Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmases past and present

December 23rd is called “Little Christmas Eve” here since we celebrate the evening of the 24th as our Big Christmas (Christmas Day is not that much of a deal over here, we’ve already had our presents).

Sigve and I spent 33 Christmas’es together. First it was just us, then in 1982 Geir Espen joined us, and in 1985 Hilde Marie had also arrived. Over the years we alternated between Kristiansand (with my parents), Bømlo (with Sigve’s parents), by ourselves in Stavanger and later in Bømlo.

Quite early in our young family’s life we decided that we wanted to create our own Christmas traditions, in our own home, marrying each of our traditions. We also decided that it was easier for grown-ups to drive for 4-6 hours than it was for us and 2 kids to do the same. So whoever wanted to come and join us were welcome to do so, and we spent many lovely family Christmas Eves as a nuclear and extended family.

In later years, after our parent had left us, we were back to the four of us. One year it was even just Geir Espen, Sigve and I, when Hilde Marie and Jon Helge spent Christmas Eve with her new in-laws. Other years Hilde Marie joined us if Jon Helge had to work on Christmas Eve. 

Christmas 2011 was the last time that Geir Espen was with us for the holidays. I am so grateful that I have so many photos from those days. Helmer had joined us, and Geir Espen loved being an uncle. Sigve’s cancer was gone, and he was well. Such happy days.

Geir Espen died on July 14, 2012.

Christmas 2012. Our first Christmas without Geir Espen. How do you live through something like that? 
We had already realized that our lives had to go on, and the only way they could go on was in a good way. Nothing, and nothing else made sense.

Christmas 2014.
Facebook keeps telling me that 2014 was a great year for me. What do they know.

Although, in many ways they are right. Sigve and I always enjoyed spending time together. 33+ years of friendship and marriage creates a familiarity, a closeness, a togetherness that settled in our bones.

We moved from Bømlo to Tysnes to be closer to Hilde Marie and her family. We both loved the everyday closeness to Helmer.

Helmer is the grandchild that Sigve was afraid he would never get to meet. Just before Christmas 2009, when he got the leukemia diagnosis, Sigve said that if this was the end, his only regret was that he might not get to be a grandfather.

Then he went through the chemo and the stem cell transplant, and he was ok, and in February 2011 Helmer arrived. They developed an awesomely strong bond.

In January 2014 we learned that a new grandchild was on it’s way. 

In February 2014 Sigve and I went on a 15 day holiday to Malta, a place we had wanted to go back to ever since we spent one day there during a cruise.

We have travelled a lot over the last 15 years.  Our travels were one of Sigve’s main items of gratefulness at his diagnosis in 2009. That we had seized the opportunities that came along. That we had not said, we’ll do it when we retire. We have traveled the world, and we have loved it. Europe, the United States, South America, Asia, Australia, and many cruises. On our own, and with friends. We have loved it. Sigve had not done any travelling when we met. I was already a globetrotter. And he thanked me many times for turning him on to travelling. The one item on our bucket list that we didn’t make was Iceland, but I think he can go there now, any time he wants.

Then on August 28, Leon arrived, 2,5 weeks premature. I don’t believe in a controlling god, but I think this was meant to be. Sigve got to spend time with Leon during his course of chemo. Leon smiled at Sigve, and grabbed his finger tightly. This warmed his heart. I think Sigve knew the road ahead. He told me, this one will be a grandma’s boy.

Sigve died on October 30, 2014.

Christmas 2014. My first Christmas without Sigve. How do I live through it? I have already realized that my life has to go on, and it has to go on in a good way. Nothing, and nothing else makes sense.

Generation follows generation. The newest generation that Sigve loved and I love so much. I will follow up to the best of my ability. At the moment I am crushed, but I know I will prevail.

Shortly after his death, Sigve came to a friend of ours and said, don’t worry about Inger-Marie, she’s tough, she’ll be ok. This comforts me, and I know it’s true, even though it reduces me to tears as I write it.

Sigve, the love of my life, I don’t know how I can live without you, and yet I know that I can.

I’ll love you forever!



In hospital October 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sigve's final hours....

My beloved husband,
my best friend and soulmate 
for more than 33 years 
born October 14. 1955
died at 2.30 pm on October 30. 2014

These last days have been like a perpetual roller coaster. I still can't believe it.

Here is a recount of what happened: 

This was an acute and aggressive kind of cancer, and treatment started the day after the diagnosis was confirmed, there was no time to wait. The acute stage starts when there are 20% immature cells in the blood stream, Sigve had 59% when it was picked up in a blood test. 

