My dream trip!
The last weeks I have been on my dream trip: Galapagos Islands! These green, lush, tropical islands in the Pacific Ocean, turned out to be even more fantastic than I ever had imagined. I am a bit of a nature freak, enjoying being outdoors and have of course watched most BBC nature documentaries, with David Attenborough. Galapagos has been one of my dream destinations for a very long time, and I booked the trip, right after I had had my first clear scan last summer. For me it was top priority to get a chance to visit these enchanted islands.
The Galapagos Islands are home to many endemic species, which means they cannot be found anywhere else on earth. About 80% of the land birds, 97% of the reptiles and mammals, and more than 30% of the plants are endemic. My favorites among the species unique to Galapagos, are the marine iguanas, the fur seals and the Galapagos penguin, the only penguin to be found in the Northern Hemisphere. This penguin has never seen snow or ice and it loves hunting fish and crustaceans in the shallow waters along the western islands.
Most animals have no enemies and are not at all afraid of people. It is a strange feeling to walk in the middle of a bird colony, among marine iguanas or giant Galapagos tortoises, without them paying any attention to us humans. We did not only hike but also did a lot of snorkeling. In the clear, nutrient-rich waters there are colorful fishes in abundance. We swam with sea turtles, sea lions, penguins, rays and sharks!
Robinson Crusoe and I
Several islands have no human settlements and tourist access is limited to protect the precious wild life, hence giving us a Robinson Crusoe feeling. It was relaxing and recharging to be far away from the civilization with no telephone or internet access, at least for a while! Action 26 is completed and I have many unforgettable memories of animal encounters to cherish.
The last couple of days I have been experiencing the dreadful, every three months occurring scanxiety. I had my CT-scan on Monday and have anxiously been waiting to receive the results, and meet with my oncologist. This time I was utterly uncertain of what to expect, as I have been experiencing increasing stomach discomfort the last weeks. I have tried not to think of it, but that has been easier said than done.
The blood tests and scan results were excellent, with no signs of a cancer relapse! Knowing I am cancer free, is for sure fantastic news. The stomach discomfort is a consequence of the surgeries I have undergone. My bowels are still in a bit of turmoil and not fully back to the normal pace. What a relief! I am so happy that I do not need to go back to the hospital until the next planned check-up. Today I have been celebrating with a nice cup of coffee, and yes I have put the champagne in the fridge for tonight!
Today, I can proudly say: I have learnt to play the saxophone! I have taken saxophone lessons during the last six months, and I can now play cool, classical jazz melodies in swing mode, as well as, more modern pieces like ABBA. It is great fun and I enjoy it big time! However, I must thank my family for being extremely patient, coping with all my beginners mistakes and having to listening to the squeaking noises a beginner tend to make. As always, if I start something I take it seriously, and I have practiced a lot. I believe we would have a major family crisis, if I ever play "Let it Snow" or "Winter Wonderland" again.
Learning to play the saxophone, was one of the first things I put on My Survival List, as I have always wanted to learn to play. As a kid I started my musical life, with the mandatory recorder flute. After that, when I got to select my next instrument, I heedlessly did as all my friends and chose the piano, even though we did not even have a piano at home. Of course my parents had no intention of buying one, as they realized that my piano interest was not really a serious one. Unfortunately, I did not dare standing out from the crowd and did not pursue my true interest for the saxophone at that time. As it turned out, that was the end of my music interest.
Last summer, I decided it is never too late to learn to play an instrument, so I started taking saxophone lessons at our local music school. Now I can play and action 3 is completed! If you need a saxophonist for your band, let me know, I am for sure interested 😄🎷
This week I started working again! After the tough 2018, with the surgeries, treatments and the long sick leave, it is great to be well enough to return to working life.
I was fortunate to have three different roles to choose between, and I decided to run a sales strategy project. I need to start gradually and listen to my body. The treatments I have been through have for sure taken a toll. I do not know if or how I will react, but first and foremost I feel strong and I am definitely motivated. The biggest challenge for me will be to limit my working time to the 25%, that my doctor recommends starting with. I know myself and when I get into something I like and am passionate about, I tend just to go on, wanting to finish and complete the task. Time for recovery, physical training and other fun and joyful things, like time with my family and saxophone playing are imperative for me. I am still in the post cancer build-up phase, and need to take care of myself. Therefore, self-awareness and clear priorities where my health comes first, second and third are key, when starting working again.
I have taken a big step forward, and I am happy to be back to work!
I used to play golf quite frequently, when we lived in Sweden. Many of our friends played and I found it to be a pleasant and joyful experience. As well as, a way to get fresh air, exercise and, of course to socialize. For the last years, my golfing has been on hold, mainly because of frequent business trips and a feeling of simply not having enough time for golf. I know it is a bad excuse, we all have 24 hours a day. Nevertheless, when considering what I really wanted to do, golf was a given thing to put on My Survival List.
