Vatnið, gríman og geltið er hreinskilin og átakanleg reynslusaga af þunglyndi og áfallastreituröskun. Þó að efnið sé erfitt þá er bókin engu að síður mjög fallega skrifuð og virðist Silja hafa góðan skilning á notkun myndlíkinga og beitir þeim á mjög skemmtilegan og ljóðrænan hátt. Sagan er jafnframt mjög grípandi og auðvelt er að lifa sig inn í atburðarás hennar og finna til samkenndar með Silju.
“Hamingjan er ég, blóðug eftir baráttuna, með ísköld lík hundana undir fótum mér. Hamingjan er ég, gríman í molum og örin sjáanleg.”
Ég átti mjög erfitt með að leggja bókina frá mér og las hana á innan við sólahring. Ég lifði mig inn í frásögnina og átti mjög auðvelt með að sjá sjálfa mig í sumum aðstæðum hennar. Ég dáist að því hvað Silja er kjörkuð í frásögn sinni af tilfinningaóreiðu, erfiðum hugsunum, upplifunum og áföllum. Hún heldur ekkert aftur af sér og er það af þeim sökum sem lesandinn fær að upplifa frásögnina svo sterkt í gegnum hana. Þetta er vafalaust bók sem gæti höfðað til margra sem geta tengt sterkt við efni hennar.
Vatnið, gríman og geltið er fyrsta bók Silju Bjarkar Björnsdóttur og með henni stimplar hún sig rækilega inn sem mjög hæfileikaríkur penni og skáld sem vert er að fylgjast með í framtíðinni. Ég hef það sterkt á tilfinningunni að Silja sé aðeins rétt að byrja.
Ég hef alltaf verið mikill lestrarhestur, alveg síðan ég man eftir mér. Bókasafnið var minn griðastaður sem barn. Ég vildi heldur eyða tíma mínum þar og gleyma mér í ævintýraheimum bókanna heldur en til dæmis að reyna að kynnast öðrum krökkum á leikvellinum. Ég var aldrei neitt sérstaklega góð í mannlegum samskiptum hvort eð er og persónurnar í bókunum sem ég las kröfðust þess jafnframt ekki af mér.
Þegar ég var 11 ára gömul var ég búin að lesa allar barna- og unglingabækurnar á bókasafninu og snéri mér þá að fullorðins bókmenntum og urðu erótískar ástarsögur Barböru Cartland fyrstar fyrir valinu og opnuðu þær bækur mér innsýn inn í nýjan heim, heim hinna fullorðnu. Í kjölfarið las ég svo allar bækur Isabel Allende og þá var ekki aftur snúið. Ég fór að lesa allar týpur bókmennta sem ég kom höndum yfir og heimur bókanna stækkaði ört fyrir mér, enda er ég og verð alltaf alæta á bókmenntir. Ég elska einfaldlega að lesa.
Þegar ég greindist svo með krabbamein í byrjun árs 2016 hugsaði ég mér gott til glóðarinnar. Ég skildi nýta tíman minn í krabbameinsmeðferð vel og ætlaði sko að vera dugleg að lesa en komst svo fljótt að því að mér entist hvorki minnið né athyglin til að lesa eitt né neitt. Ég eyddi mestum mínum tíma fyrir framan sjónvarpið, glápandi á Netflix. Því minna krefjandi sem sjónvarpsefnið var, því betra.
Eftir krabbameinsmeðferð, árið 2017, fór ég að leita mér endurhæfingar í ýmsum andlegum og líkamlegum æfingum, líkt og göngu og hugleiðslu. Hinsvegar var það heilinn sem enn var týndur einhverstaðar í þoku minnisleysis og athyglisbrests og ég kunni því illa að geta ekki lesið öllum stundum líkt og áður. Því skráði ég mig aftur í háskólanám, í þetta skiptið í stjórnmálafræði við HÍ, til þess að þjálfa upp þennan mikilvæga vöðva sem heilinn er. Allra mikilvægasta vöðvann að mínu mati.
