Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent - a waiting time

We're more than half way into advent. 
Advent means awaiting the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. 
These days we wait to celebrate the birth of Christ.  

Last year, from August and through advent, we also waited for something completely different. I know I have lots of new readers since, so I'll recap: In August of 2010 my husband Sigve was treated for leukemia. New stem cells were donated to him by his sister Gerd. 
The wait was intense, first during the days immediately after the transplant, to see if the new cells would settle down, and later, to see if they would take over and create a new immune system. 
Today we know that so far, the transplant has been successful. Sigve is feeling well, although still a bit weak, and he has been back working full time since May.

* * * * *

For seconds, minutes, days, time stopped.
For us, and for him behind the door of the
isolation ward at Haukeland Hospital.

Time stood still as we waited to 
see if the new stem cells would accept 
this body that was their new home.
For how long can a person stand a temperature of 105F?
When will it break? Will it break?

It broke, and we could breathe again.

* * * * *

And for this I am eternally grateful.

Friday, July 1, 2011

First days in Australia

I had never, in a million years, thought that I would be back in Australia this year, but then my amazing husband went ahead and booked me this trip :-)

We drove to Stavanger last Friday, for my family reunion (my mother’s side) on Saturday. It was lovely to meet all the cousins that I haven’t seen in 15 years (litterally!), and also the ones I see a little more frequently. All but two cousins could make it. Three of my mother’s siblings are still alive, and they were all there. That's me to the far left.

* * * * * 

On Sunday morning Sigve drove me to 
Stavanger airport to start my journey. 
I flew to Oslo, then to Helsinki and Singapore,

and finally to Sydney.

I landed at 05.40, and poor Paul and Jorge had to get up really early to pick me up. Their unit is in Sydney, with an amazing view to the Sydney skyline. We got back before sunrise, and I caught this beautiful scene.

We took it easy that first day, but on Thursday the action started. We met Maria at Circular Quay, and took the ferry to Manly. I should have met Maria in September, on the cruise that we didn't get to go on, so it was great to meet her now.

It was raining a bit, so we just walked by the beach before sitting down for lunch. Good food, good wine and great company. Here's Paul, me and Maria.

Thursday we drove up to Bateau Bay to pick up June, Paul’s mom, and continued on to Forster. We’re staying at The Beaches, a resort apartement building, overlooking the beach. Of course it’s winter here now, kind of like an average norwegian summer day.

We're in a spacious 2 bedroom apartment. 

June, me and Paul.

This morning we wanted to go for a walk, but unfortunately it started raining again, so we went for a drive instead, and saw beautiful scenery. Stopped for a coffee at The Frothy Coffee.

Then we spent the evening playing Rummycub,

before Jorge made us a delicious dinner.

My stay here will be awesome, in the best company I could wish for. I'm so grateful to be here!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Helmer's christening

Sunday, June 19th was Helmer's christening day, and a big day for all of us. I was honored, privileged and very happy to be godmother, and it was a joy to carry him to the baptismal font, even if he screamed at the top of his little lungs. It was his nap time, and he was overtired :-)

My youngest brother Svein, Hilde Marie's uncle, is a minister in the Church of Norway, and he came over from Oslo to perform the christening ceremony. He also performed the wedding ceremony for Hilde Marie and Jon Helge in 2008. It's nice to have our own family minister for occasions like these! 

Here is Svein to the left, then me with Helmer, Hilde Marie and Jon Helge. In the back are Helmer's sponsors:  Geir Espen, Hilde Marie's brother, then two friends, Katrine and Elise. Jon Helge's sister Torunn is also a sponsor, but she lives in Sweden, and couldn't come. A sponsor sounds very commercial, but in this connection they are people who will have a special relationship with Helmer as he grows up. If there is a better english word for it, please let me know!

The happy little family, with Helmer in the christening gown that I made for him. The veil is Hilde Marie's bridal veil. It is fastened by pushbuttons to make cleaning the dress easy. We thought it would be a nice touch to reuse the veil this way. The blue bow is also fastened by a pushbutton, so it can be replaced by a pink one, should the occasion arise :-)

Helmer had a nap during the service, 
and then he was back to his cheerful self.

After the service dinner was served for the family and sponsors. Our son-in-law Jon Helge hunts deer, and he cooks the most amazing venison dinners. The meat is so tender, and his gravies are to die for. Since his sister and her family couldn't be there, there were only 13 of us. 

