Showing blog posts tagged with: mynewsdesk

YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND, THAT NO ONE PUTS THEIR CHILDREN IN A BOAT UNLESS THE WATER IS SAFER THAN THE LAND

by Hilla Duka - View comments

sunset over the ocean

I’m so lucky, it’s ridiculous. Here I am, with my cancer ridden, broken down body, my fear of leaving my amazing boys, and the more or less constant pain. Oh, and there’s the little detail of the fact that I will most likely die way before my time, and I will still say that I am so lucky it’s ridiculous.

When I found out I have cancer my friends, family and coworkers gathered to offer their sympathies. Mynewsdesk, the amazing company I work for, guaranteed me that I would keep most of my income during sick leave, so that I would not have to worry about money in the middle of all of it. My colleagues in Oslo and in London sent flowers, and baskets full of thoughtful cards and loving gifts, even customers reached out with caring letters, and I don't even have a customer focused position. Acquaintances became friends, and my best friend and the father of my children became my husband. The outpour of love and well wishes was, and continues to be, simply amazing. I received so many messages of hope, love, encouragement, and I was only one person. One person with bad luck and a limited future. So you see, I really am so very, very fortunate.

 

Others are running for their lives, fighting unseen and unheard, drowning in waves of indifference, their future washed away, simply for having the bad luck of being born in the wrong place. The images are horrible, they are literally the very worst thing imaginable, yet if they lead to a more humane stance towards refugees, if they can elicit compassion and make people understand that we have a moral obligation to help, then perhaps publishing these images are worth it. Because the very simple truth is - it’s about human lives. Human beings are running for their lives, and if that is too hard to understand, if you can’t understand the truth of the now iconic “You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”, then there is something fundamentally wrong. People are dying on the Mediterranean because we won’t let them take an airplane. Because their homes are war-torn and we’ve stood idly by. The only decent thing to do now is take care of these people. Let them in now and sort out the details later. There are a number of great organisations helping, the Red Cross, Medecins sans Frontieres, or smaller initiatives, like Blogghjälpen, set up by a group of Swedish bloggers and aiming at raising 50 000 SEK for UNHCR. We can all do something to help them help. 

 

My employer, Mynewsdesk, sent out an email on Friday, with the modest title “An early Christmas present”, letting us know that in answer to the nightmare on the Mediterranean, they’re donating €50 for each of us to the Red Cross, it made me feel so very grateful. Considering how many employees we are, this is a donation of almost €9000 to the Red Cross. Most companies give their employees some form of Christmas presents. In my opinion, a donation is much more valuable and appreciated than some piece of plastic that will lie around unused. Why not deliver your Christmas presents early this year? People are dying, and because of a small child and a horrible picture the world is finally taking notice. Let’s make the most of that momentum, raise as much money as possible, change as many minds as possible, get as many people into safety as possible, now.

 

I may not be around in twenty years, to face the questions from my kids, see their faces as they ask what I did in face of this humanitarian crisis, but if I am, I will not have to tell them I sat idly by. I will tell them that I did what I could, and that I am proud the company I work for did as well.


Title is a quote from a poem by Warsan Shire. Please take a minute to read it, it is incredibly powerful. 


The art of living

by Hilla Duka - View comments

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In June 2014, my life changed forever. I finally got to see a doctor who took all my strange symptoms seriously, examined my breast and my swollen lymph nodes, and who answered me gently, but made it clear that cancer was a real risk. The next day, after I had left some blood samples, a doctor called me and ordered me to go to the emergency to get a blood transfusion. As my doctor’s office and the emergency didn’t have the same data system, my doctor’s office had faxed my papers, and as I signed in to the emergency room, I was given those papers, to give to the doctor I would see. Naturally I checked them, and from the statement and values it was clear to me that I had cancer. The next day, I was told that it had spread to my lymph nodes, and a week later that it was also found in my skeleton and bone marrow, meaning that it was stage four cancer, with no way of ever being cured from it.

 

Since then, so much of what it is that I’m coming to terms with, is a question of learning how to live with death as a part of life. This is not something we’re forced to do in this day and age, and learning how to is alien and stressing and strange. My reality is that the best I can hope for is that my body can manage all ten chemos now, and that the cancer cells can't, and then… Well, yes, then it’s the question of what then. Basically, after that, it’s living with death around the corner. Even if (or when) I manage to get through all ten treatments, and they give me the amazing news that they can find No Evidence of Disease (NED), the rest of my life will be spent worrying about some lump I’m feeling or a pain in the side or whatnot. I’ll go on checkups, and when I get all clear and they tell me they can’t find anything, I’ll celebrate. And then the next day I’ll start worrying about the next checkup, the next lump, until one day they tell me they can find new spreadings. Coming to terms with this kind of future is taxing and difficult and horrific, and is not something I would wish upon anyone.

