Extra everything with icing on the top. And a cherry.

by Hilla Duka - View comments

milo portrait with too much Photoshop effects

I decided I deserved a real camera, so for the first time in my life, I invested in a proper DSLR camera. I know this is going to make me sound ancient, but I kind of didn't follow into the digital camera era - I learned how to take pictures using film and develop them in a darkroom when I was in school, and loved it soooo much, but then when everyone decided digital photography was the real deal, I just didn't join in. Until now. Welcome to your new home, Canon 700D, we're very happy to have you. Well, I am. To be honest, the others don't care so much.


The thing is, between getting myself a proper camera, and deciding to learn Photoshop properly, I will willingly admit I don't know where to stop. I am going all extra-everything-and-some-chips-on-the-side on my poor images. The kids will hate me for it when they grow up and see the pics with soft focus and romantic light... I will try to control myself, especially tomorrow, when we celebrate Jacob who turns eight!

Who, why, when and where?

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orchid in bloom again

I should have died when I was eight. If it wasn't for modern medicine I would have. One morning I woke up to stomach cramps. My parents sent me off to school, though after a few hours I was crawling on the floor in pain. They sent me home, my appendix burst, I had to have emergency surgery and I survived. It wasn't even a big deal, lots of people have had their appendix removed, but I've thought about it a lot recently.


And then, my brother at the age of ten went through the same thing, and as I had gone through it myself I could identify it, we got him to the hospital on time, even though we were at the time in France, and he survived too. Thanks to modern medicine we're both alive, we got a bit more time. I got to have three amazing boys, who will go on to have complete lives of their own.


Can modern medicine please save me again? So that I can look back and say I should have died in my thirties, but modern medicine saved me? What can I do to make that happen?


Why did my appendix burst, while the next guy can go his whole life with an intact appendix? Why did I get cancer, and not someone else? What is it that makes one person develop cancer, while someone else doesn't? And of course, the ever present question in my mind: can I survive it, as in live until there's a cure?


When do we develop cancer, really? Is it when we're knackered, still on our feet at the end of a twelve hour double, or on the dance floor at five am, completely hammered? Or in the gym early one morning? Why some of us and not others?


Is cancer for those who can't take the heat? Is it because I am weak, because I am a quitter that I got this disgusting sickness? Why was normal life too much for my body to handle?


I have no answers, only more questions...

Making jam v 2.0

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homemade strawberry jam with chia seeds and goji berries

I wrote previously about how I started to make jam, since that seems to make almost anything edible to the sensitive pallets of my delicate offspring. Well, devious as I am, I'm finding even more ways to sneak healthiness into a jar of red berries. This time I made it with Chia seeds instead of pectin, and added Goji berries to the mix. At first I was alarmed as the seeds were clearly showing, and the dried Goji berries didn't dissolve as I had hoped they would, but it turned out to be a mere question of time, as almost everything in life is. I had to let it boil for about twenty minutes instead of about ten as before, but it turned out just as nice as ever, only with some hidden goodness in it! Being to kind of mother that I am, I still haven't told them what's in it - and they haven't noticed anything different at all. 


Goji is considered the most nutritious berry in the world, and is packed full of antioxidants, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc etc. Chia is a seed that contains lots of Omega-3, fibre and protein. While Chia is virtually tasteless, and can be added to any liquid to make it jelly like, goji has a distinct taste, quite bitter, and I find them hard to eat as they are, but mixed with other berries they kind of disappear.

homemade granola

And then, as I was feeling all homely and Nigella like (I just love watching her cook! Even when she cooks meat I'm drooling...) I decided to make granola as well. This is another one of those staples I make about once a month, and everyone just loves. I keep about half of the batch for us, then graciously hand out the other half in little portions to my parents and brother. 


It's ridiculously easy to make, you simply pour about one litre of oats and other grains, and add like a dl each of water, honey and coconut oil. Sprinkle on some cocoa, or cinnamon and cardamom on top, and put it into the oven for about half an hour. Then add basically anything you like to it, I usually put in Goji berries, cranberries, coconut flakes, hazelnuts, dried blueberries... The kids love it with some yoghurt and sliced banana on top, and if they've had that for breakfast, I can rest assure they won't be suffering blood sugar mood swings. 

