Monday, August 22, 2016

London to Paris with BLOODWISE

August 22, 2016

Yes, it's been a long time since I posted. I miss Sophie each and every day. I have come out of the clouds and fog of chemo a little bit. Those darn side effects have just made getting back to normal that much harder - which means that how I am now is the new normal. It has taken me a while to realize this.

Sophie is on the ride with me.

So the past months I have been learning what the new me is capable of....(still a work in progress)

On September 15, 2016 at 8 am, I will join 249 other riders at Eltham Palace and start the four day journey by bicycle to the Eiffel Tower in Paris to support the blood cancer charity called BLOODWISE.  It is 300 miles (500 km) from London to Paris. My husband did it in my honor last year and this year he will join me and 4 other friends so we can all do it together. (and raise that much more money to help fund research for life-saving treatments....which saved my life)

Training for this ride has been hard because I don't really like cycling. I am scared of falling, being clipped in, going to fast, losing control, being hit by a car, seeing the potholes and avoiding them, making it up the hill without walking, getting used to contact lenses, fitting into the bike kit, drinking from the water bottle while I am moving.......the list could go on forever.

But, I signed up for it and I need to do it to prove to myself that the new normal will be good enough.


I told myself that if I got my bike custom painted that I could do it. I am so pleased with the job that Cole Coatings Workshop did on my bike. It gives me confidence and makes me feel good. My conditioning has come a long way since I started riding in April, its not perfect but it will get me through - if only for the reason that I never give up and my mental strength got me through cancer. (Along with all my friends and family too)

Training has been in London and in Sweden. Slow, but steady progress, overcoming or conquering some of my fears along the way.

The best and coolest sunglasses were compliments of Michelle, Zulma. Mairead and Cris.  Thanks Girls!

Cycling in Sweden with rental bike. The Views...
My partner in this crazy adventure called LIFE.

Not only did I get my bike custom painted, I got a really cool Kask American flag helmet and some new Shimano shoes. If I look the part, it should be easier...right?

So in the next 24 days there is a lot of other stuff going on and I need to make sure that I focus on the much as I can
10 days until the two youngest start school
15 days until my parents arrive to watch the kids while we ride
17 days until my oldest son starts at university and moves out.....
21 days until my two youngest go on their week long class trips somewhere in England
22 days until my college roommate arrives from New York to join in on the bike ride
24 days until we stand at the starting line....

All this is going to Paris.

Nervous but excited. Scared but hopeful. Determined.

Please consider supporting my ride by clicking on this Justgiving link. I get energy from each donation and it helps to fund this life saving research for blood cancer.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Best Friend has passed away xxx

R.I. P. Kullaholm's Padme´ a.k.a SOPHIE 

Today I lost my best friend. She knew me like no other. She sniffed out my cancer. She was my sounding board. She was always there for me and made me happy when I was sad. Life will never be the same. I am so lucky to have known her. She brought happiness to everyone she met. She is gone too soon.

Here is her tribute:
Born in Motala, Sweden on April 8, 2009. She was the prettiest girl in her pedigree litter of 9. Her parents were champions like her grandparents and great grandparents. She had 3 sisters and 5 brothers. There names are Aayla Secura, Amidala, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princessan Leia and Yoda.

Those beautiful eyes.

Eric and Sophie

First visit to meet the puppies
At 8 weeks old, she left her brothers and sisters in Motala and got three new brothers: Kevin, Marcus and Eric. Just from the drive home to our house we knew she was something special. After 2 days, she learned to do her necessary business outside and made sure it wasn't even on our property. Good Girl!

Her younger days were spent playing hide and seek inside with the boys. Outside, she loved smelling everything, running in the park and playing with other dogs in the neighborhood. Her first summer was spent hiking in the North of Sweden and Norway. She totally loved drinking and running in the fresh mountain water springs. She loved running and playing with Peter in the wooded jogging trails around Stockholm.

Northern Sweden on a hike in the mountains
First Family Picture July 2009

When school started in the fall, she knew the routine of walking the boys to school each morning. The amount of groupies she had at school was amazing. There was always a large crowd petting her and saying hi each morning. She spread joy wherever she went - easily done when her tail was always wagging non-stop.

Her shiny black Labrador coat was one of her trademark features along with her sweet expressive face, especially her eyes.

Kevin was the one who taught her all her tricks. He had a special connection with Sophie. Marcus let Sophie onto his bed so they could cuddle and he always gave her big hugs. Eric and Sophie were always looking out for each other. She was very protective of him.