Ég gleymi því seint þegar ég gekk út af fyrsta fyrirlestrinum og mundi ekki neitt af því sem fram hafði farið. Mig langaði helst til að gráta og hætta við þetta allt saman því ég skildi ekki hvað ég væri að gera þarna ef ég mundi ekki neitt. Ég gafst þó ekki upp þó ég þyrfti að taka upp alla fyrirlestra og hlusta á þá aftur til þess að geta ritað niður glósur, því ég gat ekki gert það á meðan á honum stóð þar sem ég var búin að gleyma því sem kennarinn sagði um leið og hann sagði það. Og þó ég þyrfti að lesa hverja setningu í skólabókunum aftur og aftur þar til að ég mundi þær, var vinnan þess virði. Einkunnirnar voru kannski ekki jafn góðar og þegar ég var yngri en dugðu þó alltaf til fyrstu einkunnar og hafa farið hækkandi síðan.
Hægt og rólega fór ég að sjá árangur hjá sjálfri mér og að lokum þurfti ég ekki að taka fyrirlestrana upp lengur því ég var farin að geta glósað jafn óðum og þurfti ekki að lesa setningarnar mörgum sinnum til að muna þær.
Það var mér mikill sigur þegar ég gat loksins lesið heila skáldsögu mér til gamans án þess að gefast upp og grét ég þá næstum af gleði. Það var í Maí 2019 þegar þeim sigri var náð en þá náði ég að lesa bókina Into the Wild eftir Jon Krakauer alla í gegn. Ég skráði mig í kjölfarið í á Goodreads sem er nokkurskonar samskiptasíða fyrir bókaorma þar sem hægt er að skrá og fylgjast með lestrar árangri og áhuga. Ég náði þó aðeins að lesa 16 bækur það árið en það breytti svo lífi mínu að kynnast hljóðbóka öppunum Storytel og Audible. Ég blanda því nú saman að lesa bækur og hlusta á þær. Ég nýti tímann þegar ég er að þrífa, ganga, elda eða hvíla mig til þess að hlusta á hljóðbækur en þess að milli les ég bækur á venjulegan máta.
Ef til vill var ég bara svo ótrúlega glöð og þakklát að geta notið þess að lesa bækur aftur og ef til vill var ég mjög stórhuga þegar ég setti mér það markmið á Goodreads að á árinu 2020, myndi ég ná að lesa 50 bækur. En ég var búin að ná því markmiði um sumarið og varð því aftur og aftur að setja mér ný markmið. Á endanum urðu þær 105 og hef ég sett annað eins markmið fyrir þetta ár: 2021.
Hér eftirfarandi eru að mínu mati 15 bestu bækurnar eða bókaseríurnar af þeim 105 sem ég las árið, 2020 (það er engin sérstök röð á þessu hjá mér):
Evicted:Poverty and Profit in the American City eftir Matthew Desmond
Låt den rätte komma in eftir John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Dracula eftir Bram Stoker
The Silvan bókaserían eftir R.K. Lander
Dalalíf bókaserían eftir Guðrúnu frá Lundi
Things we didn‘t talk about when I was a girl eftir Jeannie Vanasco
The night circus eftir Erin Morgenstern
The starless sea eftir Erin Morgenstern
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine eftir Gail Honeyman
The Shades of magic bókaserían eftir V.E. Schwab
Hjartablóð bókaserían eftir Söndru Bergljótu Clausen
It‘s been awhile since I last wrote a blog. But it‘s time to bring this thing to life again. What has been happening since my last post? Great many things! I was a little scared to write again when life started to go well for me, as if I was afraid that I might somehow jinx it if I publicly talked about it.
The second chemotherapy I underwent, thankfully worked! Then I had surgery on February 7th – 2017, where the tumour in my liver as well as part of the liver were removed and the tumours in my peritoneum were scraped. I spent three nights in an ICU before being moved to a general surgical ward at the hospital. In total I spent around 2 weeks in hospital recovering before was allowed to go home. I now have one seriously impressive scar that goes all the way from my chest to navel. Proof that I’m a survivor.
I‘m glad that I can now proudly share that I have indeed been cancer free since that surgery, or for nearly year and a half now. It‘s pretty remarkable considering only a year before the surgery, I was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer and told that it was “possibly terminal“. My surgeon and my oncologist did a great job and I‘ll be forever thankful to them and all the staff at the hospital that took care of me the time I was forced to spend there. But now I‘m on the road to recovery.