 

I’ve done my fair share of trying to negotiate with this unarmed weapon pointing at me, hell - I’ve probably done most peoples share of that. I will willingly, gladly, accept this future as long as there is a future and it’s long, but simply accepting it isn’t the same as understanding what it will mean. It’s a bit like when parents tell someone who doesn’t have kids that they’re tired, and that person goes ‘Yeah, I totally understand’. They don’t, because you can’t unless you’ve been there. It’s not that they don’t want to understand, it’s just that unless you’ve stood there with the baby that just won't stop screaming unless you carry it and rock it at exactly the right pace, while you’re legs are aching and you’re ready to fall asleep standing up, indeed walking around, for the fifth night in a row, you really can’t get it. I think it’s the same now. It’s like I’m standing on one side looking into this thing that will hopefully be my future, and trying hard to accept it and understand what it will be like, only I can’t really understand it yet, because I’m not living through it yet. Almost, but not really yet. One leg is there, and the other is still standing in chemo-reality.

 

But as they say, hope is the last thing that leaves you, and as humans we must have something, that is just maybe out of reach but not entirely, to hope for. And as I’m not religious I can’t really hope for salvation or heaven, and I’m not really interested in eternal peace anyway. The only thing I can hope for is more time, more future. So it stands to reason that a lot of the machinations of my brain will therefore investigate what kind of future I can hope for, if all goes well. It turns out, even in the best outcome of this I have to accept death, as part of my new life.

 

Ironically, I’m actually way better at living since I found out I’m dying. I mean, not right now, and in some sense we’re all dying, but you get the idea. I’m so much better at life, when life also involves death. I’m better at embracing my feelings, I’m better at being grateful, I’m more conscious of the sort of thoughts I allow into my head, and whether they’re worthy thoughts or not. I’m better at enjoying the here-and-now moments, and I’m so much more grateful. Before, I had a good job, decent money and great friends and family, and while I did appreciate every bit of it, I think in some ways I felt entitled to it. It was due to me, as a result of who I was, of what I did.

 

Now, as I’ve struggled to understand how wholly unfair life actually is and that there really isn’t anything you can do about it, whether or not I deserve something is completely unimportant, because you don’t actually get the things you deserve. In comes the gratitude. Yes, I may have cancer and it will change everything about my day to day life and my future, and my death, and it’s not fair in any way, but it’s just part of the portion I’ve been served. I’ve also been given incredible kids, a wonderful husband, loving family and friends, great opportunities to do amazing things… The list goes on and on.


I’ve had to give up basically everything that I was, everything that I thought defined me, but in return I’ve gotten something back. It may not be a fair bargain, but I’m so not left empty-handed in this. If the price I’m paying for living is a life with death as a participant, I’m ok with that.


Not football

by Hilla Duka - View comments

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I had this post planned out in my head. It was about football. Basically, some specific and in my opinion helpful tips that would in general improve the game. It was a cheery and trying-to-be-funny post. That's not what I'm writing today. Today, it'll just be a sad and depressing rant / up-to-date since I don't feel witty or funny or anything positive right now. The tests came back, and the cancer has spread to the bone marrow and to the skeleton. I was so busy staying positive, that wasn't even an option I had considered, and it's just left me devastated, in complete and utter shock. 

 

I wake up in the morning, and the tumors in my neck hurt (a lot) and the metastases in my skeleton, mainly in my lower back, hurt (a lot). As I wake up, there is no longer that brief moment of pause when I still think everything is normal, and then it hits me that this is now my life. I wake up now, and I know it's bad. It still kicks me in the groin, but it's not the completely unexpected kick it was at first. I can't even get a massage, because apparently, everything that's good for me is also good for the cancer. I'm wondering if smoking or getting stoned (which by all accounts should count as bad for me), might kick the cancer a bit? I'd be willing to chip in, you know, for the general good and all. As it is, I can do a bit of yoga, and Ilir is making me smoothies with icky stuff like wheat grass, spirulina and such in them. 