She was a traveling dog and loved to explore new places. She had many adventures in  Wales, Dover, Camber Sands, Canterbury, France, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Cliff of Dover
Sophie and Domino frolicking in the English Channel

Sophie and the Boys- Camber Sands

My girl

Eighteen months ago she moved to England with us. This is where her pedigree grandparents were from - so it was like coming home. She didn't like all the new noises here in the big city but she adapted and made new friends.

Domino and Sophie
Her qualities included the following:
  • Constantly tail-wagging with happiness
  • Happy Facial expressions
  • Unconditional love
  • Bi-lingual in Swedish and English
  • Great listener
  • Loyal
  • Generous
  • Smart and Wise
  • Caring
  • Best-friend
  • Young at heart with eyes that spoke to your soul
  • Tolerant
  • Beautiful
  • Loved life. Enjoyed every moment. All in, all the time.
  • Mediator
  • Amazing Frisbee catching skills
  • Honest
  • Expressive eye-brows
  • Friend to all she met
  • Squirrel chaser 

She did all the things on her bucket list:

Swim in the English Channel (or just dip my paws in) - October 2015
Swim in the Thames (definitely just dip my paws in) - October 2015
Eat popcorn- almost every day in November and December 2015
Run in Hyde Park- September 2015
Catch the squirrel in the park - very close on several occasions
Sleep in Mommy’s bed - First two weeks of December 2015
Family portraits - October 2015
Get lucky with getting my favorite table food (cheese, chicken, fish) every day....

Sophie and Kevin
Marcus and Sophie

Eric and Sophie
Sophie and Peter

In her last few months, her tail wagged a little less, although her spirit remained high, her limp became more painful and she ate gourmet food quite often. (Some of her favorites were popcorn, fresh salmon, chicken, fillet mignon, pizza and cheese.)

She passed away peacefully in our arms. We were lucky to have known her and share in all her adventures. She has brought joy to everyone she met.

She is survived by Teresa, Peter, Kevin, Marcus, Eric and too many friends and relatives to count. Her spirit will live on if we all live each day like she did: greet everyone you meet enthusiastically and show your unconditional love each and every day to each other. 


PS. I am lucky to have had her in my life. The hole in my heart will never heal. The ache can only dull slightly with the passing of time. The joy she has given me is a once in a lifetime gift from a best friend. She was Brave and she Loved Life. ///Teresa


Sunday, November 22, 2015

the GUT

November 22, 2015

GUT feelings

Life as a dog owner
Joys of Life
House buying in the UK
My own body’s GUT

These words and thoughts and gut feelings have been going on in my head for the past few months and finally I will attempt to put them in some coherent form.


The first few days after her diagnosis left me numb. I cried more in those first 5 days then I did during the whole time of my cancer treatment. WHY? The week after her diagnosis, the Vet called and said its not lymphoma but a soft-tissue sarcoma that might give her 6 months more to live. Treatment options were no guarantee and would just delay the inevitable. Guilt mixed with reality and living life creates havoc in my head. Sophie is the best dog ever. Her tail wags, she does her best and at times seems like she is in denial about the fact the tumor is now growing at a quick rate. She looks at me with those eyes and I try and understand her and separate my anxiety out of the equation. In the last few weeks the tumor seems to be taking growth hormones. I balance living everyday to the fullest with pacing her and myself in our activities.

Bucket list items completed:
  • Dip my paws in the English Channel
  • Walk along the Cliffs of Dover
  • Eat popcorn
  • Run in Hyde Park
  • Catch the squirrel in the park (almost done)
  • Family portraits (thanks Sarah and Corey)
  • Get lucky with getting my favorite table food (cheese, chicken, fish)
Sophie and Domino along the English Channel
Left to do:
  • Dip my paws in the Thames
  • Sleep in Mommy's bed


Walking with your dog means that others engage with you or your dog. It means that you have conversations with people you might never have met otherwise.

Everyday you have to walk the dog and get out there. Without a dog there is not as much exercise or interaction with others.

I can’t see us ever getting another dog for a couple of reasons. (a next dog would never be as good as Sophie…)

It makes me sad to thing that part of my life would be over but it just doubles my determination to make each day that we have together now to mean something.

My gut feeling is that Sophie won’t make it as long as the Vet as predicted and that makes me sad.


In simple terms: Loving the life you live. 

If not loving it, only I can change it. 

Peter was fantastic this year as he rode in the Bloodwise 4 day; 500 km ride from London to Paris and raised over £3000. He trained like a dedicated person and now the cycling bug has bitten him. (Do we have enough Lycra in the house?)

