Welcome to my new blog!
My name is Erik Sturesson, I was born in 1988 in Sweden, Uppsala. In 2003 I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (cancer). I started blogging in 2017 about being a child cancer survivor and the chronic health issues that followed the treatment. I’m starting this new blog for a fresh start. I’ve started to feel better – kind of. It’s complicated. I also started the previous blog during the worst part of my latest depression and as such, my earlier posts weren’t the best.
My intention with this new blog is to not only write about late complications and their effects on my life, but also what I’m doing to basically survive during the very long period of severe depression I’ve been in, and still am. Essentially, what I do to help me stay sane. I hope that I can help others in a similar situation as my own to give idea as to what one can do to keep developing and staying busy. In the future, I’d also like to start writing a bit more scientifically and cover topics relevant to patient advocates, survivors and medical personnel, relatives and so on.
Anyway, about me, from the start. I had a fairly regular childhood – I did sports, I liked computers and gaming and didn’t have any major health issues. My parents divorced when I was around 13 – you could say we followed the trend in many ways. That is, until I got cancer November 2nd in 2003, when I was 15 years old. Suddenly, everything changed.
As an example, a few weeks prior to getting my diagnosis, we had a health check-up in school. One thing that was standard to check was the foreskin of the genitals. I felt, together with most everyone, that this was embarrassing. After getting the diagnosis though, one of the first things the child oncologist did was to check that my testicles were normal and that the cancer had not spread. A week later, I left a semen sample in case the treatment would make me sterile. And it didn’t end there; it was just the beginning. I went from being 15 years old to 25 in mere weeks.
Post-diagnosis- and treatment and why I became a patient advocate
I’m 30 years old today in 2018; 15 years have passed and I’m still suffering greatly due to the consequences from the treatment. I’m unable to work, I take 15 different medications daily, and so on. What’s worse, for 15 years, I thought I was alone having this many health issues after my treatment ended.
In early 2017 I got into a very serious depression and shortly after I started blogging. Today, almost two years have passed. During this time, I came to realise not only that I wasn’t alone, but that 30 % of all childhood cancer survivors had similar issues as I do.
I tried to find some reports from traditional media on this subject. I found a few articles, scattered around the net. When a newspaper reported on these issues however, there were no reverberations, no additional articles from other sources. It just stopped. Yet, every single time I’ve told a “civilian” about how rough the treatment is; about late side effects and how common and severe they are, they’re all shocked.
I was in shock for a while myself. How could this issue receive so little attention from the media and the charities for child cancer victims when it’s this common? I truly felt like we lived in a vacuum – or North Korea. I couldn’t believe it.
As a matter of fact, when I got my severe depression in early 2017, I managed to get in contact with a journalist that was willing to do an article on me. I told this journalist about my life and how high the price for survival is. Afterwards, before deciding to do the story, he’d asked around the office If anyone knew about this. And no one did. This was a local journalist, but he worked for public service and had certain access to national news. They reported on this issue at a local and national level – and then nothing. No follow-up articles from them or any other newspaper.
Information is king
Information is vital in this day and age; it affects how and what we think and why, and what we do. Which party we vote for come election time. Which charity we donate money to…
Traditional media has failed us here. Sadly, so have the advocacy groups and charities in Sweden and most other nations I can say this with confidence.
See, I started as a lone wolf in 2017, blogging and reaching out to media, while working through the worst depression I’ve had in my life – and I’ve had several of them. I was fortunate enough to get in contact with the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation (Barncancerfonden in Swedish) and from there, I got in contact with Katie and Youth Cancer Europe. I went to several conferences around Europe and learned how big this issue is, not only in Sweden, but Europe – and beyond.
How to stay sane
As I said in the beginning, also want to write about what I do to keep surviving through my depression, that I’m still going through. And the key is hobbies. Lots of them.