Archive for March, 2007

New job; new life

I really enjoy my job, so please don’t take any of this the wrong way. When I started “the blog” I had three criteria. If (when) I get through this I still want the following to have remained in my life: my family, my friends and my job.

By the way, I will be admitted to hospital shortly and I may not have an Internet connection to communicate through. I will bring my lap top and perhaps scrabble something down in Word. Not sure how I will publish it, though, so bear with me. If I am lucky I may have five days in front of me where I meet people who have a thing or two to tell me about the meaning of life. Besides, the staff are definitely friendly, so I don’t have too much to worry about, I hope.

Each day of treatment will only last about ~30 minutes so PLEASE feel free to help keep Me, Myself & Irene (even if I am a Jim Carrey fan, this was his absolute worst movie) busy the remaining ~117.5 hours. I will bring my mobile. If we’re lucky and in the same end of the world, we can do coffee (fika).

Lullabies

Tomorrow is the day when everything starts changing, hopefully for the better. J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, “Little by little, one travels far.” So right you are my old man.

Our son loves the CD collection at home. He loves the collection so much that he wants his own and secretly stashes it behind the bookshelf. The routine is pretty standard and a couple of times a week my husband or I have to break our backs to get to it (we are slow learners). Guess which CD I pulled out this morning? “Lullabies from the Axis of Evil“. I bought this CD after our honeymoon to Israel/Palestine in October 2004. One of my best friends, who is possibly even more blond and blue-eyed than myself, decided to make life easy and marry a Palestinian. Going back a number of years, the couple lives in Jerusalem and they were nice to lend us their sofa-bed FOR TEN DAYS.

This one trip made me realise that there are two sides to most stories. If you didn’t know- life is all about perspectives, depending of course on who you ask. One of my favourite artists s(t)ings,

In Europe and America, there’s a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets
Mr. Krushchev said we will bury you
I don’t subscribe to this point of view
It would be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too []

I would love for him to change the song and instead sing “If the Palestinians and Israelis love their children too“. Who doesn’t “love their children” and want them to have a better future? I do at least, and of course as always, I speak for myself.

I don’t wish to get political, but did you know that unless you are an Israeli soldier, you are not allowed into the West Bank, foreigners and certain Palestinians excluded? This is of course for protection and settlements are an entirely different story. Think about it, you are sharing a piece of land the size of Småland/New Jersey i.e. 424 km from north to south and your neighbours can’t see what life is like for you. On the other hand, the roads are so bad going from the checkpoints to Ramallah or Bethlehem that unless you have an errand I can understand why you’d hesitate []

Pink bike at checkpoint

My husband and I were blessed, lucky, fluky (call it what you like). With our Swedish passports we were let through and had a marvelous time- on both sides of the checkpoints.I feel fortunate to have Jewish friends, Palestinian friends and a certain blond Swedish friend living in Jerusalem. It makes (my) life more rewarding, to say the least. Furthermore, CDs like “Lullabies from the Axis of Evil” make me hopeful for the future. I think that even if I don’t get through the next year(s), at least the human race is smart enough to realise that life is too precious to throw away.

Simulation

My father drove me in the car this morning to my final “set-up” meeting at JK. This is the last part of the preparation known as “simulation” before we go live on Monday and begin the 30 rounds of radiation. Once I had found my way down to the basement and my name had been called, I was asked to lay down on the machine table. I was subsequently strapped into my mask and a minute or two later I could hear the machine buzzing away and feel a movement upwards into the air. I can’t see very well through the mask and figured it was better to keep my eyes closed and think about “something else”. A lot of faces came flying through my mind – friends, old teachers, colleagues, people I haven’t seen in years. I thought about my son but decided to try to focus on yet something else. I wasn’t sure if the mask would let through tears.

I felt a bit uneasy when they turned the lights off and red lasers lit up. I was left alone in the room for a couple of minutes and could hear a discussion in the hallway. The male nurse told me that this would be my longest episode in the mask, ~20 minutes. He put on some music, letting me know that I can bring my own during the upcoming 30 sessions.

