Her story started with bowel changes, initially thought to be linked to a COVID vaccine. However, it turned out to be ovarian cancer.
Hilde’s health journey started with bowel changes, initially thought to be linked to a COVID vaccine. Later on, doctors presumed it was bowel cancer. However, she was later diagnosed with ovarian cancer and faced treatments, including chemotherapy. Liver metastases complicated her situation. After adapting to the challenges of chemo, Hilde switched to immunotherapy, seeking a balance between treatment and quality of life. While having this interview, Hilde has switched back to chemo.
How did you find out that you had cancer?
I noticed myself making more frequent trips to the restroom, and noted some bowel changes. I thought that it was because of the COVID vaccine. When we went on a skiing trip a while later, I had a lot of pain when sitting down. Back home I went to the radiologist, he saw something on the screen and told me that ‘it was endometriosis’. But because I’m a nurse by training, I immediately saw that it was cancer. So I went to Leuven for a second opinion. After a lot of tests and a laparoscopy, they came to the conclusion that it was indeed cancer. Afterwards the doctor told me that ‘If he had only seen my scan, he would have never believed me. And that I was imagining things.’
I had a lot of open wounds from my first chemo sessions. I remember that we went to Rotterdam for a weekend and the skin on my heels cracked open. It was really hard to wear shoes, so I bought some UGGS. These are really ‘the shoes’ for people that are getting chemo. (laughs) They cost a fortune, but they are worth it! I wore those shoes for a whole winter.
Have you ever wondered ‘why me?’
No, it is just brutal bad luck.
But I wondered; ‘How did this happen? I’m the healthiest person on this earth.’
I did suffer from endometriosis, and there where I had some scar tissue, is where my tumor was located. Apparently, after menopause, it can turn into malicious tissue. And you pass it on from mother to daughter. So all the girls with endometriosis, let yourself be followed up with a doctor.
How are you living your life at this moment?
Voracious! I take what I can. I am sitting here by the sea at the moment, but I had a fever, so I took some paracetamol. I have my book. Maybe, if I feel better later, I’ll take a walk to the sea. Nothing has to, we take it day by day. We no longer plan things for the next week, we have learned that.
What does cancer mean to you?
It’s difficult to explain… It’s like yin & yang, positive and negative, the good and the bad.
Like, the worst thing happens to you, but the best comes out in people?
Yes. Since I had my cancer diagnosis, the bond with my children is… Well unbelievable. We are such a warm nest, together with my husband. And I have such a nice group of friends. Which used to be bigger, but has become smaller, which is normal… Life goes on for people.
Your world becomes so small and only consists out of hospitals and sick people. I can’t see a lot of the world anymore: I don’t go to work, I can’t go to the cinema, … So yes, the world and things to talk about become limited. Of course my children visit me often, and they talk a lot, which is always nice. But I would love to go out sometime. Now being at the coast, that’s already the maximum, which I think is already ‘a step’. You only take small steps anymore.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, I think that is the most important message. You may be very sad now and then, and have a good cry. But then you must say, ‘and now we go on!’
I am not dead yet. I am still here. I also say this to my husband when he is sad: ‘Ronny, I’m still here, I’m not dead. You can still talk to me, you can still hold me, we still have that.’
What makes today a good day?
Today is a good day… Because I am by the sea, I can see the boats coming in, I can read my book and drink my latte, because it’s delicious. And I look forward to my piece of cake from the bakery later. Because in two hours I may finally eat it. I like to eat, I like to taste. Little things like that, make a good day for me.
The most fun thing I’ve done in the last few months was your photo shoot. Really, I enjoyed that so much. And that photographer, she even still sends me a message from time to time. And, such beautiful pictures.
What do you want to say to the world?
From the moment you have cancer, fear comes along. Then you have a fear that accompanies you on a string with a balloon. Sometimes it gets bigger, sometimes it gets smaller. You have to learn to live with that. I find that a difficult one. That can be very overwhelming at times… When it gets smaller, I can push it away. And living day by day does help, trying to control it a little bit.
Cancer is not ‘all bad’, it also brings positive things. Living day by day is an enrichment, I think that would often be a solution for a lot of people.
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