Dankbaarheid – Thankfulness

November 25th 2016 Categories: Tags:

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Herinneringen

Het is deze maand twee jaar geleden dat ik te horen kreeg dat ik eierstokkanker heb. Een moment om even bij stil te staan. Dinsdag 11 november 2014 was de dag dat mijn leven voorgoed veranderde. Ik leefde g15134571_10154022288813456_5714435102314956347_nezond, sportte regelmatig, lette op mijn voeding en kon nauwelijks bevatten dat ik zo ernstig ziek was. Aan de ene kant voelt het soms nog alsof het gisteren is gebeurd. Alles wat me de afgelopen twee jaar is overkomen, ligt nog zo vers in mijn geheugen. Ik kan er ook niet voor weglopen. Elke dag word ik geconfronteerd met de geestelijke en lichamelijke gevolgen van deze rotziekte. Geen kinderen kunnen krijgen, vervroegd in de overgang, een mega litteken en een stoma. Allemaal gevolgen waar ik mee moet zien te leven. Daarnaast zijn er zoveel dingen in het dagelijkse leven die herinneringen oproepen. Zo kunnen controles in het ziekenhuis een trigger zijn. Naast het feit dat het altijd weer spannend is wat de arts te melden heeft, word ik soms ook overvallen door nare herinneringen. Het ziekenhuis blijft een beladen plek voor mij.

Pluk de dag

Aan de andere kant is er in de afgelopen twee jaar zo ontzettend veel gebeurd dat het soms haast wel een vorig leven lijkt. Het zijn twee zware jaren geweest met ups en downs. Met als absoluut dieptepunt het nieuws vorig jaar mei dat ik niet meer beter zou worden. Maar ondanks de vele diepe dalen, blijf ik er het beste van maken en blijf ik vechten voor een stukje geluk. Opgeven komt niet voor in mijn woordenboek. Eigenlijk kan ik wel zeggen dat deze situatie en de manier waarop ik er mee omga mijn leven enorm hebben verrijkt. Ik sta heel anders in het leven, ik besef nu meer dan ooit wat belangrijk is en geniet veel intenser. Voorheen keek ik altijd eerst de kat uit de boom en moest ik altijd tien keer nadenken voor ik iets ondernam. Nu pluk ik de dag, sta ik veel meer open voor nieuwe mensen en ervaringen en spring ik sneller in allerlei avonturen. Deze instelling heeft me al zoveel bijzondere dingen gebracht. Ik heb veel lieve, bijzondere mensen ontmoet die ik anders waarschijnlijk nooit ontmoet. Ik heb ook de kans gehad om geweldige reizen te maken en bijzondere dingen te doen.

Hoogtepunten

Een van die dingen is dat ik vorig jaar de kans kreeg om mijn verhaal te vertellen in het tijdschrift Flair. Voor mij een van de vele hoogtepunten. Schrijven is voor mij altijd meer geweest dan werk. Het is echt mijn passie. Toen ik ziek werd, kon ik niet meer werken en belandde in de ziektewet. Het schrijven had ik al eerder noodgedwongen op een laag pitje moeten zetten. Ik was net gescheiden en was bezig een nieuw leven op te bouwen en omdat ik op dat moment niet genoeg verdiende in de journalistiek om rond te komen, ging ik tijdelijk ander werk doen. Ik vond dat heel moeilijk. Maar ik had geen keus. Er moest brood op de plank komen. Ik had alle intentie om als ik er financieel weer een beetje bovenop was, weer te gaan schrijven. Maar helaas gooide mijn ziekte roet in het eten.

Kans

Door het schrijven van het verhaal voor Flair besefte ik weer hoe goed het voelt om te schrijven en hoe belangrijk het voor mij is. Ik was erg blij met het eindresultaat. Een mooi verhaal in een mooi blad! Voor degenen die mijn verhaal nog niet gelezen hebben, voeg ik het verhaal aan d12573027_10153307538053456_5335584017127907194_neze blogpost toe. Ik ben zo blij dat ik de kans kreeg om weer te schrijven. Niet alleen omdat ik mijn verhaal kwijt kon, wat mij hielp bij het verwerken. Maar het opende voor mij een deur waarvan ik dacht dat die voor altijd gesloten was. Het heeft mijn passie voor het schrijven weer aangewakkerd. Ik begon weer mogelijkheden te zien om ondanks mijn situatie toch nog te doen wat mij happy maakt zoals schrijven. Hoe ik dit concreet vorm ging geven, wist ik toen nog niet precies, maar ik voelde dat er een zaadje was geplant. In de maanden erna werd ik er meerdere malen op gewezen dat bloggen echt iets voor mij zou zijn. Ik twijfelde eerst nog, kan ik dit wel? Heb ik wat bij te dragen aan de wereld? Zijn mijn ervaringen interessant genoeg voor anderen om te lezen? Ik besloot de sprong te wagen en mijn verhaal met de wereld te delen. Nog elke dag ben ik blij dat ik de stap gemomen heb om te gaan bloggen. Het voelt zo enorm goed om weer te schrijven! I’m back!