For the table setting, 
we reused the table cloths and table runners from the wedding.

I made made new place cards though.

Hilde Marie's friend and school mate right from the 1. grade, Katrine, is a florist, and the decorations she made were just perfect. She reused the various bowls and containers that Helmer got flowers in at the hospital. Katrine had also made the flower decorations for the wedding.

Elise, Katrine, Svein, Geir Espen, Jon Helge and 
Hilde Marie helping themselves to dinner.

Helmer stayed awake all afternoon, and had fun being played with. 

At one point we had to shut both of these two up! :-)

Afterwards there were cakes and coffee. Britt, Jon Helge's mom made her speciality, "Verdens beste" ("best cake in the world"), a delicious yummy sponge cake with meringue, almonds  and custard.
The main cake, also a sponge cake with apricot cream and covered in marzipan, was so beautifully decorated, all hand crafted by a professional cake maker.

Helmer with his parents and both sets of grand parents.

Sigve and I with Helmer.

* * * * *

Tuesday, June 22, was summer solstice. It's the longest day and shortest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. I live too far south to see the midnight sun, but the nights at this time of the year never get completely dark here anyway. Unfortunately, this year it's been so wet and cold, it really hasn't been summer yet. 
The sun sets around 11 pm, and rises again just after 4 am. The first hour after sunset and the last hour before sunrise are very light, and in between it's just twilight. Last night the sky was clear, with some foggy clouds on the horizon, so at 10.30 pm Sigve and I drove out on yet another sunset hunt. We do this frequently, and I love our little evening outings. We have found spots around the island for optimal  sunset viewings at various times of the year.

* * * * *

Sigve is still doing well. All blood tests are satisfactory, and he is well into reducing the Sandimmun (the medication to prevent Graft-versus host disease) dosage again.  He's also back at work full time, which in his case means 12 hour days, at least for the time being, he claims. A lot of changes are taking place at his office, and he enjoys being part of it. 

Sigve is now down to check-ups every 3 weeks at Haugesund Hospital, and in August he's due for his big one year check-up in Bergen. I can't believe it's almost a year since life was hanging by a thin thread; physically for Sigve, and mentally for me. Every time I think of it, gratitude fills me, almost to an overwhelming degree. Things could have turned out so very differently, and I know that for many in the same circumstances, it has. I am constantly aware of how lucky and blessed we have been, and still are.

Sigve's amazing and so thoughtful present to me, my trip to Australia, is coming up in a few days. My mind is filled with packing and to-do lists. I can't wait to meet again with old friends, their friends and families, and to make new friends. To see new places, and revisit places I've been to before. But mainly to spend quality time with old friends. I'll be away for a full month, finishing off with a day and two nights in Hong Kong; thanks to good connections, in a 5 star luxury hotel :-)

But even before all that, we're going to a family reunion in Stavanger on Saturday. My mom's youngest sister is celebrating her 75th birthday by inviting the whole extended family; all descendants of her mother, my grandmother. We live spread out around all over Norway, and the last time I saw most of these relatives was for her 60th birthday. My mom died in 2004, and she was the  third of 5 siblings; 4 sisters and 1 brother, of which 3 sisters are still alive. 
We're staying in the camper van, and at 11 am on Sunday, Sigve will take me to the airport to start my trip.

I am grateful for being back in blog land, after a several weeks long break, on both my blogs. I'll try to blog during my trip, but no promises :-) Updates will probably be more frequent on Facebook, and I'm happy to receive new friend requests. Just remember to leave a message with your blog's name so I know who you are. 

I am also grateful for the best husband in the world!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A present, a national holiday and a check-up

On July 11th. Sigve and I will have been married for 30 years, and this weekend he revealed to me what my 30th anniversary present is going to be:

A trip to Australia, to visit dear friends, for nearly 4 weeks, leaving on June 26th! 

Sydney 2008, and soon I'll be there again!
Unfortunately Sigve cannot travel yet, as his immune system is still not strong enough, but he knows how much I love to travel, and he knows how exhausted I am feeling these days, so he's giving me this break on my own. Isn't he just a dear? I am beyond excited!

Tuesday was May 17th., The Norwegian Constitution Day.