In order to beat the new cancer Sigve was given high dosages of chemo for a week to hopefully kill off the cancer cells.  

In the process it would also knock out his bone marrow and his immune defense system, and then it was supposed to rebuild itself, hopefully cancer free. 

However, he did not get to that stage. While his immune defense system was knocked out, he contracted severe pneumonia and sepsis. 

On Wednesday, Oct. 29, he started having respiratory problems. He was outfitted with an oxygen mask, and was moved to an Intensive Care Unit where they had one on one staff. 

This happened around 2 pm, and he was still sitting up in bed and posting on Facebook. 

The possibility of him having to be on a respirator if things got worse, possibly some time the next morning, was mentioned. But during the next 2 hours his condition deteriorated badly, and he had to be put on the respirator immediately. 

We got to spend a few minutes with him before he was given a full anesthetic and intubated. By then his breathing was very laborious, and he couldn't speak much. When they removed the oxygen mask, his blood oxygen saturation immediately dropped to 60-70 %. 

So we got to say a few words of goodbye, and sadly this became the last time Hilde Marie and I spoke to Sigve, his last conscious moments. 

The sepsis that had set in caused the vein walls to droop, letting blood seep into the surrounding tissue. With a very low platelet count, his body couldn't stop the hemorrhaging. This loss of blood from the veins then caused the blood pressure to drop too.  

The pneumonia made it difficult to get air fully into the lungs, so at one point they decided to turn him over on his stomach, to try to expand the lungs. But when he was turned over, a lot of blood came up, and it turned out the fluid retention in the lungs was actually hemorrhaging. An anesthetics specialist came in and looked into the lungs with a scope, and gave adrenalin directly into the lung. This slowed down and eventually stopped the hemorrhaging.

So the night was spent administering medications to balance blood pressure, oxygen saturation, hemorrhaging and a lot more. Blood tests were taken all the time and he was hooked up to all kinds of equipment to monitor everything that was going on in his body. Porters were running back and forth to the lab, delivering blood for analysis, and bringing back refills of platelets, plasma, antibiotics, anything he needed. His room was full of doctors and nurses all night, and we are confident that everything that could be done was done. 

In the morning things seemed a bit calmer, but he was weakening all the time. We spent the time sitting with him, stroking his skin, talking, to somehow let him know we were there.

At around 1 pm they had to turn him back over on his back again, to try to get some of that same turning effect, and they needed to do an ultrasound scan of his heart. We had to leave the room, and they told us the turn might be too much for him, but it was all they had left to try. 

By now his heart was barely beating, only blood pressure increasing medications were holding up any kind of blood pressure, and his lungs were too damaged to breathe on their own. We were let back in, to sit with him again, to take our time for our final goodbye. 

Then they gradually turned off the medication flow, turned down and eventually turned off the respirator. Within a very few minutes his heart stopped beating, and at 2.30 pm on Thursday, October 30, Sigve was dead.

My darling, the love of my life, my husband for 33 years, was no more. 

24 hours earlier he had been sitting up in bed. It was, and still is just surreal.

I am grateful for having had the honor of being Sigve's wife for 33 years and 3 and a half months.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Enjoying life

I was wondering what to blog about today, as not much is happening, other than waiting. So I asked Sigve what he thinks about while lying in bed, ....waiting. 

His reply was, "I don't really think big deep thoughts; I do what I always do, enjoy life". Says the man who at that moment was waiting for a higher level pain relief medication for the intense mouth pain. 

I guess that says it all. 

Hanging out with Hangman.

Here is proof that Sigve is starting to lose hair:

Two weeks ago


Apart from all that, it's coming down in buckets outside.
It's seriously autumn.

I am grateful for pain relief medications.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"The doctors..."

"The doctors" is a term I use a lot these days. The doctors are doing this, the doctors are saying that. When I say "The doctors", I get this diffuse vision in my head of a host of doctors hovering. Just hovering. Blank faces and white coats. Funny really.

Sigve's biggest, and really only (other than some diarrhea), discomfort is his mouth soreness. He can only just still swallow pills, but the water still stings. So he gets IV nutrition. Nurses keep asking him if he could try and eat something, but he can't bear the thought of even trying. They have increased the pain killer dosage, and that gives some relief.

Other than that he's had a refill of blood (2 bags), platelets and fluids with added minerals. 

Sigve's sister Gerd, who was his stem cell donor came to visit today, and we all spent a few lovely hours together.

I am grateful for family.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Sigve's immune defense system has hit rock bottom, i.e. it is virtually non existent. So now he is in isolation. However, it's a different regime from last time since there is no stem cell transplant involved. It means we don't have to dress up in protective frocks, masks and gloves. We "just" have to be healthy. 