Shabbat bliss

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The week has gone by so fast, some time spent at the office, some spent with doctors, and some nights spent with a poorly Jacob. And then came Shabbat, and though Jacob was still coughing we packed ourselves in our little car and headed over to my dad and his wife to be treated to Shabbat dinner!

kids playing with shiba

The kids were thrilled, as that meant getting to see the new family member, Ashi the dog. Or maybe not so new, my dad bought him a few weeks after we found out about the cancer. I figure even Freud and Jung would agree on that one. Anyway, Ashi - a Shiba dog about six months old, is turning out to be a very sweet person, one of my cats has taken a special fancy to him, and tries to meow and communicate with him every time he comes over. And of course the kids love playing and cuddling with him. 

Jonathan making tacos

Jonathan was of course keen on helping out with dinner, making the ever so popular and historically correct Shabbat dish of Tacos. Please observe the heavy satire here, but I don't really know how to make a lot of Israeli dishes, apart from hummus and falafel, and by having tacos, at least we know the kids will eat without complaining. 

basil leaves

There really is no better food than that which has been prepared by someone else! I love how when you cook yourself, you're always using the same herbs and spices, preparing the same dish in the same way. Then when someone else makes you food, they do it differently, and you get all inspired as to how you could change things up.

jacob, jonathan and Ilir in the sofa after dinner

Then of course came the obligatory food coma - collapsing in the sofas and putting on a movie to make the kids sit still for a minute or two...

rear view mirror

And all of a sudden it was way past the kids bedtime, the evening over, and we headed back home again. 

cemetary by Karolinska Sjukhuset

On our way home we drove by the cemetery, which was enough to set me off, and with tears rolling down my cheeks and thoughts of death pounding in my head, I tucked the kids up in bed, sat down in the sofa with a glass of wine, thinking to numb the feeling of doom and gloom that clouded the end of the night with some mindless facebooking. Only to see the first post in my feed, announcing the death of one of the women in my breast cancer group. Tearing up all over again. 


When I say that death has joined our lives this year past, I mean that quite literally. 

Winter watching

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little island with hut - twinter walking

The snow didn't make it in time for christmas, but it showed up a few days later. And so we all bundled up in our thickest sweaters and heaviest boots and went winter walking.

winter landscape sweden

I think this might be the first year since I was little that I've been able to really love the winter. Before I've always felt cold = bad, but now I'm revelling in the white landscape, the look of snow on the branches, the frosty lake...

closeup–branches with snow


Jacob by the frozen lake

The lake being frosty, but not frozen through turned out to be a concept very hard for Jacob and Milo to grasp! They kept wanting to try to walk on it, not wanting to listen as we called words of warning...

Dark and delicious

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As I'm no longer doing chemo the doctors have put me on a whole new set of drugs, all of which have some funny side effects. An implant I get once every three months puts me in menopause (something all my guy friends cringe at when I talk about - I never realised menopause was such a taboo!) which means night sweats and mood swings that would put any teenager to shame.

Another drug, one that's meant to help strengthen my bones, I have to take in the morning on an empty stomach. Not a big problem - except that means no coffee when I wake up. Thirty excruciating minutes of waiting until I can finally have my morning fix. And I can honestly say that no drink has ever tasted better than the cup of dark, delicious instant I make the minute the timer rings and then gulf down in about three seconds. So delicious...

To wig or not to wig

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Did you ever wonder what happened after I said I'd try the wig thing out? Well, here it is - me in the wig. Coincidentally, this is the only time I wore it. It sits on its stand in my bedroom, decorating a styrofoam head rather than mine. In some way, I'm happy I have it, but I just don't feel comfortable wearing it. I feel too much like a lie, a fake. 


I thought the wig would let me escape the reality of having cancer for a bit - but it turns out it runs much deeper than that. For now, I'll stay bald. Hopefully I will have time to let the hair grow out a little - even a super short pixie cut sounds good at this point. As long as it's my own hair. 


Edit: I realised looking at this that someone reading it might think this is how I look nowadays, more or less. It's really not. Since I have this compulsory need to not keep my blog as some kind of look-at-me-with-my-successful-life channel, but rather the not-so-popular radical honesty channel, this is what I look like most of the time:

Hilla Duka after ten rounds of chemotherapy

Milo snapped this shot of me so quickly I didn't even have time to put on my I-hate-being-photographed face. Ten rounds of chemo has left me swollen beyond belief, puffy around the eyes and with an arm that looks more like the hammer of Thor than anything human. Has about the same mobility too... No, it's not a pretty picture, but "pretty" is very much secondary to "alive"