 

My blood values went up after I had my blood transfusion, from 70 to 95, and then a few days later all the way to 99 (in spite of my body's brilliant idea that the day after the blood transfusion was the best day to have my period), so hopefully I wont need another blood transfusion before I start chemo. (Normal people have an HB of between 130-175, so all of this still counts as severely anemic.) 

 

The plan now is to start chemo next week, then do a series of hopefully ten treatments, and - fingers crossed! - watch all the tumors in my body shrink down or disappear, and then keep me on anti hormonal treatment and keep our fingers crossed that the cancer cells don't decide to start growing again. Which they will at one point, but my plan is also to stay extremely positive that some kind of wonder cure that can kill skeletal metastases will develop, if I can just keep it together that long. The thing is, no matter how much I try to focus on this positive image, my mind keeps returning to the much less happy scenario of well... I'm sure you get the picture. 

 

It hurts so bad that my kids will have to watch me be ill, that they need to watch me be weak and worry about me. So far, I've told them I'm sick and that the illness is called cancer. I've told them that I'm not working right now, and that I'll never be completely well again. I so, so, so much don't want to have to tell them any more than that. We know that the cancer is hormone receptive, which is at least one good thing in the midst of a million bad ones, as it gives a better chance of the chemo working. Still, the fact that it's in my bone marrow and in my skeleton means what it means. 

 

I hate that I have to wait for treatment. I hate that first I had to wait one week for a conference, which turned out to be just a meeting, since they don't see any point in surgery, and now I have to wait another week and a half, during which the cancer is spreading and wreaking havoc in my body. I know that I'll be unwell when the treatment starts, but I'd rather have that than this wait. I need to fight, and right now I'm just holding my breath. 

 

I haven't had the energy to reply to all of the wonderfully kind comments, texts, messages that you've all sent me, but I really, really appreciate them. Thank you all of my sweet colleagues and friends and family members from far away who've taken the time to write! I miss normality, I miss work, I miss my life. It's so hard to comprehend, that a few weeks ago I was a bit concerned about a weirdness in my breast, and annoyed as hell that I was so out of shape and often got sick. It's just a few weeks ago, but it's another life, and I miss it badly.

 

Now, my best positive thought is starting chemo and then being able to see how the larger tumors are shrinking. 

 

</rant>


Quite forgotten

by Hilla Duka - View comments

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Among my doodlings that I was planning to show you was this little guy. Don't know why I forgot to post him. I kind of got a Sinatra vibe from him, so I tried changing the background to look sort of like the cover to New York, New York, but that just looked bad, and the litlle guy sort of disappeared, so I just stuck with this one. 

In a few days I'm packing up for a short trip to Germany, to visit our office there and host one of our Dev Corner's, this time for German rails developers, and of course hoping to find some great ones looking for new employment. While there the dev team will be taking their lab days (you get two a month as a developer - unfortunately, as Product Owner you get none) so I will try to get some time to speak to the German sales reps and marketing people. 

I'm a bit stressed out at the moment, my first larger project is coming close to release, and I feel like I'm dropping the balls left, right and center. It's just so much to do, so many things, people to take in consideration... It's so much fun, but also really stressful... I'm looking forward to being able to sleep like a normal person again once we release!

Even if there hasn't been a lot of activity here in terms of writing or posting pictures, I've been very active "behind the scenes" of the blog. I finally decided I had enough of Twitter Bootstrap, and thought I'd try to replace it with Foundation from Zurb, just to see how that would go. It actually went better than fine - with a minimum of effort I got much the same result as before, and many things that I had done the CSS by hand for, like the social icons at the bottom of the page, I found that I could just chuck out my CSS and replace it with a few new class names instead. Likewise the navbar on top I could ignore my old CSS for and instead just alter a couple of the variables included in Foundation. I especially like how Foundation includes responsiveness in every class name, and then how you can alter the layout for responsiveness by adding more classes to the HTML. In the end, my CSS file was shortened by 2/3, and I took the oportunity to rewrite it in a proper SCSS way. (Yes, before I had basically just chucked everything in there with no real sense of order. Sort of like you do with a rarely used closet. I'll admit it.)

Also, while I was at it, I changed the layout a bit. I thought it seemed more intuitive to have the blog start page as the start page of the site - it's where the content is. The about me page doesn't seem that important, and if for some reason someone finds the blog without knowing me, it's available in the navbar. I like it for now, and it was fun to get rid of Twitter Bootstrap and try something new!