During the first few months of my recovery I spent some time at a rehabilitation centre called Heilsustofnun NLFI in Hveragerði, where I underwent a rehabilitation program which including exercise, walks, healthy-clean eating, as well as some spa treatments, physiotherapy as well as psychotherapy.
In the autumn last year I started my second phase of rehabilitation when I enrolled into political science graduate courses at the University Iceland. My lack of focus and poor memory was driving me crazy. My brain was in a fog caused by chemo and trauma. I needed to find my way out of this fog and feel sharp again. What better way to exercise the brain then to study something challenging. I chose political science because it’s a topic that has always interested me. I have found a great deal of difference in my memory and focus since I started my courses in end of August last year and now that I have completed my second set of final exams this beginning of May. I can‘t complain about my grades, they were quite good all considering how hard it was at the beginning when I walked out of class and couldn’t remember anything that had been discussed.
Now I am about to embark onto the third phase of my rehabilitation, where I will be focusing on my physical and mental health. Tomorrow morning I‘ll by flying to Paris, where I will be spending couple of days with a friend, before taking a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a town close to the border of Spain. There I will start my journey, the Camino de Santiago or the way of saint James. The walk from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela is 791 km long. I have no idea if I will be able to complete it, but I will start the walk and do my best. If you want you can watch my journey trough my Instagram and my Instagram story. I will try to keep it updated as well as this blog during my journey of recovery. I still got long way ahead of me. It’s not as if as soon as you get all clear from the doctor that the battle is over and you are fully recovered. Cancer, chemotherapy and surgery have ravaged my body. Not to mention the psychological trauma that I am now dealing with as a result. One step at a time I am building myself up, physically and mentally. You have seen my descent. Now watch my rising.
Yesterday was the last day of the worst year of my life. Hopefully it will stay the worst year of my life. Hopefully my life can only get better from here on. Of course there were some good moments. Like when my father and brother married their significant others, when we moved into our cosy little house in the lovely town of Hveragerði and of course the day when I married the love of my life. The highlight of this Christmas and New Years Eve was having my lovely husband by my side. Something I had dreamt of for many years…since before we even met.
in January last year I was diagnosed with a stage 4 primary peritoneal cancer and spent the whole of the year 2016 fighting that cancer, going trough 2 different chemo therapies, 6 rounds each therapy, I fought the system long and hard so I could marry my love and I lost a dear friend.
“Happy New Year! Happy New Year! May we all have our hopes, our will to try. If we don’t we might as well lay down and die” sings the iconic pop group Abba. These words could not ring more truer to me than on the beginning of this new year 2017. I won’t give up my fight. I won’t lay down and die. All I have got to kick off this new year is hope and I will take my hope and ride it all the way. I have so much to offer and I am only just beginning to realise how much.
Tomorrow I have a blood test and a CT scan and on 4th of January I will see my doctor and then I will know more how things stand for me right now and what I have to deal with this year and what I need to do to continue my fight. I swear this year I will eat better, take better care of myself, write and read more. These are my New Years resolutions.
Happy New Year everyone! May all of our dreams come true this year and may we never lose hope or the will to try.
I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you for the support I received last year, both financial and emotional. You helped making a difficult year more bearable. ♥
To all my foreign friends who might be confused by all the media circus that has been surrounding me and Ravi for the past week or so. Here is the full story: On April 1st me and Ravi applied for marriage licence.
In the light of my cancer diagnoses in the beginning of this year, we came to realise that chemotherapy could possibly make me infertile. Therefor we were in a sudden rush to get Ravi to Iceland as swiftly as possible so we could freeze embryos. But to be able to freeze embryos, we had to be married first. However two days before the day we had chosen for our marriage, which was my mothers birthday April 7th, the Icelandic bureaucracy put a stop to our marriage plans, stating that Ravi’s bachelorhood certificate wasn’t valid because it didn’t look like some divorce papers from south India that they had been recently given. It did not matter to them that Ravi’s paper was stamped by all valid authorities in India, including the Uttarakhand district court, Magistrates court in Delhi, the ministry of External affairs in India and the Indian Embassy in Iceland. We were lucky however that the IVF clinic sympathized with our situation and gave us permission to freeze embryos so that I could start my chemotherapy as quickly as possible, just as long as we would be married when the embryos would be implanted.