I was moved by the experience (a little jealous of the camaraderie) and standing at the finish line and needed a new challenge.  I’ve decided to do next year’s edition of the London to Paris bike ride along with Peter and 6 of my friends. (Holy crap, I can’t believe I have signed up. The race starts September 15, 2016)


This should be under CHALLENGES….

We are enduring this unnecessarily complicated house buying process and backed out of the first two-attempted house purchases because the GUT FEELING wasn’t right no matter how much I tried to convince myself that it was and went through the process almost to the end. Luckily, the estate agent was a jerk, so after three months of trying to get the answers to our questions, the decision to back out was as clear as day. (Not to mention the mortgage process, solicitors, conveyance and building surveys)
We backed out on a Thursday and I looked at 3 new houses on the Saturday. Luckily, I really fell in love with one of them and the estate agent for that house is amazing. My gut feeling for the new house is so totally YES. YES. YES. We exchanged contracts last week and move in January.

So, thank goodness, I went with my gut feeling. Don’t underestimate the gut feeling.


I really recommend the book The Gut by Giulia Enders. It tells in a straightforward manner how the gut and the microbes living there are so vital to our well-being. It is the future of medicine and possibly to understanding how many diseases can be cured or avoided.

From top to toe, I have many small issues throughout my body. I would really love a doctor to look at the big picture instead of just trying to fix one thing at a time.

Of course, everything that is different or not working now leads me to the inevitable thoughts of whether the cancer is back or it’s just me getting old. My friends here say just get it checked out but I am not really ready to know. I just want to live my life and love it at the same time.

Of course, I am ignoring my gut feeling on this matter. Not the right time.


Blessed. Lucky. Grateful.

Blessed. Lucky. Grateful.

I am really at a loss for words to describe what these people mean to me. They are supportive, funny, smart, comforting, insightful and like to do fun things. What more can I ask for?  

HUG someone you love. 
Have a random conversation with a stranger on the street. 
Enjoy life. 
Love the Life you Live. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sophie's Bucket List

Monday October 5, 2015

I started exploring the idea of getting a family dog back in 2008. I grew up with a dog and I knew that a dog is an important part of the family.
Traveling in style through Europe.
Having three boys, I saw this also as my opportunity to get a girl and give her the name I would have used if I had a daughter: Sophie.

The only dog for us was a Labrador because of how good they are with children. It was to be a new family member. I emailed all the kennels in Sweden that were due to have puppies and then finally found her at Kullaholm’s Kennel in Motala.

Sophie was one of 9 puppies born on April 8, 2009. Her parents were champions and she has a pedigree. All the dogs in the litter were to have names from Star Wars and we could pick her “official” name. It seemed like providence because at that time (and still today) my kids love Star Wars. We chose the name Padme.  Yes, two of her brothers are called Chewbacca and Hans Solo.

We made two visits to Motala to see the puppies before we actually got to take her home. It was an exciting time to be with those puppies. The kennel owner asked us if we were going to hunt with her or if she would be a family dog and she chose Sophie for us. A perfect match.

We picked her up in June 2009. It was a heartwarming experience to drive there and then be responsible for a dog that was so cute and new. She mastered peeing and pooping outside within a few days. Already we knew what a special dog she was.

Learning –At dog obedience school she didn’t listen to me. I sent Peter next time and was devastated when he came home with her and she listened to him and his deep voice.
Her gentleness with the boys, tolerant of their love as they have been growing up alongside her – it’s amazing. She sees them each as individuals and knows how each one is pleased.
She doesn’t listen to me as much as she listens to Peter but her and I share a different bond. We were friends from the beginning. She looked out for me and I looked out for her.
I always hurried home from work during lunch hour to take her out. Ended up starting my own business and she was with me at work during the 3 years that I had my premises, being in the office, just enjoying being nearby.

She travelled with us to the north of Sweden and Norway. She hiked in the mountains and drank from a natural spring when she was just a puppy.

When we left the country to visit relatives the first time, she stayed in a kennel. When we picked her up that is when I first heard the comment that she is the best dog ever. They didn’t want to let her go and looked forward to seeing her next time.

Once people met her and her gentle ways they were hooked. So after a while friends and relatives were practically fighting over who would have her if we went on vacation.

Two years ago around this time she started doing something to me that I thought was different and strange but it all made sense a few months later. Since she was little, I never let her lick my face. The kids let her do it but I didn’t enjoy that. So it was strange when I would be sitting on the couch and she would put her paws on my lap and then her nose right next to my mouth (without licking me) and she smelled my breath. She did it a few times a week in the coming months.