The game of golf
In theory, golf is such a simple game, just hit the ball into a hole. But in reality, the ball is quite small, the terrain can be varied and rough, the clubs are not easy to control, and your mind is almost always your greatest enemy. Playing golf is a test of your mental strength, and your ability to shake off mistakes quickly, not letting them get to you. When you sink a long putt or hit a good drive into the fairway, you are the king of the world! The joy and relief is tremendous, and a huge contrast to the annoyance and frustration when playing badly. I guess it is this contrast that makes the game so challenging and fun.
Already at the end of August 2018, my friends arranged a golfing lesson for me and my plan was to play shortly after that. However, because of the emergency surgery I had to undergo in September, everything came to a halt again, and I had to focus all my energy on recovery and to build up my strength.
Last week, nothing could stop me! I got to play two rounds on the beautiful Meloneras Golf Course and have now restarted my golfing career. My score was pretty lousy, I definitely need to practice and play more to defend my handicap. However, more importantly the weather and company was excellent! Action 35 is completed.
Normally, we spend our Christmases in Sweden, with my parents and my sister and her family. The Christmas of 2018, we had to change plans abruptly and completely, as I was diagnosed and got my treatment plan on December 22nd. The worst Christmas present ever... Due to my lung problems, I needed care during the holidays and was not allowed to fly. Therefore, we had to celebrate Christmas in Zürich, only the four of us.
Already at the end of January, right after I had come home from hospital, my dad talked to me about booking a family vacation in Gran Canaria over the New Year's, with the hole clan, i.e. my family, my sister's family and my parents. I admit, at that time I was not thrilled, as I was still in pain from the surgery, and knew I was about to start the tough chemotherapy only a few weeks later. All in all, I just felt like crawling and hiding under a thick, fluffy duvet, never to come out again.
Today, after having spent a lovely family vacation in Gran Canaria, I am grateful for my dad's consideration and persistence. He knew, that not only I, but the whole family needed to have something pleasant and rewarding to look forward to. In hindsight, I am absolutely sure this was one of the things that helped me through this past, dreadful year. I am happy to have welcomed 2019 big time, together with the whole Wäppling family. Action 19 is completed!
As 2018 comes to its end, I can conclude that this year has by far been the worst but also one of the better years in my life. I know that this sounds crazy and I admit that “the worst but anyway great”, is a paradox, but it is my very personal year 2018 paradox.
The reason why it’s the worst is pretty obvious. With so much time having to be devoted to getting rid of the cancer cells and surviving; surgeries, chemo therapies, never ending doctors’ appointments, weekly blood tests, all the worries etc. Nevertheless, it was also one of the better years, because the treatment results at the end, were excellent and I got, in a way, a second chance. As I was ill the whole year, I needed to spend most days at home resting and recovering, hence getting much more time together with my husband and daughters. Of course, I wish the circumstances would have been completely different and that we would have had this time when I would have been fully fit and healthy. However, I am truly grateful for what we got and I definitely see that we have become tighter and have strengthened our family bonds.
Family and friends
When reflecting on 2018, I am extremely thankful for all the support I have received from my family and friends. Your text messages, calls, flowers, visits at home or in hospital, the home cooked food and cakes we got, or that you were simply here for me when I needed it the most. Thank you!
Support and inspiration
I would also like to mention a few other sources that I have helped me and that I have benefited from:
The BBC podcast: You, Me and the Big C. Three women, who have or have had cancer talk about cancer in a very frank and refreshing way, or as they put it "The coolest club you never want to be part of." This podcast is not only for people who have cancer but also if you know somebody with cancer and for example are uncertain of how to best talk to that person. The episods cover different topics, such as Chemo, the Future and the Nearest and Dearest. However, I recommend listening to the episods from the beginning as they build upon each other.
Imerman Angels, partners individuals seeking cancer support with a mentor. For me it has been comforting to talk to a woman with the same type of cancer as I. My mentor has provided excellent support, as she has had a similar experience and knows exactly what I am going through.
My Survival Story shares and spreads inspirational stories to help people better cope with cancer. A great source if you are tired of all the depressing statistics, and need to see that people do survive!
Nobody knows what the future holds, I for sure hope for a better year than 2018. But for now, let us enjoy and celebrate New Year's with lots of fireworks and champagne together with family and friends! Take care and I wish you all the best for 2019.
Originally posted December 20, 2018. Link to post.
Most people find Christmas traditions important and want everything from food to decorations to remain the same year after year. Traditions give us a sense of belonging and a way to express what is important to us. They also connect us over generations and make each family unique and special.
In my family, we have created a gingerbread baking tradition that since many years is deeply rooted in all four of us. I believe we all feel that there would be no real Christmas, unless we meet with our good friends and bake gingerbreads.