Artikel in tijdschrift Flair december 2015

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Inspiratie

Ik hoop vooral dat ik met mijn blog een inspiratie kan zijn voor andere mensen in soortgelijke situaties. Dat ik hen een hart onder de riem kan steken en kan laten zien dat de diagnose kanker of een andere (ongeneeslijke/chronische) ziekte niet per definitie betekent dat je leven voorbij is. Ik heb gedurende deze twee jaar veel geleerd over mijzelf en het leven en heb ontdekt dat je nog steeds een fijn leven kunt leiden en de dingen kunt doen die je gelukkig maken. Het vraagt aanpassingsvermogen, geduld en doorzettingsvermogen. Je zult moeten accepteren dat dingen soms niet gaan zoals je zou willen. Ik begrijp heel goed dat er momenten zijn dat je het niet meer ziet zitten en dat je je afvraagt waar je het voor doet. Ik heb die momenten ook. Soms lijkt het dan makkelijker om maar gewoon op te geven. Maar dat zijn de momenten dat je je innerlijke kracht moet aanboren en niet moet toegeven aan de negatieve gedachten. Ik weet uit ervaring dat het geen makkelijke weg is en je veel obstakels en tegenslagen tegenkomt, maar geef niet op! Er is nog zoveel om voor te leven. Mijn boodschap is dan ook dat het ondanks alles mogelijk is om nog echt te ‘leven’ in plaats van alleen te ‘overleven’. Go for it, enjoy life and make every day count!

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Dankbaar

Ik ben momenteel in de USA om Thanksgiving te vieren met mijn ‘grote zus’. En wat is er nu gepaster dat ik op deze donderdag 24 november 2016, dankdag AKA Thanksgiving met jullie kan delen hoe dankbaar ik ben! Als ik nu kijk naar de foto van november 2014 en de foto van november 2016 kan ik alleen maar dankbbaar zijn voor hoe ver ik ben gekomen en hoe goed het nog steeds met me gaat.  Ik had nooit gedacht dat mijn gezondheid nu, twee jaar later, nog steeds stabiel zou zijn en ik me goed genoeg zou voelen om van het leven te genieten. Ik ben dankbaar dat ik er nog ben en tijd kan doorbrengen kittyturkeyday-1met familie en vrienden, dankbaar voor alle lieve mensen in mijn leven van wie ik zoveel hou, dankbaar voor alle bijzondere ervaringen die er in de afgelopen twee jaar op mijn pad zijn gekomen en tenslotte dankbaar dat ik de dingen kan doen die mij happy maken zoals reizen en dat ik nu weer een platform heb gevonden waarin ik mijn passie voor schrijven kwijt kan. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

 

 

============ENGLISH TRANSLATION==========

Memories

This month it has been two years that I got the news that i have ovarian cancer. A moment to reflect on. Tuesday November 11 2014 was the day that I changed my life forever. I lived a pretty healthy life, I worked out regularly, made sure I ate healthy and could hardly fathom that i was so seriously ill. On one side it feels like it only happened yesterday. Everything that has happened to me over the past two years are still so fresh in my mind. I can’t get away from it. Every day I’m confronted with the mental and physical consequences of this horrible disease. Not being able to have kids anymore, early menopause, a giant scar and a colostomy. All consequences i have to live with and are part of my new reality. There are so many in every day life that remind me of what happened. Check-ups in the hospital can be one of the triggers. Besides the fact that it is always an anxious moment to hear what the doctor has to say,  I sometimes get overwhelmed by horrible memories of everything that happened there. The hospital is still a loaded and emotionally charged place for me.