The high temperatures he had last week and earlier this week could either be caused by infections or it could be a chemo fever, which some people get. But the chemo course was over on Wednesday, so now it's almost certainly due to an infection. 

At the moment his temperature stays around 38,5C and the CRP is back up to around 260. His antibiotic was changed to a different type again yesterday. Since there are no countable leukocytes, there's no way to know where the infection is located. It's a matter of trying different kinds of antibiotics until there is a hit and something works. 

Since Sigve can't talk much, it's hard to have deep conversations, and anyway he often dozes off. So we mostly just sit there, with iPads or other things to occupy ourselves with. But sometimes we do talk, and our conversations include topics like "what a wonderful invention peeing in a bottle is", "I might need a new diaper" and "I just dosed off and had the weirdest dream, and when I woke up I heard voices". It certainly keeps us entertained.

I just spoke to Sigve on the phone to say good night. He sounded really good, and he said he felt good too, the best he's done in days. :-)

I am grateful for our solid and strong relationship ❤️

In all (un)fairness....

Life is unfair. It is unfair that I was born in Norway. It is unfair that I have a safe and comfortable home, nice clothes to keep me warm, more than enough to eat, a great family, great friends, and I have been healthy most of my life. 

A long row of unfairness. A long row of Grand Prizes. 

When Geir Espen started having health problems at age 12, I thought how unfair that was to him. But what if we compare his situation to that of disease ridden, starving children in other parts of the world, then what is fair? At least he had access to all the free medical care he needed. 

Then Sigve, at 55, got leukemia, and went through a very dramatic treatment. He had never been sick at all before, so was it fair that his time had come? Again, all the free medical help he needed was there for him.

At age 29, Geir Espen died. I felt the unfairness. 

And now Sigve has to go through this dramatic treatment all over again, and I'm really feeling how unfair that is to him. 

Again I sit here and watch the man I love not being able to eat or speak properly because his mouth hurts so badly. He can barely drink water. He has lost control of bodily functions, and has to wear a diaper. From time to time when his body shakes from the rising temperature, he wraps up under two duvets, and doses off. 

So what is fair, and what is unfair? I guess it's all relative.

And in between, when the temperature drops, Sigve feels better. Fortunately he has his iPad, and he writes his poetry, and when you see his activity on Facebook, you wouldn't think there was anything wrong with him at all. 

Later this evening a nurse came in and asked if Sigve wanted some pain killers for his mouth, he just had to ask. I told her that she was dealing with someone who never used to take pain killers before in his life, and we hadn't even thought of asking. Anyway, she brought him a pill, and 15 minutes later, his mouth actually felt better, and his speech was clearer. Yeay!

I'm grateful for nurses who show initiative :-)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thursday and Friday

On Thursday Sigve's mouth soreness increased to the level where all he could eat was soup, and today not even that, so now he's on liquid IV nutrition. When he closes his lips and then opens them again, it's like ripping up velcro, so a nurse gave him some vaseline to put on and inside his lips, and that has helped. Somehow he still manages to swallow pills though, but drinking water stings. He also keeps rinsing with the Caphosol. Speaking is obviously painful too, and it's hard to make out what he's saying on the phone. 

On Thursday, uncontrollable diarrhea set in, so now the time has come for diapers. 

Sigve's temperature has been going up and down, and today it went back up to over 39C/102F, so lots of blood tests were done again. Every time it spikes to over 39C, they do blood cultures, one from each arm, and one from Hicky.

I have been home since Wednesday evening, and I'm going back to Bergen tomorrow midday. I had a bit of diarrhea too on Thursday, and that meant I had to stay away from the hospital for 48 hours, so I just settled in here, and enjoyed my alone time.

I'm grateful for good night's sleeps every night.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Last day of chemo.

Sigve was having the best day since he came in. He woke up early, got up, showered and did some exercises. His appetite is a bit down, due to increasing mouth soreness, but a nurse gave him a local anesthesia diluted in cream to relieve the soreness during eating. Food is important in order to keep his strength up. Then around 2 pm his temperature started rising, and he got frost rushes, so he went back to bed, and I went to pick up Hilde Marie and Leon.  
When we got back he was ok again, and we spent a lovely afternoon and evening together. Hilde Marie's friend Randi came to visit too. Very nice, it's been a while since we have seen her. 

This evening I drove back to Tysnes for 1 or 2 nights. If everything still goes well with Sigve, I'll be here for 2 nights. I feel, and know that taking care of myself is important, but it's not easy. Staying away from the hospital, however hard it is, is also self care. My mind knows this. I am trying to teach it to my heart.

