Showing blog posts tagged with: holidays

Adventures far away

by Hilla Duka - View comments


We’ve had a truly wonderful week of sun, swimming, food and drinks, and are now back home again. Before I go into all the loveliness of the week, I want to direct a huge, absolutely massive Thank you! to all the people who contributed to make this week a reality! I really can’t thank you enough - but I hope that you can feel my gratefulness even though my words are inadequate. With all the madness of being on sick leave, insurance companies making trouble and refusing to pay, there really is no way I could have afforded to do this trip if it wasn’t for you. It’s a memory the kids will always have of a week away from this horror that has become their lives (and if they forget, I’ve taken about a gozillion photos to help them remember!). 


Jonathan jumping in to the pool


The kids swam in the pool non stop. Jacob (almost) learned how to swim - which is a huge step as he’s been quite scared of water before. And since he’s so skinny, we can’t really go to the swimming pool close by - he gets cold after five minutes (and by cold, I mean his lips are blue and he’s shaking non stop). Here, he could practise jumping into the water and getting his head completely under water, eventually brave enough to remove his arm pads and practise floating (not so easy when there isn’t an ounce of fat on you apparently), and eventually trying to swim. He can manage a few metres, and most importantly, he’s no longer terrified to start his obligatory swimming lessons next year. Jonathan, who’s always loved being in water had  an amazing time, jumping in and trying to do tricks in the water as often as possible. Milo’s still wearing his arm pads, but can move around and has finally stopped referring to getting his head dipped as “drowning”.


Milo by the pool side


When I needed a rest, Ilir took the boys to the sea, where they got to swim in the Atlantic, get splashed by waves and look for sea shells and pretty stones.


Jonathan and Jacob by the sea


Milo by the sea

Milo got to meet Bamse, though he was somewhat hesitant he finally gathered up his courage and went to say hi. He was fascinated, even though he explained several times that he knew there were people in the costumes, at the same time they were the characters from Bamse as well.


Jonathan was most impressed with the idea that someone would wash and change the towels and sheets for us, he thought that was a luxury quite beyond belief. And I realised that of course, they haven’t stayed at a hotel before: whenever we’ve traveled we’ve rented a flat, or stayed with relatives: this was all new to them. And even though they enjoyed the idea of always having food prepared, they all agreed that they preferred Ilirs cooking, saying how spoiled they felt for having someone cook such good food for them. So for tonight they’ve ordered him to make carrot patties for dinner!


I decided I might as well go scarf-less, since wether I wore scarf or not seemed to have little impact on the amount of stares, pointing and whispers I got, so I figured I might as well be as comfortable as I could!

me and milo by the pool

The flight, though a good five and a half hours, was a breeze, at least as far as the kids were concerned. And considering how the other kids on the plane behaved I was so proud of my calm, well behaved little ones. I was less happy with other kids on the plane, but I suppose there must be at least one baby screaming his lungs out on all planes… I’m just happy that kid doesn’t belong to me! Usually, I’m not the one with the best behaved children, they run a bit wild, are highly opinionated, and tend to get into arguments with each other constantly. But they do have good flight manners! No loud voices, no kicking the next chair, no wrestling for armspace or reclining your chair, and definitely no, absolutely no crying. Actually, I’d say they’re better than most fellow passengers on any flight!

And as we were heading home, the kids told me how happy they were with their holiday, how much fun they had had, and how pleased they were to be back home, and my heart filled with gratitude that I had been allowed to experience this with them. Again, thank you! Now we're safely home again, and tomorrow it's back to reality as I head in for treatment number six.


Shana tova

by Hilla Duka - View comments


This week was the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, and though I don’t normally fuss much unless my dad’s around, this time it felt important to celebrate. It also happened to coincide with me being half way through treatments, also worth celebrating. It’s a whole new year, 5775, and I hope so much that it will be a sweet year, a year of better news, than last year. As is traditional, we dipped our apples in honey, and I might have prayed more fervently than usual for a sweet, happy year for all of us.


Rosh Hashanah is followed by ten days of atonement, and though I’m not religious, these days have always held a special place in my heart, mainly because they make so much sense to me. The days that follow new years is a time for reflection, looking back on the year that passed, on your actions. It’s holding yourself accountable for the mistakes you’ve made, and apologising to the people you’ve mistreated. The idea is that god enters the names of those who will live on new years, but gives people these ten days to change his decision. If you’ve atoned, repent, and done good deeds, he can still change his mind and put your name down for the year to come. Needless to say, this year the holiday holds a new meaning to me.


So these past few days, I’ve spent looking inwards, trying a bit harder than other times to align who I want to be with who I am, how I want to act and think and behave. I’ve changed so much in the past few months, it’s sometimes hard to even recognise myself.


Thankfully I’m now past the most horrific days of treatment no 5, my strength returning, my head clearing, and the nausea gone for this time. I luxuriate in the energy returning to my body, in the fact that I can do math in my head once again, and that I can follow a conversation from start to finish once more. Everybody always says it’s the small things that matters - who knew they were right? My heart fills with gratitude when I think that I will have almost two weeks of feeling this well before it’s time for my next round.