Pirate Panda

by Hilla Duka - View comments

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Well, it's Monday, and I have a Pirate Panda for you. Complete with eye patch, pirate hat and wooden leg. And yes, I am aware that his scarf just makes him look french, but let's just roll with it - he's a french pirate panda, right? Right. 

 

Apart from making panda costumes, I've been fairly busy. I have a trip to the UK coming up last week of November, to attend to really interesting PR and Marketing shows, and I've spent a fair amount of time prepping for my annual appraisal, which actually went great and was lovely. When I say prepping for, of course I mean being nervous in no constructive way about. But all is well, and I still have my job. In fact, I have my job, plus some praise for a job well done. So now I'm sipping champagne (I'm lying, it's actually Cava, but champagne just sounds better) and congratulating myself on I'm not really sure what. Choosing the right place to work maybe? There are worse ways of starting the week!


Going home

by Hilla Duka - View comments

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I'm sure I've written something to the same extent previously, but it strikes me every time I go to London how it doesn't stop being home. The funny thing about going back to work is that you still get up in the morning, you still moan internally about the laid back tourists walking in their leisurely pace, or the tube minutes who seem to have no relationship to normal minutes. It's just the same. 

 

This visit was so good, I got so much from my meetings and from talking to the team there, and was able to balance productive days and interesting meetings with laid back nights filled with wine and laughter and good company. Just the sort of visit I really love!

 

And for those hard won skeptics, who think there's nothing more to London than concrete and crammed buildings and crowded streets, I offer this pic, taken early in the morning as I headed back to the airport. Enough said, right?


So lately...

by Hilla Duka - View comments

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I am aware I haven't exactly been very good at updating lately, which I will mainly attribute to being insanely busy. September included Baruco and the trip to Barcelona, which I believe I already told you about, and People Days in Berlin, which I have not yet told you about.

Basically, I am insanely fortunate to work at a company that evaluates itself mainly on how much people love working there. Let's just take that again, shall we? You read it right. My company measures it's success on how much we love working there. Based on that, I'll say it's a raging success. But I'm getting side tracked. Berlin. My lovely company just flew 120 people over for 36 hours, to spend our annual People days in Berlin. To celebrate we just opened in Germany. Great talks, workshops, drinks, live music with a band that took the roof of the place, the works. I may be skint having spent my salary on babysitters, but I had a great time!

My sweet friend Fia is getting special treatment and enjoying it like no tomorrow. Also, you know, hipsters taking pictures of food...

Lovely Li is all dolled up for the party in Berlin. She looks so amazing in this picture I think! 

Well, yes, there were drinks, and then I'd had too many to remember to take more pictures. That happens. :)

 

October is so far trying really hard not to be less interesting, so it's offered our annual Mynewsday, for which I was tweeting and it may or may not have been a coicidence (it is completely a coincidence) but while I was in charge of our twitter account, @mynewsdesk_se, the hashtag of the day #mnday was trending on twitter. Kind of cool no? Oh, and also no big deal, but that led to an article by our lovely internal journalist, which you could read here (especially if you like reading me ramble).  

Fredrik Rahnasto doing a stellar job at presenting at Mynewsday. Who knew he was so funny??

There were goodiebags. Soooo many goodiebags. I feel bad for the people packing them, but hopefully the people receiving them were happy enough to make up for it!

 

October is also offering up a trip to see my lovely UK team next week, which will be great! I haven't been over since August, and even though I got to see them all during People days, it's not the same as being there in person. On Tuesday we have an exciting product strategy day, and next morning at 4am I'm off! And yes, there is a slight chance I miss the flight. What can I say, I like living on the edge...

 

Oh yes, and getting back to the picture of me that I started with. I'm guessing you wonder why that's there? Well, following a discussion from last nights drinks, I figured a semi-public annoncement is in place: I've officially given up on my daily struggle with the straightener and am wearing my hair as it irrevertibly returns to as soon as I touch humdity - curly. If you see me and think I look odd - no, I did not decide to go for an eighty's perm, I've just given myself an extra twenty minutes every morning. End of anouncement. Sorry for the really long post, but it was either that, or like five of them. Honestly, what would you have prefered? I know, I know, I will get better at updating more often again.

 

P.S. I know the comments thing is broken. I know I need to figure it out. But you hardly ever comment, and I am short on time. So if you think about it, it's really your fault. Somehow. I'm not really sure how, but I'll work it out and get back to you, ok? Or I'll just fix the comments function and then you all comment like mad. Deal? Deal!