It started already in 1995 when my husband and I, plus two other couples met over a weekend to bake gingerbreads, enjoy good food and wine, socialize and enjoy each others company.
At that time we were in our late twenties or early thirties, had just married and one couple had even had their first child. Over the years the number of participants have expanded from the original seven to somewhere between twelve and eighteen depending on how many kids that attend and if they come with or without their partners.
For the last couple of years we have met at one couple's home in Nävlinge in South Sweden, since that is a convenient location for everybody. It is amazing that we have managed to maintain our gingerbread baking tradition, with all the things that happen in people's lives such as births, moves, divorces and new partners. Last weekend we met for the 24th consecutive time!
My participation last year was limited as I was ill and slept through most of the weekend. Later it turned out that the cancer was the root cause, but at that time I just felt bad that I could not participate the way I wanted. Therefore, it became even more important for me to be able to join this year, and I definitely wanted to have our gingerbread baking on My Survival List.
As every year, the dough is homemade using a grandma's old, special recipe. When we bake, we make plenty of gingerbreads. This time we baked for 2.5 hours and filled 57 baking trays. We all like thin and crispy cookies and the bottle neck is always the rolling. If not thinly rolled the gingerbreads will be too thick and not as tasty. As many of us are engineers, we have obviously found a way to speed up the process by using a pasta machine to thinly roll a large quantity of the dough. Mass production is surely possible.
The baking is of course important, but it is indeed a social event with plenty of laughs, deep and interesting conversations, walks, tasty food and wine; everything enjoyed among close friends.
Action 39 is completed, and I really look forward to our 25th anniversary next year!
Originally posted December 12, 2018. Link to post.
One year ago
Next week, one year has passed since I got my cancer diagnosis, and my life took an unforeseen and totally unexpected turn.
At the very moment, when my oncologist explained all about my tumor, something changed forever, and ovarian cancer became part of my life. Well, to start with, it was not only part of my life, it directed and determined what had to be done in order for me to survive. Now one year later, after my treatments have been successful and I have reached, what every cancer patient dreams of, remission, I try to adjust to my life after cancer.
Stability and predictability
My cancer came out of the blue, without warning and without any symptoms, but a tenacious cough. I did not fit into any of the common risk groups that increase ovarian cancer probability, such as age, obesity, smoking or genetic predisposition.
According to my oncologist I was one of them who just had bad luck. I have tried not to dwell too much about my bad luck, as I believe it is pointless. It is what it is and I can only look forward and focus on making the best out of every day.
Given my unexpected diagnosis, I have longed for getting back the familiar feeling of stability, that there is some sense of predictability about my life. However, I have come to realize that it has forever changed, and the wish for a return to stability and predictability has just been wishful thinking. Cancer will be part of my life for many years to come, since I will have to do scans every third month and will be faced with the relapse fear over and over again.
When I was diagnosed, I was abruptly pulled away from a fully active and intense working life that took me all around the globe. All of a sudden, my every day life was spent in a much smaller world, mainly at home, dealing with a potentially deadly decease. At first it was extremely difficult to grasp that I was severely ill, as I felt and looked the same, as the day before I was diagnosed. After having had my surgery in January, it however became obvious how ill I really was.
Right now I am trying to figure out how I want my life after cancer to be. Earlier, I took my health more or less for granted, but for sure I will need to give my health top priority moving forward. I am currently uncertain how I want to design, what my doctors and other cancer survivors call, the "New Normal" i.e. life after cancer. I do know I want to spend more time with family and friends and that I want to continue working my way through the activities on My Survival List. I am positive that I will find my New Normal, one way or another. I guess, the best approach is to take it step by step and make sure I first fully recover. With Christmas and New Year's celebrations coming up, I will for now focus on enjoying the holiday season with my family!
Originally posted December 8, 2018. Link to post.
Horses, horses and horses
Both my daughters are excellent horse back riders, however their skills definitely do not come from me. I am a lousy rider and somewhat scared of horses. My contribution is being an enthusiastic supporter and driver.
We have maintained the tradition also after moving to Switzerland, by going to the Zürich Horse Show. Due to my surgery in January, it was not possible for me to join my daughters this year. When I realized we could go to the show in Stockholm and get back to our old custom, I booked tickets and off we went.
At the event this year, I was most impressed by the dressage, where the world's top ten ranked dressage riders competed. We watched the Grand Prix kür, the riders' freestyle program with music.
It was fascinating to see the horses' movements choreographed to perfection with the music. Each rider had chosen a different type of music, with everything from rock to tango and classical music. The German world- and olympia champion Isabell Werth, with her horse Weihegold, was outstanding and won after an amazing ride. We also got to see the best ride ever done by a Swedish dressage rider, when Patrik Kittel and his horse Delaunay finished second.
Overall, a great day and I am happy to have completed action 38.
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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.