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Stina Abrahamsson: “Elsa and me were like one person”

Name: Stina Abrahamsson

Age: 39

Family: husband Jean-Olof, Albin (16), Nils (13), Signe (11) and Elsa (7)

“I realised that something was wrong when Elsa was one. As a mother of three, you know when something isn’t right. She had just learnt to walk, but then her development went backwards and she got clingy. When we got to the medical centre, I assured the doctor that we were not just anxious parents. But we were just sent home. Elsa got worse and we went in again as an emergency. The first blood test had such high readings that the staff thought the equipment was faulty. When the second test results were the same they realised how serious it was. We were sent straight to the hospital. The bone marrow test showed that she had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia with 98 per cent cancer cells in the blood.

That morning we had been out picking spring flowers, and now we had been told that our one-year-old had leukaemia.

The treatment lasted two and a half years. Elsa and I became really close. Her brothers and sisters sometimes stayed over in hospital, as did her dad Jean-Olof, my sister, and my parents, and we had other visitors, but she and I were like one person.

After 913 days, the treatment was over. When she started nursery, Elsa wouldn’t let go of my hand. I promised to stay as long as she needed me. And I did. For two years. Last autumn it was time for her to go to pre-school. I’ve taken it easy over the past year. I’ve seen other mums break down six months after the end of the treatment. I didn’t want to be in that situation. In the beginning I mostly lay on the bench in the kitchen – had to set the alarm clock to make sure I was awake when the children came home again on the school bus. During the year, I gradually sorted myself out. It’s now three years since the treatment. I’ve had a vision in my head the whole time of Elsa going on the school bus with her brothers and sisters and being happy to let go of my hand. And we’ve now got to that point.”

As told to: Pia Vingros, first published in the magazine "Medicinsk Vetenskap", no 3, 2016.