Pick the day

On the other side so much has happened in these past two years that it almost seems like another life. It has been two rough years with a lot of ups and downs. The lowest point definitely was when i got the news in May of last year that I won’t recover from this. But despite the many diepe dalen, I keep making the best of it, I keep fighting for my own little piece of happiness. Giving up is not in my dictionary. I can honestly say that this situation and the way I’m dealing with it have enriched my life enormously. I have a different attitude about life. I now realize more then ever what is important in life and I enjoy life more intensely. Before I would think about things ten times before I decided to act on it. Now I pick the day, I’m more open to meeting new people and experiences and jump into adventures faster. And that attitude has brought me so much already. I have met a lot of  sweet and special people that I probably would never have met otherwise. I also had the chance to make amazing trips and do special things.

Highlights

One of those many special things was that I had the opportunity last year to tell my story in Flair magazine. One of the many highlights for me. Writing has always been more then just work for me. It truly is my passion. When I got sick, I wasn’t able to work anymore and ended up on sick pay. After working as a journalist for magazines for years I was forced to put writing on the back burner for a while. Even before i got sick. I recently got divorced and was in the process of building a new life for myself and because I wasn’t making enough money in journalism to make ends meet, I temporarily had to do something else to make money. It was hard for me, but I had no choice. I had every intention to go back to writing when I had financially recovered a little bit. But unfortunately my health ruined that plan.

Opportunity

By doing this article for Flair Magazine I rediscovered how good it feels to write and how important it is to me. I was really happy with the end result. A great story in a great magazine! For those who have not read my story yet I will add the story (and translation) to this blogpost. I am so happy that i had a chance to write again. Not just to be able to tell my story, which helped me processing it all. But it also opened a door for me that i though was closed forever. It has reawakened my passion for writing. I started to see possibilities again to despite my situation do what makes me happy like writing. I wasn’t sure yet how i was going to do it, but I felt a seed had been planted. In the months following several people pointed out to me that blogging would be a great idea for me. At first I wasn’t sure. Can I do this? Do I have something to contribute to this world? Are my experiences interesting enough for other people to read? I decided to take a leap of faith and share my story with the world. Every day I am happy that I took that step and started blogging. It feels so good to be writing again! I’m back!

 

Inspiration

I mostly hoped that with my blog I would be an inspiration to other people in similar situations. That I could give them support, be an uplifting factor in their life and show them that getting diagnosed with cancer or another (fatal/chronic) disease that doesn’t mean that your life is over. I have learned a lot about myself and about life in these last two years and have discovered that you can still lead a fulfilling life and can still do the things that make you happy. It takes patience, perseverance and the ability to adjust. You will have to adjust that sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to. And I understand all too well that there will be moments that you feel down and wonder what you are doing it for. I too have those moments. Sometimes it almost seems easier to just give up. But in those moment you have to find your inner power and not give in to the negative thoughts. I know from experience that it is not an easy road and that you will encounter many obstacles, but just don’t give up! There is still so much to live for. My message is that despite everything it is still possible to truly ‘live’ instead of just surviving. Go for it, enjoy life and make every day count!

Grateful

Right now I am in the US to celebrate Thanksgiving with my ‘big sis’.  And what is more fitting on this Thursday November 24 2016, Thanksgiving day, then to share with you all how grateful I am! When I look at the picture from November 2014 and the picture of November 2016 all I can do is be grateful for how far I have come and how well I’m still doing. I had never expected that two years later my health would still be stable and that I would even feel well enough to enjoy life. I am grateful that I’m still here and that I can spend time with family and friends, thankful for all the people in my life that I love, thankful for all the special experiences that I found on my path in the last two years and last but not least I am grateful that I can do the things that make me happy like traveling and that I have found a new platform where i can use my passion for writing. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

 

Translation of article in Flair Magazine December 2015:

The Trip of a Lifetime

Lotti van Leeuwen (39) doesn’t know how long she has left to live, but she does know that she will not recover from ovarian cancer. She still dreams of making an amazing trip to the US, the country that has captured her heart. Friends and family collected money to make her wish come true. Read about her journey in her diary.

December 20th 2014 – Scar
‘Tuesday November 11 2014, a date that will be etched into my memory forever. I receive the news that I have ovarian cancer. I’m in total disbelief and get overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. What lies ahead for me? What comes next, is a difficult time full of radical surgeries, unpleasant treatments, chemotherapy and all the physical and emotional complications that come with that.
During surgery in December it turns out that i.e. my uterus, my ovaries, spleen and a part of my intestines are affected and will have to be removed. The consequences are not only that my health is taken from me, but also the chance of becoming a mother. On top of that I went into early menopause and I’m stuck with a huge scar and a colostomy. For me that is the worst part.’