Following the decision of the Icelandic bureaucracy (Sýslumaðurinn í Reykjavík), we decided to challenge their decision, quoting Icelandic marriage law where it says that if one or both persons getting married are seriously ill, no extra paperwork should be required. With this we handed in a medical certificate from my doctor to back it up. However it took them more than 3 months to answer us and when we finally received their answer they denied us once again to marry. But now time was of the essence, because Ravi’s temporary work and resident permit were about to expire, which meant that he would have to return to India and stay there for 6 months while his application for his temporary work and resident permit was once again approved. That meant that for these 6 months he would not be able to be with me or come to me if anything would have happened, for example if my health would have taken a turn for the worst, he’d be stuck in India.
Desperate times require desperate measures. The injustice we were being dealt was too obvious to ignore. We knew we had the right papers, we were not about to give up, so we took it to the media. Straight away help started pouring in. One of the people offering their assistance was a great legal mind that saw the obvious miss justice in all of this and that Ravi’s papers were more than valid. He helped us sue the decision again and this time he took it straight to the Iceland’s Ministry of Internal affairs. The Ministry of Internal affairs did not only overrule the decision of the Sýslumaðurinn í Reykjavík, thus allowing us now finally to marry, but as well promised to reconsider their work process when it comes to evaluating foreign papers in situations such as these. So the victory we have been able to push trough with our persistence, will not only affect us Ravi, but many other in similar position that will follow. May justice always prevail!
Holding up with the Gharwali Hindu tradition that one can not celebrate any festivities within a year from a close relatives death, Ravi’s father in this case, who passed away from cancer in December last year. Our wedding ceremony which will take place this upcoming week, will be a simple low-key ceremony and there will be no proper wedding party celebrated until next year. Hopefully then my health will have improved.
Thank you everybody for your help, strength and support during this battle. It was greatly appreciated.
I know it’s been a while since I last posted a blog. I will explain what has been going on as many things have happened since I last wrote a blog post.
I had made plans to write post around certain topics and had prepared them to some extend, but after my 3rd chemo (I have so far now had 5), I travelled north to stay with my father and to attend a 60th birthday party of a friend and neighbour who also is fighting cancer. I think the journey back and forth and the party, although they very pleasant, proofed to be a bit too much for me. I became ill when I came home with fever and ended up in hospital with an IV drip and antibiotics being pumped into my veins.
The very next day I came from the hospital, we moved places. We had been staying in a rented flat in the centre of Reykjavík, but my mother suggested we would should buy together a flat so that I would have a secure home during my health struggle. However, as I am a patient and Ravi is a foreigner, only my mother was able to go through a credit approval for a loan. We realised early on that we could not afford to live in the Reykjavík area, so we looked for a home outside the city and found one in the wonderful town of Hveragerði, approximately 30 minutes drive from the city. Because I had just been discharged from the hospital I was not allowed to do anything or help with the moving. Not that I had any energy to do so. But it frustrated me that I was not able to help. It frustrates me immensely that my body can not keep up with my mind. My mind wants to do so many things, but my physical capacity is greatly restricted and it is driving me crazy.
Just as I was getting better I had my 4th chemo. The first week afterwards was tough as per usual, but the weeks that followed were much better. I could feel that the change of location was proofing to be beneficial for me. I was feeling happy in my new home, but lacking the motivation to write again. I had a CT scan during these days and met with my doctor the following week, who told me that the cancer had stopped growing, which is a very good thing as it stops growing before it starts shrinking. I was also given a blood transfusion as I have been severely lacking blood for months, which could not be improved with B12 shots or Iron tablets. I am very thankful to those people who gave that blood and to anyone who ever has. It really changed my energy levels. I felt as if I had been living like a zombie for a long time.
Me and Ravi drove north that same day, after my blood transfusion. We had been invited to my fathers and his girlfriends birthday party, which turned out to be a surprise wedding. I knew this all along of course because I had to ask my doctor to postpone my chemotherapy for a week so I could participate in the wedding.
