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I was born January 3rd 1979 in Sandnessjøen where I spent my first years of life. I was a very active and fearless child, who created a lot of “hold your breath” moments for those around me.
My grandmother often looked after me during summer holidays and she called my dad and asked him to pick me up, because she was not able to have me under control.
My experience was that I was happy and felt free in the nature and could not understand why my grandmother dressed me nicely and braided my hair with bows every morning. It felt such a waste knowing that I would climb mountains and trees and chase sheep on the field. As long as she served me toasted bread with sugar and butter, I sat still. When it came down to it, it was very rare that the braids lasted a whole day…
I moved to Trondheim as a 6-year-old and started at Charlottenlund Elementary School where I spent 3 years before we moved back to the Northern part of Norway.
Back in Sandnessjøen on the first day of Christmas in 1989, I had my first life changing moment. I snow-sled straight into a car that held 60-70 kmt and got major injuries to my head, neck, back and shoulders. The family was glad that I survived, but this accident will follow me for the rest of my life. I was paralyzed in my left arm and had severe pain in my neck and back, but trough my stubborn nature I was able to regain function in my arm and strength in my body.
After this accident, we moved to the island where my parents had grown up and where my grandmother also lived, called Onøy. With 500 inhabitants, this was a wonderfully safe place to spend my teens. I continued to be very active. It went to football, volleyball, mountain hikes, fishing trips, horseback riding and otherwise just hanging around the farms and helping while mowing, lambing and other things that had to be done. I remember that I was always welcome, no matter where I went.
When I was 15-year-old, we moved back to Trondheim, where I finished High School. After high school, I worked for a couple of years as an instructor at SATS before I started studying economics. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that I was never going to be an accoundant, and after the studies the natural choice for me was to join the army.
I went Junior Officer School at Sessvollmoen where I trained as a Military Police officer. This Year thought me that there is more strength within me than I give myself credit for. You need your team. Without your team, the mission becomes unattainable. Ask for help. There is no need to be alone in your struggles. People are willing to help, you just have to ask.
After a year at the Military Police Station in Oslo where I was able to develop my leadership skills, we moved up north. At Sessvollmoen, I worked mostly as a Personnel Officer, and from there my professional interest in management and HSE grew. We managed to become a family of 4 before we in 2007 decided to leave the army to have more time to be together.
It turned out to be a very good decision for us, as our son at the age of 4 years was diagnosed with the hip disease Calve Legg Perthes, and ended up in a wheelchair a few months later. It was going to be a struggle to get the right treatment for him, but in 2009 he had his first out of many Surgeries at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore with Dr. Standard. In the following years, there was therefore a big focus on Martin, trying to accommodate his needs so that he could be as comfortable possible. That meant that my interests and needs were set aside. I was never sorry for the situation, only glad that we had the resources to give him the best opportunities that we possibly could.
In 2018, Martin had recovered relatively well, and I had the opportunity to finally focus on myself, my own career and education. I got a new position in my company, I started on a Masters degree and I had good pain management for my headaches and migraines.
This changed fairly quickly in the summer of 2019.
It actually started after I was told after a routine control that I had pre stages of cancer in the cervix, and that they would remove both the cervix and the uterus the same fall. So when I found a lump in my chest, I did not think too much about it. I had done regular breast exams for the last 3 years due to the fact that a cousin of mine got breast cancer and thought me how to check myself. I went to the GP and got an appointment with a breast diagnostician at Drammen Hospital.
The last week of the summer vacation was magical. We had been on a fantastic trip in the Telemark canal with the boat when I drove alone to Drammen hospital for mammography.
It often only takes 3 seconds to change an entire life.
It had happened to me before, when I was hit by a car, and was now about to happen again.
After mammography and ultrasound, the oncologist took a biopsy of a lump that se found. I remember I was not scared, but I thought it was good that they were so carefully investigating. After the biopsy, she said that she would order an MRI, and that I could sit in the waiting room again. I was still not anxious. Not until the moment she came towards me with a piece of paper in her hand and asks me to join her in to a quiet room.
As she puts her hand on the door handle, I understand. This will be another of those life-changing moment that will affect me for the rest of my life. That very moment, I knew it – I had breast cancer.
My life passed in revue and I thought to my self that it was now over. That I at the age of 40 had reached the end of my journey. I remember feeling scared but in a strange way grateful. Scared for leaving everyone behind, but grateful that it had despite challenges been a good one.
My fear was of course based on a lack of knowledge, and I now know now that over 85% survive breast cancer. Which I did too. The next 6 months was a tough journey for me physically and mentally. Although I had been very lucky to detect the breast cancer early which meant less invasive treatment, I had multiple surgeries and started hormone treatment.
January 2020 I remember I felt completely empty inside, but I wanted to take back my life as it was. In many ways I started the journey “faking” my reality. I thought it would be possible for me to go back to the same way I had done everything before and living my life the same way I had always done. Ignoring my feelings and pushing through the pain.
From the outside it looked like I had everything put together, but on the inside I was screaming my lungs out. I got sick to my stomach whenever I saw myself in the mirror. The lack of a breast, and the removal of my cervix and uterus had removed my self-esteem and self-worth. I punished my body and spoke to it in a way you should never speak to anyone. I had thoughts of ending my life. I could not imagine a life where the pain in my body due to side effects on medication and my self-esteem was at an absolute low.
Just before Christmas 2020, I realized I had to do something. I could not continue on this path. Something had to change.
So, I used my knowledge, about physical and mental health, to make the changes necessary.
I made a challenge for myself. I was going to go for a walk every single day for 365 days. I knew that physical activity, fresh air and nature had a great impact on my mental health, as well as my physical health. In addition to yoga and meditation this became my new routine.
I decided early on that I wanted to share this journey – so I sat up an Instagram account.
I have shared every step on the way. From the most vulnerable and painful days, to the days where I feel great. In many ways I have used this as a tool to hold myself accountable for my own physical and mental health.
Through these walks and trips, a new dream was formed. The dream of crossing the ice cap in Greenland together with 3 other breast cancer survivors and two guides. To be able to set focus on women’s health and a disease that takes 685.000 (2020) lives every year feels for me like a life mission. If we through our focus on early detection and research can save 1 life, then it will be all worth it.
I anticipate a bumpy road to Greenland 2023. It will most likely be like the rest of my life, full of ups and downs. But I am up for it. And I am sure that we will be able to accomplish this together. I promise to share every step of the way, the good, the bad, the ugly, the nice and I hope you will join me on the ride.