March 29th 2015 – Memories
‘The first few months are primarily about surviving. It isn’t until later, when I’m home a lot because of the chemotherapy, that so many emotions and feelings surface that it is almost too much for me to handle. All the traumatic memories of everything that I already went through, the anxiety of what is still coming and the confrontation with children in my surroundings; it is too much. On one hand my brother, sister and friends kids are a comfort to me, but on the other hand when I see them it makes me realize that I will never have my own family. And the idea of people moving on with their lives as usual while my life is stuck in idle, is hard for me as well. I’m dealing with a lot of nightmares and anxiety.’

May 27th 2015 – Inner peace
‘Just when I think that things can’t possibly get any worse, it turns out that the cancer, despite the chemotherapy, is growing again. The doctors tell me that there is nothing more they can do for me. I will not recover. The doctors can’t say how long I have left to live. It could be months or years. It all depends on how fast the cancer will develop in my body.
I knew my situation was serious, but all this time I still had hope of recovering. It feels like my world is falling apart. But strangely enough I come to a place of inner peace pretty fast and I can accept my situation. It is what it is. Of course there are tough moments full of pain, fear, anxiety and sadness. Processing something like this, feels like a mourning process. Dealing with the uncertainty and the question when it will be my time to go, is the hardest part. How do I give my life direction not knowing how long I will be around?’

July 26th 2015 – Surprise
‘Despite all the misery there are moments that I’m truly happy. I live more intensely. Little things can make me happy like a sunny day, a hug from my sweet nieces, having a laugh with my family or enjoying a great Zumba class. I’m also thinking a lot about what I still want to do with my life. A trip to the US is on the top of my bucket list. I have family and friends living there and have been there multiple times for vacation and for my work as a freelance journalist to interview actors. Good times!
I have always had a thing for the US. The beautiful scenery, the English language and the open and friendly people. I feel at home there. But because I have to life off of sickpay from the government a trip to the US seemed far away. My friends and family have seen what I have been going through. They felt so helpless all this time and with the latest bad news they really want to do something for me. Secretly they started to collect money so I can make the trip of my dreams.
Eight months after getting diagnosed with cancer, my friends and family come together to surprise me with tickets and spending money: I’m going on a trip and my youngest brother Falco (23) is coming with me! I’m so moved by this incredibly sweet gesture that I don’t even know how to react. Thankfully my ten year old Niece Chanel comes to my aid. In front of about 30 people she says bravely: ‘On behalf of Lotti, this is amazing!’ I will remember that moment forever, so sweet! I don’t think that I will ever be able to express in words how much it means to me that my family and friends did this for me.’

September 14th 2015 – Reunited
‘September 6, today is the day! USA here we come! It feels so good to be able to go away and not having to focus on my illness for a while. Thankfully I feel good at the moment and my doctor has stated that I’m physically fit enough to fly. I’m going to enjoy every minute!
Our first destination is Arlington, near Seattle in Washington State. We are visiting Erszi, a very good friend. I have known her all my life. When I was sixteen my family went through a difficult time. She was there for us and we have been close ever since. Eventho we are not related by blood, I still see her as my big sister. When I get off the plane, I hear the language, see the beautiful surroundings with the familiar Seattle skyline and the beautiful mountains in the distance. It feels like i’m coming home.
In Seattle we visit the Space Needle, a tower with a beautiful view of the city. We walk along the waterfront with amazing views of the Puget Sound, an inlet to the Pacific Ocean. We also go to magnificent Mount Rainier National Park. But above all it was so great to hug my big sister again after seven years. I kept her updated about my health issues, but to be able to talk to her in real life about what is going on in my life and hers felt really special.
On my last day there Erszi made cinnamon rolls for me with pink frosting and a hello kitty picture! She knows I’m a huge hello kitty fan. After eight days I’m leaving with mixed emotions. I’m thankful for the wonderful moments we got to spend together. At the same time I’m sad that our time together is coming to an end already. When I say goodbye to her I don’t know if I will ever see her again.’