My family @ my fathers wedding
After the 5th chemo I got the flue again and was feeling quite under the weather for a while. Once I started to feel a little better I became very busy again. I had an interview with a newspaper journalist and participated in a group discussion about what it’s like being a patient, with the national radio, whilst preparing for my brothers wedding which is taking place this weekend. My interview will be in the Sunday paper of the Morgunblaðið newspaper and I will let you know later when the radio discussion will be aired.
Ravi arrived in Iceland on March 31st. It had been awhile since I had smiled or laughed as sincerely. He really is my ray of sun (the name Ravi means sun). We planned to get married as soon as we could so we could get on with the IVF treatment and freeze the embryos. The sooner we could finish that, the sooner I could start chemotherapy. It had already been nearly 3 months since I was diagnosed with cancer and the pressure of getting him to the country in time for everything, had been overwhelming. So on April 1st we applied to get married and reserved Thursday April 7th for the ceremony, which is my mothers birthday. We bought the wedding rings, took my dress for dry cleaning, planned the feast and ordered the bouquet. After all we didn’t expect anything to go wrong. We had researched and planned well and prepared what papers we needed to bring to apply for the marriage license and how to get them. However getting the marriage permit wasn’t going to be as easy as I had hoped. I will tell you more about that some other day. I don’t want to rock to boat too much right now, as we are working on fixing the situation. But I can tell you this, according to marriage law in Iceland, if either individual getting married is seriously ill, they should not have to go trough any extra paperwork, which is why we know this situation will be corrected and we will be able to go ahead and marry as previously planned.
Thankfully the staff at the IVF clinic have been really understanding about our situation and how pressing it is to get this done so I can have my chemotherapy and they told us that they would freeze our embryos now, just as long as we are married when they are placed in me. That was a huge burden taken off my already frail and sick body and mind. It has all been such an emotional rollercoaster and I have feared for my mental health as well as my physical one. It’s been allot of pressure put on one person, if having stage 4 cancer wasn’t already enough. The overwhelming pressure of getting Ravi to the country, dealing with immigration, our struggle to be allowed to get married, freezing embryos in time before chemotherapy, all the troubles we have had with that and on top of everything, loosing my childhood friend. I sometimes wonder how I am still getting out of bed in the morning. The good news is that we managed to get one strong embryo out of the IVF treatment, which has now been frozen. In the beginning they managed to get 9 eggs from me, 8 were fertilized with Ravi’s sperm, however only one survived and we are calling it our little fighter. It is my little ray of hope and I will look forward getting to know it, once all of this is over.
Monday April 25th, I finally started chemotherapy.
On March 29, I received the most dreadful news. My dear childhood friend Marin Rós, had passed away suddenly. The grieve that filled my heart was overwhelming. Why did this have to happen? She was supposed to live a long and fruitful life. This incredibly bright and beautiful girl, so bubbly and full of live. Wonderful mother and extraordinary person. This was so unfair.
Marin, her sister Anna and me dressing up for the beach during winter
I met Marin when I moved to the tiny village of Hólar at the age of 12. Hólar was the best place I had ever lived at. The school was great and kids where friendly. We were 4 girls in the class and all got on really well. Me, Magga Jóna, Katrín and Marin. Magga Jóna was from a farm in the valley and us, the other tree, all lived at Hólar. We soon became the best of friends and inseparable in all. The principle at our school called us “þrístyrnið”, a 3 pointed star. We endured puberty together and all that entails. First period, bras, boys and throwing the coolest parties. But we also loved doing other things too like exploring the area around Hólar, making prank calls, taking photos and developing them at the darkroom at school, hanging out at the school library between classes reading book, dancing like no one was watching, singing from the top of our voices and other cool things we thought up and made happen. It really was the greatest part of my childhood.
Me & Katrín reading one of Marin’s Seventeen Magazines
When we went off to college, we got separated and for the next decade we did not see much of each other, but when we did it was wonderful and as if we had never been a part. But then the most horrible thing happened, in 2011 our dear Katrin passed away after a difficult fight with breast cancer. It was a great loss and brought me and Marin back together in our grieve. The same year I moved abroad, first England, then Sweden, Norway and eventually India. During this time Marin was fighting depression and addiction to prescription drugs. When I came back home last year, we started to built our friendship again. When I was in Denmark for my pet scan, I received a phone call from Marin. She was in rehab and had gotten permission to phone me. We had the most intimate conversation about our struggles and how we were gonna be there for each other during them, me with my cancer and she with her demons. We made plans to learn Indian cooking and learn Bollywood dancing among other things. That was the last I heard from Marin as she died shortly after she came home from rehab. I miss her so much.