On May 17th. 1814 the norwegian constitution was signed at Eidsvoll, declaring Norway an independent nation. 
The day is celebrated in a non-military manner, with emphasis on the children. All over Norway there are morning parades featuring school children and marching bands, and afternoon parades for various adult groups and associations, in addition to children's and young adult's groups. In between there are gatherings in school grounds, with entertainment and competitions, and food is served. 
Everyone dresses up in their very best clothes, and the traditional national costume, the bunad, has become more and more popular. It is customary to carry a small norwegian flag and/or wear a red, white and blue ribbon.

My sister-in-law Liv, her daughter Kristine
and my daughter Hilde Marie,
attending the school parade, years ago,
when the girls were still in grade school.

Our friends Ketil and Brita, in their national costumes.

Hilde Marie, in her bunad. Picture taken in 2005. Her aunt Liv did all the embroidery, and I made the silver jewelry. (There are close-ups of the jewelry under the tab " My jewelry" just under the blog header.)

On Monday we went to Bergen for Sigve's 9 month's check-up. As usual we took the camper van and parked in the parking lot just outside the hospital.
Every 3 months after the transplant there's a big check-up, so this was one of them. No surprises this time either; Sigve is still being followed up closely every two weeks at Haugesund hospital. The formerly raised liver test levels were back to normal, but the creatinine level is still slightly raised, so he should be sipping water all the time, which he finds hard to do. It was decided that he could reduce the evening Sandimmun dosage again, to 75 mg, so he's now on 75 mg x2. Fingers crossed that the liver test levels don't go back up again.
However, lately Sigve has had some leg cramps at night, and his right foot is feeling numb from the ankle to the toes. It also feels a bit powerless when he walks. The doctor took this seriously, and did a lot of tests, without drawing any immediate conclusion. So a MR examination is being scheduled within the next 4 weeks, and we'll have to wait for that before we know more. 

Helmer has grown so much. He's passed the 3 month mark already, weighing 5.9 kilos and measuring 62 cm. He's cheerful, "talkative" and cuddly. At his 3 month's check-up the health care nurse was impressed by how strong his little neck is. 

Gratitude for abundance:
For this wonderful husband of mine, who's sending me on an amazing trip without being able to go himself.
For Sigve's recovery still going so well. We are amazed at how fortunate/lucky/ blessed he is to have had no serious complications.
For living in a country where our tax money takes care of all costs concerning health care.
For a wonderful son, daughter and son-in-law, and a most awesome grandchild.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter drama

Easter is about drama, despair and new hope. 
As such, this one followed the recipe. 

We went over to Tysnes, to spend a couple of days with Helmer (and Hilde Marie and Jon Helge too, of course), before we planned to take off in the camper van for a few days.

Helmer has a lot of fun communicating with his toy mobile.

He loves having his bath, and is not too happy when it's over.

The grandparents taking Helmer for a pram ride.
The road is all cracked up from having been frozen and then thawed.

Finally, wild spring flowers are popping up everywhere.

One evening I captured this beautiful visitor in the field.

There's always something that needs to be done on a farm,
and this is going to be the new pig pen.

Tiril (the black one) and Henry have been in separate pens in the barn
all winter, and they so obviously enjoyed being together again. 

Thursday morning we received a phone call from a home care nurse, saying Geir Espen (our son) had been taken to hospital. A friend of his had tried to wake him up, noticed that he had vomited, realized that he seemed strange, and checked his blood sugar level. It was extremely low, below 2 (I think we use a different scale from you guys in other countries). Right then the home care nurse came by, she took one look at him and called an ambulance.

A summary for those of you who don't know Geir Espen. At age 13 he was diagnosed with both diabetes type 1 and Morbus Addison (adrenal bark failure, he doesn't produce cortisol, and has to compensate by taking cortisone pills daily). He's had a tough life; these two hormone deficiencies work against each other, and make them both harder to manage. During his teen years and for a few years after, he more or less ignored his condition and consequently struggled a lot with long term high blood sugar levels and low cortisol levels, resulting in poor general health. Over the last year he has started to take charge, on and off; I think Sigve's leukemia diagnosis was a wake up call for him. He started to realize that his mum and dad wouldn't be around to take care of him forever.
For the last year a home care nurse has been checking up on him in the morning, as the lack of cortisol in his system complicates the waking up process. If he wakes up by himself, he phones in to let her know he's ok, and if he doesn't call, she checks in on him.