September 21st 2015 – Party
‘While laying at the pool in Las Vegas I suddenly realize how special it is that I’m here. Only a few months ago I was still in the hospital and had no idea that I would ever get the chance to travel again. I notice that during this trip I’m able to let go of everything and really be myself again for a little while, without the sick part of me. I feel free and uninhibited and I’m more open to meeting new people and go on new adventures. Falco is a big help with that. He takes me along in his enthusiasm and that is exactly what I need! I make a lot of new friends and do things that I normally wouldn’t easily do or am hesitant to do like driving a car, taking exhilarating rides in amusement parks and I even get drunk for the first time in my life!
During our stay in Las Vegas we explore Las Vegas Boulevard (The Strip), with the extravagant hotels and all the neon lights. We see an awesome Cirque du Soleil show and of course do some gambling. Las Vegas is one big amusement park, something going on 24 hours a day. At a pool party we meet a great group of friends and spend a few days with them. They make our stay extra special. We have a lot of fun together and thanks to their connections in Vegas we spend a few days at fancy pools and party the night away in some of the best bars and clubs of Las Vegas. On our final night there Dutch DJ Tiesto is performing in Hakkasan, one of Vegas’ hottest nightclubs and we get in for free. I almost feel like a VIP. We are having such an awesome time and it feels so good that I’m still able to this with Falco.

September 30th 2015 – I still got it!
‘The peace and quiet in California is definitely a big switch after all the craziness in Las Vegas, but the beach is so beautiful. I can watch the waves and beautiful sunsets for hours. I even have my picture taken with one of the lifeguards, Baywatch Style!
After a few great beach days in Manhattan Beach we take the grand tour of Los Angeles by bus. Highlights were Beverly Hills, the Walk of Fame and of course the view on the famous Hollywood sign. We have a wonderful day in Universal Studio’s with great rides and fabulous stores where I feel like I’m in Hello Kitty heaven.
A lot of memories surface for me. In the park they also tape movies and tv-shows and during a behind the scenes tour I suddenly spot actor Vin Diesel. That was a special moment for me, because many years ago I was at this exact same spot for interviews with the cast of the movie The Fast & The Furious with the late Paul Walker and Vin Diesel. I’m not star struck easily but I was impressed by Paul Walker. A genuine and nice guy, but also a total hottie. During the photo moment after the interviews I was at a polite distance from him, but he put his arm around my waist and pulled me close to him. That made me blush. Sweet memories!
And what becomes clear to me during this trip is that I still get a lot of attention from guys. I have a huge scar, a colostomy and wear a wig (because of chemotherapy). All of this makes me feel very insecure as a woman. Wearing a bikini of bathing suit at the beach or the pool, is a huge step for me. But because of all the male attention that I’m getting I realize that I’m still attractive to guys. I still got it!

October 3rd 2015: Returning home
‘The last few days in LA are hard. I’m so not looking forward to going home, back to reality of being sick. Especially when I feel unwell during my flight to Amsterdam and have to spend a few days in the hospital right away. Immediately I have to face the facts again. Not exactly a nice homecoming. But despite of all that I look back at this amazing trip with an extremely good feeling. It was all worth it, truly the trip of a lifetime! I don’t know what will happen next, time will tell. But nobody can take this experience away from me!

November 13th 2015: Enjoying life!
‘Despite of all the bad moments i’m still trying to enjoy life as much as I can. And eventho I may have found a certain inner piece in what happened to me, it absolutely doesn’t mean that I’m giving up or will stop fighting. I plan on making the best of the time I have left on this earth and make every day count. Spending a lot of time with my family and friends is on the top of my list. Without their help, support and love I wouldn’t be able to do this.
And I’m definitely not going to stop dreaming. I still want to write a book about my experience with cancer, secretly hope to still find Mr. Right and I hope that I can do some more traveling. Truly and intensely enjoying life may be the most important thing I have learned in the past year. To say it American style; life is short, enjoy it and never stop dreaming!’

3 comments

  1. Joke says:

    Lieve Lotti,
    De herkenbaarheid van de dingen, die je schrijft, helpt mij ook!
    Thanks for sharing,
    love you <3

  2. Ron says:

    Goed te horen dat je hat naar je zin hebt in de US Lotti, veel plezier daar.
    Gr Ron en Syl.

  3. Willem says:

    Lieve Lotti,

    Ik heb je verhaal gelezen en heeft mij erg aangegrepen. Ben er kapot van. Je kracht, je moed, je doorzetting vermogen.
    Je bent een bijzonder mens.
    Ik wens je alle sterkte toe in deze zware tijden.

    Lieve groet,
    Willem

Comments are closed.