Me, Marín & Katrín during our confirmation
I will never forget these two incredible ladies. Their strength, intelligence and beauty. The time we had together and our memories. I will forever miss and love them. I pledge to survive this cancer and to live a long productive life. And at some point during my live I will write my memoir where I will make their memory immortal.
Ravi got his working visa today and as soon as he did, we booked his ticket to Iceland. He will be arriving home to me on Thursday next week. I cannot wait to have him here with me, the week cannot pass fast enough. I spoke to the IVF clinic and they told me not to worry, we can still make it in time…that is as long as we arrange to get hitched as soon as he arrives. Not a problem, I wouldn’t be freezing embryos with this man if I didn’t know with all my heart that I want to spend the rest of my life with him. I cannot wait for this cancer battle to be over, so we can start putting our future plans into action. I just really hope the Icelandic bureaucracy won’t give us any trouble. We really don’t have time for that sort of hassle, my life literally depends on everything going smoothly. The sooner we can marry, the sooner the IVF process will be over and I can start my chemotherapy and the sooner I can start the chemo, the sooner I can beat this cancer, get better and continue with my normal life.
I get allot of questions regarding my IVF (In vitro fertilization) treatment. I understand the curiosity, because it is not something that most people associate with cancer treatment. I had no idea about it myself until my friend, who is a nurse, told me about it. She told me shortly after I was diagnosed, that now we would have to put pressure on getting Ravi home sooner so we could freeze embryos. I was taken aback and asked her why she though we had to do that. Then she told me that most chemo drugs can leave you either temporarily or permanently infertile. I wondered why I had never heard about it before. I thought back on all the movies and TV shows that I had seen that had touch on the subject of cancer and I don’t ever remember this issue being brought up and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why. When you are young and childless like me and have spent years dreaming of one day having a family of your own, this is a huge issue. When I realized this, I got so scared and I wondered if my dream of having children with the man I loved, would ever come true. Ravi felt so far aways at this point and everybody who has gone trough the process of getting work and resident permit in Iceland, knows how long this process can take and seeing that I was suffering from a stage 4 cancer and that I needed to start chemotherapy as soon as possible, we were all of a sudden in a race with time. Would I be able to get Ravi her in time to marry him before the egg retrieval and him needing to submit sperm for the insemination? Yes there is this issue of having to be either married or registered living together before you can complete an IVF treatment and freeze embryos. We are still at that place where we are not sure if we will make it in time. He has his permits, but the Danish embassy, which is supposed to give him his VISA endorsement, has neither answered his emails or phone calls, when he has tried to book an appointment with them. Then there is the issue of the Bachelorhood certificate, which we need so that we can get married, when it comes to getting appropriate stamps for this sort of documents, the level of corruption and greed of indian bureaucrats knows no bounds. I will be so relieved when we are married and we never have to deal with indian bureaucracy again! I just really hope that my treatment, which I have already started, will not be a complete waste of time and money. I can’t afford it to be, neither financially or emotionally. I have spent so much time worrying and crying over this issue. Having the opportunity to have children with Ravi once my cancer battle is over, means everything to me. My dream of it coming true, gives me a solid reason and elevated strength to battle the cancer and to eventually conquer it.
The issue of fertility in connection with cancer and chemotherapy is a huge issue for so many young cancer fighters, as was so evident at the micro conference of Kraftur, a support organization for young people with cancer. Nearly every speaker at the conference mentioned this issue and some spoke of the insane cost that a people need to fork out for each IVF treatment. When you are battling cancer, your financial situation is already suffering as you are not able to work and need to depend on government handouts, which only covers basic cost of living and god knows battling cancer, drugs and doctors visits, are not free. Why this issue isn’t discussed more in connection with cancer and why popular culture seems to avoid the subject all together when making stories of cancer, is beyond me. Why is this subject still a taboo in this day and age?