It seems my reaction to the chemo is different for each time, strangely enough. This time, I felt affected almost as soon as I left the hospital, my head drowsy and drugged, my body weak and toxic. Usually so far, day one and two have been fairly easy on me, but this time I was quite broken down. Day Three, the dreaded Day Three, came and went, and perhaps because I was already so affected, it didn’t seem like the worst Day Three I’ve gone through.


I try to take some comfort in knowing that I’m half way now - I’ve managed five treatments and I’ve another five to go. I still haven’t heard of anyone receiving as many as ten rounds of chemo, the maximum I’ve heard of are six. When I consider how much these five turns have altered me, it does leave me a bit fearful of what I’ve ahead of me. How much will the next five treatments take, how will they change me? What kind of person will I be when at last I’ve done all ten courses?


And as one always does at the beginning of a new year I’ve made an effort to be extra healthy. I’ve started to make super icky drinks, ones with celery, cale and beetroots and stuff in them, and I do feel like I have way more energy now than before. It might just be the fact that my blood counts are better, or maybe the drinks really do help. In any case I’ll keep drinking them, anything I can do to help my body have the best possible chance to fight. And ironically, physically I feel better now than I have all year, even way before I got the diagnosis.

One of the best things anyone told me since I found out was “Accept the diagnosis, not the prognosis”. I try to live by that, though it’s sometimes harder than other times. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense - I don’t feel like I’m sick, and I know that I’m strong, so why shouldn’t I be different? On the other hand, it’s very hard to ignore when you read how long people with my kind of cancer lives. And while on one hand you have to stay positive, you also have to get used to idea of dying, to try to wrap your head around it. It’s a balance hard to perfect, how much to believe and stay positive, and how much to accept. I’ve promised myself to try to let these thoughts be while we’re away, to simply enjoy the moment, and not think too much. I don’t know how well I’ll be able to do it, but I will at least try to only be present in the moment, to create some happy memories for all of us.


by Hilla Duka - View comments


This past week has been so rough, physically and mentally. Physically mainly because of the different tests I’ve had to undergo for my halftime evaluation, and in part because I chose to participate in life. I went to vote, and I deliberately wanted to do it on the election day (even though it meant standing in line for ages). I don’t know how many more times I’ll get to go and vote, so I wanted to do it properly. I went bowling with the kids, and after much persuasion I actually did some bowling myself (the last time was in my teens, I ended up dropping the ball and someone was hit in the head...) My fingers and my hands hurt for the rest of the day and then some, but it was worth it to do something fun with the kids (they all love bowling).


Mentally, because I’ve been waiting for my half term results. I got them today, and I’ve been a nervous wreck waiting for them. Imagine if you got the result of all of your university exams in one day, and then multiply it by some factor - it’s not just a university exam at stake here, but my whole life, my whole future.


My head was in complete and utter turmoil, but it turned out to be good news. The ultrasound didn’t produce much - as the tumour is lobular it’s spread in a very spidery way, making it very hard to tell if it’s shrinking or not. The mammography results weren’t back yet, but my doctor was more than pleased when she examined the breast - much smaller, almost as small as the healthy one!


My blood tests showed that I was producing blood by myself, at least some of what I need, which is a good sign that the metastases in the bone marrow are receding, even if my blood values where lower now and I’ll probably need a blood transfusion on Friday when I have my next round of chemo. And my lymph nodes were almost normal in size! So, all in all, really good news. The best bit was that there was no new metastases, and the fluid in my right lung that had been there before had gone away.

To celebrate, I’ve booked tickets for the holiday that Heidi and all the lovely people who contributed enabled me to go on through the fundraising campaign! A week of sun, bathing, drinks and ice cream with all my boys - the kids are going to love it! And I will too. And it’s just two weeks away! It’s been hard settling on a date - basically I’m in no condition to do anything for the first week after treatment, and then comes four days when I’m extremely sensitive to infection - not a good time to be on a plane. And after that I have about ten good days, before it’s time for another round, so it had to be on October first. Thankfully, I found a great trip on
Fritidsresor. I’ll be home a day before the 6th treatment, and we leave just as soon as I stop being so sensitive to infection after my next round - perfect! It will be just perfect.



The picture is borrowed from Fritidsresor, of the hotel we'll be staying at

Dreaming away

by Hilla Duka - View comments


When the worries and fears of the next checkup, or just of life as it is these days, threaten to overtake me, I have a new weapon. I dream myself away. To after the doctor’s appointment, when she’ll have given me the news that I’m doing fantastically, that the results are better than they had dared to hope for. To a holiday in the sun, playing with the kids. The more real the worry, the more real I make the dream.


Yesterday it was time for the half time checkup I’ve been dreading and hoping for for months now. The checkup itself was done quickly and more or less painlessly (they just insert a needle and at one point give you contrast fluid through that), just lying down and then you get moved back and forth through a huge machine with a round hole. The day before that was the blood sample which will tell me if my all-time high of 112 was a fluke, or if my body really is producing blood on its own again (which would mean the cancer cells in my bone marrow are fewer), and tomorrow its time for another mammogram. And for all I’m willing my body to have done well, there really isn’t anything more to do but wait for the results.