I couldn’t move my face but I wanted to laugh out loud. The CD player started playing calm classical film music. Guess what the first song was? The signature theme to “Ghost”. Great, who was I suppose to be, Patrick Swayze? This song was followed by “Runway to the danger zone” from Top Gun. I don’t mind Top Gun but I think I will bring my own music. Please feel free to send me some as well. I find that much of the music I listen to has been passed on to me by friends.

After my frozen 20 minutes, I was let out of the mask. I was warned to wait before getting off the table. The lights were still out but I could see that I had been swung close to two meters up in the air. Thanks for the warning, I would hate to start off by breaking my legs, or worse.

There was no fire in the hole today, but I am glad I had to go through this “simulation”. If it doesn’t get any worse than this, I should be okay, even if they do play me Ghost.

Thursday = Date Night

Every second Thursday my husband and I have “Date Night”. This is something I can really recommend all those of you who live with children or with busy schedules. We noticed that it was so easy to schedule activities and social events but “forget” to schedule time together, just the two of us. This “Date Night” event is actually quite new and was introduced to us only a couple of months ago when we attended The Marriage Course. This course was run in our local church, in English, by a (married) couple who seemed to have been through a lot in life, not to mention in their marriage. When I told my friends and colleagues that we were attending this course, many got a worried look in their eye. Correct me if I’m wrong, my feeling is that in Sweden, unless you have a problem in your marriage, you DON’T attend marriage therapy. Besides, it’s expensive, “embarrassing” and you definitely don’t tell people about it.

I probably haven’t spent enough time in Sweden to familiarise myself with all our strange customs. This is one course I believe all couples should take (and no, it’s not expensive), especially if you have children. In my opinion, you owe it to them and to your partner to make the relationship work. That’s just me, though, and no, I don’t know what divorce is. Both my husband and I have been fortunate to have parents who have stuck it through.

What surprised me the most about this course was that my husband actually agreed to take it with me. I think the main reason for this was that when we lived in London we attended some Sunday services at Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), a dynamic church located close to my university, which also enabled me to pop into the lab. I don’t know how many of you have heard of the Alpha Course. Well, this is the place that invented it. We were pretty impressed by HTB in general. However, we almost stopped going because they were talking so much about Alpha during the services and sometimes about very little else. Then they suddenly mentioned the Marriage Course, which is also their invention, and our ears perked up. We weren’t married at that time, but it sounded interesting and we weren’t rolling our eyes.

You know what I wish? I wish there were Alpha Courses for Islam, Non-Adherence, Hinduism, Chinese folk religion, Buddhism, Paganism, Sikhism etc. I would be the first to sign up. I am not about to convert but I have so many questions and my list is currently getting longer than the list I have for my doctors.

Lovebirds

Does honey and warm milk really work? Am I sipping this brew because I really think it is going to make me sleep? Either way, it tastes good. Besides, I need some therapy and so, here I sit sipping brew.

I was told that I am “whiny” today. See, I don’t really care if “someone” calls me whiny; but when that person is someone who you have let into your life behind the fence, it hurts. YOU try having a brain tumour, the flu and your period all in one week!

You have all heard the tearful song “Love hurts“, right? When I listen to music, I often have trouble making out the lyrics (to my husband’s great distress when I sing to the car radio). Until only a couple of years ago, I was absolutely certain Nazareth was singing “Lovebirds”. It didn’t strike me that this beautiful love song about two birds was actually about something else. When I came to the realisation, I felt stupid (who wouldn’t?) but also a bit sad. I still think it is a good song, though. Beautiful and painful all at once.

I am currently reading a book, lent to me just the other day, with the inspiring title JAG KAN BARA LEVA (directly translated, “I Can Only Live”). It’s a biography written by a 23 year-old Swedish girl, Katarina Fahlström, and her life experiences battling leukaemia in 1997. I’ve come to page 87 and seriously considering handing the book back. My 1997 represented freedom after graduating from International Baccalaureate (IB), which is a story itself. While one girl was fighting a losing battle, my life took a turn for the better. In a small way I am celebrating my very own ten year anniversary of “living life to the fullest”; ten years of loving myself, which in turn has helped me love others.