It all made sense when three months later I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  She had smelled the changes in me before I knew what was going on because of her acute sense of smell. She was worried that something would happen to her provider.

August 2014 - moving to England

All during my treatment she was by my side and didn’t really expect much. She took care of me. I took her on walks all through my chemo and enjoyed her companionship.

We moved to England last summer and she followed along with us of course.
Sophie was just a little too big to go as airfreight so she got driven from Sweden to England by an animal courier and stayed in hotels (on the bed) through Europe.

Sophie sleeping in our room on her orthopedic bed. Comfy.
Walking the canals
She has adjusted pretty well to living here. She doesn’t really like the sounds of the mopeds or motorcycles backfiring but she has been able to explore her near surroundings and come along on our hikes outside of London. She has even been to a few pubs in England.  Everywhere we go people stop and pet her and say she is a fine dog with a beautiful shiny black coat.
Enjoying an Area of Natural Beauty in England
Last May she joined in on our holiday with 5 other families to Tenby, Wales. Her friend, Domino was also along. The house was set on the beach and Sophie enjoyed taking swims, running with Domino and being with all the kids. Sophie even managed to make a new friend in Pien who was scared of dogs. By the end of the weekend, Sophie listened to everything Pien said. Heartwarming! A friend to all!

Pien has Sophie's full attention.

Domino and Sophie hangin' in Wales
Dipping my toes in Wales.
This summer just before we were to leave to drive to Sweden, Peter hurt his leg and didn’t think he could drive all the way to Sweden. We debated between flying to Sweden for the vacation or driving at this point. The factor that won out was that I didn’t want to leave her behind. The car ride was grueling for all of us but she enjoyed being free in the Swedish countryside.

Sophie enjoying the Swedish Summer
The past few months we have noticed a limp in her right front leg after being out for a walk and playing fetch with the tennis ball. It was only sometimes and ever so slight, so we thought it was a pulled muscle. We rested her for a couple of weeks from playing fetch and too much strenuous exercise.

My parents came for a visit about two weeks ago. We took a walk with Sophie to Chiswick House and I threw the ball for her maybe 5 or 6 times and she started to limp almost right away. We sat and ate lunch at the cafe for an hour. We had thought to continue our walk to the Thames and then home but Sophie limped directly upon starting out from the cafe. It was at this point that I realized this was something serious and we needed to take her to the vet.

The local vet examined her and ran through the possible scenarios and suggested an x-ray in his office the following week. Nothing showed up there, so the next step was a referral to the Orthopedic vet at Davies Veterinary Specialists which is one of the largest and most diverse small animal veterinary referral centres in Europe.  I went to their Hyde Park office with Sophie last Thursday.
I had to leave her there for her tests on Friday at their specialist centre 2 hours outside of London.

Friday afternoon I got the first call from the vet after the MRI, CT scan, biopsy and blood tests were done.  There was a swollen gland that is a tumor and which has caused the muscle atrophy on her front right side.  The doctor said it looks like LYMPHOMA but the exact type would have to be determined by analysis of the biopsy sample.


She needed to stay at the vet until Monday, as the pet ambulance doesn’t drive on weekends. This has given me 3 days to cry, cry, cry and formulate a way to make the most of her time both for her and for us. I am devastated. I am heartbroken. I am losing a friend.

She has once again shown us just as all dogs do - that each day is meant to be treasured and lived to its fullest. So easily we lose sight of that fact. THANK YOU SOPHIE for being the BEST DOG EVER.

I picked her up today and we took a taxi home in the rain.  She has been crying since she came home. Doesn’t sit in one spot for too long and is nervous in pain.  Happy to see me but not really acting like herself. 

Playing very gently on the rug this afternoon
Even through all this pain she is still wagging her tail. She is the best at tail wagging -Never been anyone better.

How to get through this valuable and cherished time together????

Sophie’s Bucket List.

This is the start of the list……

Swim in the English Channel (or just dip my paws in)
Swim in the Thames (definitely just dip my paws in)
Eat popcorn
Run in Hyde Park
Catch the squirrel in the park
Sleep in Mommy’s bed
Family portraits
Get lucky with getting my favorite table food (cheese, chicken, fish)

Today we jogged a little bit in Hyde Park so that is one thing off the list.

Over the coming days and weeks I will be blogging and instagramming about Sophie, the best dog ever. (@5swedes)  I need something to keep me going because the ache in my heart is huge and getting bigger each day.  #Sophie #BestDogEver #SophiesBucketList #SophieGroupie