more pseudoscientific, vain and wishful thinking benefit: halting premature aging. If I look like thirty next time you meet me, you know why!
As the medical side has been thoroughly checked, dietary trial and error is the only way to reduce digestive problems like mine. Now I wholeheartedly hope that my wholegrain diet and the warm water will improve my health situation and quality of life!
It has been a few intense months of brain storming, planning, signing sponsors, marketing and finally the big, long-awaited day came! My charity run Lenas Lopp för Livet (Lena's Run for Life) took place in my hometown Västerås. After all the recent health problems, I felt happy and relieved, when I just a few days before the Run got the all clear to travel to Sweden from my doctor.
When my fellow board members and I started planning the event, we thought that maybe maximun 100 people would join. The last couple of weeks the number of registered participants has been increasing day by day and finally we had more than 400 people at the starting line. It was fantastic to see so many old and new friends wanting to contribute to a good cause! I am especially thankful that so many youth teams shifted their normal football, handball and gymnastics practices to a participation in the Run.
Västerås to Naples
We managed to get excellent media coverage also on national level, when a Swedish health and lifestyle magazine published an article the day before the run. See link.
Locally, a radio channel made a live interview with me, just before the start. Here is the interview.
During the hour the Run lasted, our participants walked and ran a total of 2107 kilometers, that is equivalent to the distance between Västerås and Naples in southern Italy. It was not only in Västerås that people ran and walked in support of ovarian cancer research. We had a sister event in Sundsvall, where two friends of mine arranged a local run, and managed to gather close to 30 participants in just a few days. Thank you Anneli and Kristina!
All in all, the event was a huge success with a total sum of 100.000 SEK raised for ovarian cancer research, considerably more than I could ever expect. Thank you to all participants, our sponsors and volunteers for your fantastic contributions. I did not manage to thank you all in person at the event, but I want you to know that I am extremely thrilled and grateful for your support!
I have been overwhelmed and disappointed by the fact that my health situation has worsen. This was definitely neither what I had foreseen nor hoped for. I guess it is part of the human nature, when things improve, you more or less take it for granted that it will continue just like that. And I believe it is especially true for people like me, who were born optimistic and with a sense of that the only direction is upwards and towards something better.
Last year, when I was at my low-point physically and mentally, the revelation giving me a sense of purpose and meaning, was when I started to make sure I not only had things to look forward to, but actively started pursuing them. Lately, I have come to realize that I need to restart that again with the same passion and commitment. Hopefully, this will make me happier and more content, by seeing that I actually take steps forward, if not health wise, then at least in my own personal way. Hence, I have added a few, new activities that I really want to do, starting here and now!
The first task added, is quite obvious: successfully arrange Lenas Lopp för Livet (Lena's Run for Life) and raise lots of money to ovarian cancer research! Together with my fellow board members, we are well on our way. Sponsors have been signed up, practical arrangements have been made and many participants have already registered. The press coverage has been exceptional, with articles in both local papers of my home town:
Västerås Tidning, August 23rd
VLT, July 26th
Thanks to my parents, you can find posters about Lenas Lopp för Livet all over Västerås. Now I just need to get the go ahead from my doctor to travel to Sweden. Keep your fingers crossed!
After last week's oncology and nutritionist appointments, I am back to being on 100% sick leave. This feels like a disappointment, as I before the summer, considered myself being well on track to full recovery. However, I have learned that it is vitally impossible to predict and identify every organ and body process that somehow have been affected by the cancer illness as such, and all the surgeries and treatments I have undergone. The only way is to handle the problems as they arise, rule out cancer recurrence, and then try to minimize the impact.
Recently, my digestive problems have escalated, thus giving me painful stomach cramps, constipation and severe sleeping problems. All this makes me tired and my everyday unpredictable, as I never know when I will be in desperate need of a toilet. Last week, I had my regular oncology check-up and the results were good, without any signs of cancer recurrence. I am certainly happy and relieved that this was the case!
My doctor's theory is that the cause of my current problems, is that my intestines' movement capability has been drastically reduced. There is no treatment or medicine that can improve this condition, it could vanish any day or remain forever. This means I will need to focus on reducing symptoms, by trying various methods and diets, and hopefully finding some that works for me, and improves my quality of life. Currently, I am on a very high dose of good gut bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidus, in addition to strictly adhering to the Fodmap diet. Keep your fingers crossed that this will work, if not, the next diet will be three days of eating white rice only.
I sincerely hope that the time of serious digestive problems will be short, so I could resume my road to full recovery.
Healthwise, I have been struggling for months with digestive problems. When I go to bed, my intestines starts partying. I am convinced that they listen to hard rock, singing out loud and head banging, thus giving me severe stomach ache, bloating, constipation and sleeping problems. It impacts my everyday life, which I hate. None of my doctors can say why I have these problems. They might be caused by the surgeries, the chemo therapies or the HIPEC treatment that I got during my first surgery. HIPEC or Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy is a highly concentrated, heated chemotherapy treatment delivered directly to the abdomen after tumor removing surgery, to kill any remaining cancer cells.
It is pointless to speculate why I have these problems, I just want to find a way to reduce them. Compared to the cancer as such, it is of course just a small glitch, but nevertheless tiring and annoying.
At first, I tried a fiber-reduced diet, but without any success. Later, I was referred to a nutritionist to get specialist support. She advised me to try a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates known as Fodmaps. Fodmap stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, di-saccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. In simpler terms, different types of carbohydrates (sugars) that are found in milk products that contain lactose, stone fruits, onions, garlic, broccoli, mushrooms, wheat, rye, nuts and many more. Cooking definitely gets more challenging, when following this diet, not to mention eating out... Step 1 was to remove all Fodmaps from my diet for a couple of weeks, and step 2: introduce one type at a time, to identify what types and what amount of Fodmaps I can tolerate.
My vacation project was to reintroduce wheat to figure out how much gluten I can tolerate. Disappointingly, the results are inconclusive. Despite having tried different types of wheat-based bread every third day, and carefully noting down any symptoms, there is simply no logic. Somedays, I had serious problems and others none. I guess I will need to continue with gluten-free products and as a next step try some other Fodmap type.
Nevertheless, I do not give up, I need to find a way to reduce my digestive problems and feel better.
Support cancer research via Lena Wäppling's Foundation:
Lenas Lopp för Livet (Lena's Run for Life) is arranged in September every year. In 2019 100.000 SEK was raised for ovarian cancer research.
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.