So, I start dreaming away, to a holiday in the sun with my family. My lovely friend Heidi started a fund-raising when I got diagnosed, to send me away on a dream holiday. The fund-raising went through the roof, and it means I will get to take the kids on their first holiday in years.  I’ve some red tape to get through first, like getting OK to going on holiday while I’m still on sick-leave (Sweden has loads of rules on stuff like that), but my oncologist cleared me for travelling, just to go somewhere “safe and practical” as she phrased it.


So now I’m looking at holidays - the kind of chartered ones with preferably all-inclusive and pools and beach just around the corner. The kind I never would have looked at before having kids, and that always seemed too expensive or over-the-top once I did. This summer, I think, in the end turned out to be a good one for the kids. Thanks to the car we could go to fun places we didn’t really go to before, and all of us, Ilir, my brother and my dad, made an effort to take them out as much as possible, so that they could go swimming, or go to the really fun park across town. But we couldn’t go away, at that point. Everything about the diagnose was still so new, so raw, so dangerous. The year before that I had time off in the summer, but no money to take them anywhere, and the year before that I worked all summer, so they’ve really waited long enough for this. We all need this, I think. For one week, just to get away from it all, the morning stress and the homework that needs to be done and the constant, constant worrying…


Now, when I start to worry about the result and what it will show and I realise that it’s just one of those improductive worries, I start to think about our holiday instead. I know we will have an amazing time once we get there, and for that I’m so very, very grateful. But even before that, just now, it’s doing me a world of good to just have this to dream away to, as a counteract to those worries that will just lead me nowhere. I just start dreaming away to a place where I’m lying by the pool sipping goldfish-bowl-sized drinks and watching the kids splash around in the water. This trip will be another thing that I hope they can remember for the rest of their lives, something we did together as a family.


I’m so, so grateful to everyone who helped the fundraising become such a success. Thank you so much, for caring, sharing, contributing. And a massive thank you to Heidi, who as always knows how to make stuff happen!

The image above is borrowed from fritidsresor


by Hilla Duka - View comments


The kids are playing checkers in the living room. No one is objecting to the rules and things are quiet. I'm baking bread and making sweets for new years eve, a bottle of wine is airing for tonight (and I've only nipped a tiny bit so far). The house is clean(-ish), the kids are calm, the kitchen is sporting the new dining set I bought an assembled a couple of days ago, and I've eight more days of holiday until I go back to work. I have to admit, things could be way worse.

dinner table and chairs

New table and chairs. Thank god I could get rid of my old hideous set, with the too small table and broken ugly chairs... Also, these chairs are cat safe - a huge bonus!


Chocolate muffins for new years. Have no idea how they taste as I don't like sweets, but the kids seem to like them! My kids go mental if they have white sugar, so these are made of dark muscavado sugar. 

Happy holidays

by Hilla Duka - View comments


I haven't really been writing for a while, as usual things have been a bit mad... My last trip to the UK was disappointing in the way that I came down with tonsillitis. Spending any amount of time in a hotel room is boring, but spending it shivering under the duvet, hallucinating and with no strength even to get up and get a cup of tea really sucks. I was able to attend the two events I meant to, but not much more. This time I stayed at Premier Inn in Old Street. For being a three star hotel, I should be more kind to it, after all it was clean and big enough to open the door fully, but honestly it was a horrible stay. My room lay next to a construction site, and 5 am they started the noise. Also, no roomservice when confined to bed is really not ideal. It was close to the PR show, but next time I'll stay at my usual hotel and brave the morning traveling.

Since I've been back I've been pretty much occupied with trying to make Christmas at home. The kids have decided that we are to have a full blown Christmas at home, complete with a tree and all. As this is not really something I'm well acquainted with it's taking some efforts, to say the lease, but thankfully I've been getting helpful tips from people at work. So we've been making gingerbread cookies, decorated a tree and whatnot. Presents are under the tree, mincemeat cookies in the oven. The kids are sleeping peacefully in their beds, and for the fist time I'm starting to get a bit of a Christmas feeling. It's nice, sort of.

Three weeks and four days in

by Hilla Duka - View comments


Our holidays are coming to an end, at this point it's starting to feel sad. I've gotten used to having all this time off, day after day of free time to spend with the boys. We haven't gone abroad, instead we've spent time around Stockholm. It's been really fun, and I feel abit weird going back to work, always worrying about the kids when I'm at work only to worry about work when I'm with the kids. 


I haven't really been able to let work go completely, I've still answered important emails, and tried to help out when my team's needed it. In retrospect, maybe not the best way to spend this precious time, but I am who I am, and change is hard. However, I've vowed to be better at leaving early from time to time, maybe take a day and work from home once in a while. Considering the amount of extra time I put in at work, it would probably do me good!