Now we wait for when he has to be in isolation.

Gratitude for a home I can call my own :-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


At the end of "our" corridor there's is a panoramic view of Bergen city. But if you don't look that far, you look right down on the children's hospital. In the summer of 1995 we spent two weeks there with Geir Espen, after he was diagnosed first with Addison and then with diabetes. He was just 2 weeks short of turning 13, and facing a lifetime of giving himself shots several times a day. We were all terrified, but in need of putting on a brave face and assuring him and ourselves that we'd get through this together. The following 17 years we went back for frequent check-ups, first to the children's clinic, and later to the regular clinic, and went through countless emergency hospital admissions.

I looked back at some of the blog posts I wrote 4 years ago, when Sigve was here for the stem cell transplant, and noticed that at one point I visited Geir Espen in the ICU at Stord hospital on my way back to Bergen to visit Sigve at Haukeland. We certainly have spent a lot of time in hospitals over the years.

Today has been quiet and peaceful. Sigve had a good night without any fever, but he keeps waking up because he needs to fill those bottles, so he doesn't get the deep restful kind of sleep. 

This afternoon they started the last dosage of chemo, and it is set to flow in over 24 hours. Today's visiting doctor estimated that he will need to go into isolation some time tomorrow or Wednesday. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sunday and Monday

Yesterday, Sunday, was a generally good day, after a strenuous night. During the night Sigve's temperature rose, and he got those frost rushes that really shake your body. The night nurse claimed she couldn't find any blankets or extra duvets, which of course is crap. He got a hot water bottle, that was it, and didn't help very much, and she went off duty without even telling anyone what Sigve needed. We complained about this to the day staff. When the day nurse came, she really took hold of the situation, got him his big woolen sweater, woolen socks and an extra thick duvet, and raised the temperature in the room. So when I got there, he was feeling a lot better. He had a big lunch, and then Hilde Marie and Leon came to visit too.

In the afternoon Hilde Marie and I put together a food list with food that we are convinced is the best diet for a cancer patient: no sugar, no gluten, lots of vegetables, pure protein sources, no prefabricated stuff, just to mention some, and it was accepted. It remains to be seen if they manage to follow it up. Regular hospital food complies with official dietary guidelines, and we don't really agree with all of them. 
So last night, in stead of sandwiches he got smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, yummy and healthy. 

Last night was a good one, no temperature, but with all the fluids Sigve receives, he wakes up every hour to fill a bottle. Frequently interrupted sleep gives reduced sleep quality. Then in the early hours of morning his temperature rose again, and he also had a very low blood count and platelet count so they gave him refills of both. All this made him very tired. When Hilde Marie, Leon and I arrived around noon, he was still asleep. We woke him up, got him to put on his hearing aids and glasses, and that increased contact with the world worked wonders. During the next hours his temp sank, and the rest of the day was good. 

Today's highlight for Sigve was when Leon, 
on his arm, smiled many big smiles at him.

These days Helmer can't visit; Sigve can't leave the room and children between 1 and 14 are not allowed into this ward, they are likely to bring contaminating diseases from kindergarden and school. This is hard on both of them, they have that very special bond.

An important part of Sigve's treatment is rinsing his mouth with Caphosol 4 times a day to prevent fungus infections in the mouth cavity from the chemo. This worked very well last time, he had very little mouth soreness. Hoping for the same result now.

Hangman is busy these days. Sigve gets fluids most of the time, and antibiotics, and today there was the blood and platelet refills,  and then the chemo from 4 pm. Hicky has 3 valves, and all of them were in use a lot today.  

I'm grateful for the enormous resources that our society spends on trying to save Sigve's life. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Chemo day 4

Sigve didn't sleep very well last night, his temperature went up again, and he was freezing a lot. Eventually blankets, hot water bottles and rising the temperature in the room helped, but when I got there around noon, he was still very tired. So I stayed for a little while, and then set off to explore an alternative lifestyle fair. 

I took part in a session of sound therapy, which was awesome, and relaxing. Listening to tibetan gongs and sound bowls, didgeridoo, tiny bells, drums, chanting, conks and a lot more was like bathing in sound. As our bodies consist of 78% water, it has an amazing ability to receive vibrations. Like acupuncture that stimulates the body's energy flow, vibrations can affect the body circulation, loosen up tension and blockages, and help relieve stress. I felt really refreshed afterwards. 

Back at the hospital Sigve was feeling a lot better, he ate well and his temp was back to normal. So it looks like the new antibiotic is doing it's job. And still no side effects from the chemo. We like :-)

Later Brita, Ketil and Kari Anne came to visit, and we got a phone call from Paul, Jorge and some of the gang who had spent the day in Barcelona, on their Mediterranean cruise, the one that we had planned to be on too. 