So that morning she came by, and started to administer honey to raise his blood sugar level. But instead of rising, it kept dropping, right down to 0.9 which is alarming. It took her and the ambulance staff over an hour to get it back up to a level where Geir Espen was conscious again. The ambulance took him to hospital at Stord, about half an hour away from here.
At admittance his CRP was high, over 150, indicating an infection. Eventually they concluded that it was pneumonia, probably caused by inhaling bacteria from vomit earlier in the morning.
He slept all that day, through the night and most of the next day, as he always does after an incident of hypoglycemia.

We decided to go ahead with our camper van trip. We didn't plan to go far anyway, just about an hour away from Tysnes, to a bird sanctuary that was a nice area for hiking. We would still be close to Stord.

We went for a beautiful evening walk, and the sunset was amazing. For a few days there was a haze in the air that made the sun look big and red like blood.

The next day we called Geir Espen on his cell phone, and what we heard was alarming. He was coherent, but what he said didn't make sense. We spoke to a nurse, who knew him from before, and she thought he seemed very different this time. 

So we decided to cut the trip short, and returned to Tysnes, and then to Stord. When we entered his room, Geir Espen looked at us and said: "You are my parents, but you don't look like them, you both look like cartoon characters".

The more we talked to him, and listened to what he told us, the more concerned we were, and it became apparent that he was hallucinating. He was seeing people that were not there, and he explained that everyone had cartoons playing around their eyes. He said he was not sure that we were actually us, and that we might be someone else posing as us, so he could not trust us. Over the next couple of days he had visions and heard voices, but from time to time he was lucid and realized that it seemed like he existed in two different worlds, one real and one imaginary, and that obviously scared him. 

Not feeling so good.

The doctor called it a temporary state of confusion, kind of like a psychosis, caused by a combination of unfortunate events; i.e. the infection, the very high dosage of cortisone he was given along with antibiotics to fight the infection, and the long period of hypoglycemia; which in itself could have been enough to cause this condition. The treatment was medication to remove the hallucinations, and sedatives so he could sleep. Sleep was crucial to enable the brain to heal itself. 

This went on for a couple of days, and then, like the doctor had indicated, his brain cleared up, things fell back into place and it was over. Can you imagine our relief when that happened?

Later on, he has told us that at one point he was so exhausted from trying to fight off everyone who he thought wanted to hurt him, so he sat up in his bed and said, I give up, do whatever you want with me. At some other point he "invented" something he called an "angel cage" that he could enter when things became too hard, and it took him to another parallel universe. 

I think it is impossible for someone who has not experienced hallucinations to imagine what it must be like to have them. Yesterday Geir Espen said that in a sense it has been a positive experience because it was so horrible that he will do all he can to avoid going back there. This gives me new hope for his future.

Geir Espen is feeling so much better
and enjoys a game of cards with Sigve. 

My heart aches for him when I think about what he went through, but I am also filled with gratitude that it only lasted a few days.

Last night and this evening I walked up to Brandasundsåta to catch the sunset. I am continually searching for the perfect sunset, but recently I have realized that every sunset is both different and perfect! 

The setting sun by the Slåtterøy lighthouse.

And of course I found a big heart rock :-)

So this Easter turned out very different from what we had planned. We had a very disturbing and desperate time before we talked to the doctor; of course it is so easy to imagine the worst. But this doctor was thorough and  spoke comprehensibly, and I felt a lot better after seeing him.

Me, I'm exhausted. It will take me a while to collect myself after this one, and I'm not even sure I can handle it myself. So much has happened this last year, and with this on top, I have decided to start seeing  a therapist. I think talking to a professional, and an outsider, will be good, and I think it's important to start before I hit a rock bottom, rather than after. So I had my first session yesterday, and the therapist was a person I felt comfortable with, so I think it will be a good process.

Finally, what am I grateful for today?
* I have already mentioned one; that Geir Espen's state of confusion was temporary, and short.
* That Sigve's journey back to a full life continues, the blood tests are satisfactory, his immune system is well on it's way back to normal, and the doctors are happy with him. The next big check-up, the 9 month one, is on May16th.
* That I get to see a therapist that I felt comfortable with. Actually, that I get to see a therapist.
* And of course, I am so grateful for this little one:

Btw, Geir Espen has ok'd that I post about him!

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