I am inclined to hold on to the book a while longer, for never have I read anything that hits so close to home. It could be me up until page 87. For some odd reason I thought I was alone in what has been happening. I thought I was alone with all my thoughts, feelings and ideas about the world around me, what is happening to me, where I am going and where this will end. I’m not alone and hardly unique. Someone has travelled this path ahead of me and that feeling is quite soothing. Loneliness is a hard feeling to have to live with. I have so many people around me who genuinely care; I am blessed beyone belief. So why do I feel as if I am back in the operating theatre surrounded by green-robed people? At the moment it feels as if it’s just God and me and one long roller-coaster. Many of you seem daring and willing to jump on board, some of you are probably already seated. Either way, this roller-coaster is going to live.

Happy and Sad

The concept of being happy and/or sad has kept my mind busy for quite some time. I have attempted to discuss it with various people, but only one has really come close to helping me understand. An easy way of defining the terms are of course to look them up in Merriam-Webster.

Happiness: “a state of well-being and contentment; a pleasurable or satisfying experience”. Sadness: “affected with or expressive of grief or unhappiness.”

Am I happy, am I sad? Both, I would say. I am actually happier than I’ve been for a long time. Strange, huh? How can you be “happy” when you have been diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness? It helps being showered with affection from everyone that has come to be an important part in my life. Happiness for me is also seeing father and son playing together, coffee with my mother, Mallards in the pond behind the house, knitted hats, Mulberry trees, insightful conversations and emails, reading and learning new things (like the complexity of Islamic mosaic), speaking to a master of divinity, “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens”.

What makes me feel sad? Losing a friend, tumour statistics, starved children, World of Warcraft and “when the dog bites” (I like bees and most don’t sting).

My list of “happiness” is definitely longer at the moment and I hope it stays that way, even after I start treatment. I was given a great quote the other day, from a friend of the family who is actually an Undertaker (what can I say? I have connections).

“Vår grämelse över dagen som gått, vår oro över dagen som kommer – gör att vi glömmer dagen som är!”

English translation:

“Our fret over the day that has passed, our worry for the day that is to come – make us forget the day that is now!”

“Några ord på vägen”

There are a few people I know where English is not their strongest form of communication and hence they are not able to take part in what I am writing. On “Page 8” of my introduction I asked if there was anyone who could help me locate a site where it was possible to translate blocks of text/websites from English to Swedish and vice versa. Again, it’s great to know good people. Kristina helped me locate Systransoft and I can see from the “Top Clicks” list, which I recently added as a side widget, that some of you have already found this site.

I have my Speech Club to thank for meeting terrific people such as Kristina . It is part of a larger organisation called “Toastmasters International”. I think joining Toastmasters was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. For just 800 Swedish kronors (SEK) a year, which is cheap if you ask me, you get a chance to have someone tell you what they think about your public speaking skills. You also get to practice impromptu (improvised) speaking and get feedback. Whenever else do you get feedback on these things? After having held a five hour presentation at work and no one is awake to know what you have talked about? (Click here for some hot tips on how to avoid this.) You also get an awesome magazine in the post with some very useful ideas and tips (worth the money itself).

In the February 2007 issue, I was awestruck by the following article called the “Team Commandments”. I’m not going to regurgitate it, but it is something I would like to laminate and give my project co-workers a copy of each. Why reinvent the wheel every time you have a project kick-off in some cosy conference facility, by handing out yellow post-its? I believe I just read the core to what I at least wish to see in any organisation:

1) Help each other to be right, not wrong. 2) Look for ways to make new ideas work, not for reasons they won’t. 3) Speak positively about each other and about your organisation at every opportunity. 4) Help each other win, and take pride in each others’ victories. 5) Compliment often. 6) Recognise that the customer is not an interruption to your work, but reason for it. 7) Realise that “being right” is irrelevant to good service; the customer’s perception is what counts. 8 ) Maintain a positive mental outlook. 9) Sacrifice for the good of the team. 10) Have fun.

Några ord på vägen

Försök att ta tillvara
allt gott som livet ger.
Se det stora i det lilla
så kan guldkornen bli fler

Ge dig tid att reflektera
i en stund av lugn och ro.
Låt sanningen bli vetskap
men släpp även fram din tro.

Och när du möter mörker
och livets tvära kast
-känn då hur livet rör sig
och ljuset får kontrast.

Känn att du får styrka
av det som gör dig svag
-att där finns nåt att lära
av allt som sker var dag.