Still looking good, and smiling :-)

I'm grateful for distractions :-)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Some commotion

Just after I arrived at the hospital today, Sigve started running a fever. He had been warned that an infection might be on the way as his CRP (C-reactive protein, an infection indicator) had risen from 43 yesterday to 58 today. 
So when his temperature quickly rose to 39C/102F, there was a bit of a commotion. His doctor and nurses came in. A biochemist (with two students in tow) turned up for blood culture tests, one from each arm. Apparently the clue is to test blood from different areas of his body to better pick up on where the infection is. Afterwards a nurse drew more blood from Hicky. There is always a danger of infection in Hicky's entry or exit wound, so she did a bacteria test from around the exit hole, although it looks peaceful at the moment. 
Sigve is already on preventive antibiotics, but now they're being changed to a more broad spectered kind. Due to the fever he is now in isolation.

This photo shows Hicky's exit wound. The entry point is under the bandage on his neck. Hicky is used for everything that needs to be administered intravenously, and for blood tests. 

A little later two doctors came in and said that one of the patients in the room he was in the first two nights had tested positive for whooping cough, so Sigve had to be tested too, and he will be given preventive treatment. 

Sigve's appetite is still good, and he's feeling ok, but more tired. Otherwise things are going mostly by the book.

* * * * * 
Receiving a leukemia diagnosis and having surgery 
is not exactly the way you want to celebrate a 59th birthday
(which was on Tuesday).

However, this is:


Sigve was given chemo from 4 pm yesterday afternoon to 10 am this morning, and then again from 4 pm today until 4 am tomorrow. He hasn't experienced any reactions to the chemo so far, no nausea, and he feels fine. 

So Hilde Marie, Helmer, Leon and Britt (Jon Helge's mom) came up from Tysnes today, and we all spent a lovely day together. Being together is our most important activity now. 

I'm so grateful for our family, immediate and extended :-)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A slap in the face and a shot in the back

Sigve has been diagnosed with cancer, again. This time it's called Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). "The word "acute" in acute myelogenous leukemia denotes the disease's rapid progression. It's called myelogenous leukemia because it affects a group of white blood cells called the myeloid cells, which normally develop into the various types of mature blood cells, such as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets." 

Rapid progression is the key word here. This cancer has developed over the last month or less because a month ago Sigve had his 4 year check-up including a bone marrow test, and nothing abnormal was found then. 

Sigve, Hilde Marie and I had a meeting with the doctor today, and were told that there is a treatment, which will be tried. It's a strong course of chemo, designed to kill off the cancer cells, knock out the bone marrow, and then let it rebuild itself, and if it works, all is well. There is a slight chance that this will work, otherwise there would be no point in even trying. But, and he stressed this, the chances of success are very slim. If unsuccessful, it's a matter of giving a milder, slightly life prolonging and palliative treatment for however many months it may take. 

Time is of the essence; he was transferred to Haukeland Hospital on Monday, tests done immediately, the diagnosis confirmed and Hicky, a Hickman catheter was surgically inserted on Tuesday, and treatment started Wednesday. 
A week of chemo, 18 hours pr day. Towards the end of the week his immune system will be so low that he will to go into isolation for 2-3 weeks. Infections will occur, and be treated and hopefully fought successfully. Only after that time will we know if the treatment has been successful.

I am grateful for an observant doctor at Stord Hospital who suspected that something was not right, and did the necessary tests. This condition enters the acute stage when the amount of immature blood cells are at 20%, Sigve is at 59%.

These are the hard facts. Turbulent times are ahead of us. We appreciate the love and care that we know will be coming from around the globe from so many dear friends.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A new grandson

We are very happy and grateful 
to announce the birth of our second grandchild.
At 2948 grams, 49 cm, 
Leon was born around 9 pm on August 28.
Everyone are doing well, 
including the proud grandparents :-)

Monday, April 21, 2014


Today, Easter Sunday 2014

It was a gorgeous day, 
and I started out with a champagne/strawberry breakfast 
(and bacon & eggs)

We decided to take our grandson Helmer for a hike in the woods. 
Spring is here, and flowers are popping up everywhere.

Helmer picked some flowers, and when we passed a small pond,
he dropped one gently on the water.

Helmer's loves to wear his square black glasses 
(just play frames),
just like his big hero Sigve.

They are inseparable.

Helmer found this huge sandbox,

and in his other grandparent's garden 
he played on these balancing ropes.

I looked through a rusty fence,

and of course I found some hearts.

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