What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?
My name’s Erik Sturesson, I’m 35 and from Sweden, although I spend a lot of time in Romania these days.
What’s your diagnosis?
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, T-cell.
How and when did you find out about your diagnosis?
I was 15, though very nearly 16 when I got my diagnosis, on November 2nd, 2003. Sadly, as is common it did take a few months from when we first sought medical attention before they realized it wasn’t just asthma and the common cold.
What has the journey through cancer taught to you?
I learned that we all have some form of luck, we all get something that we can use, that allows us to do things, to live a decent life.
It might not all be what we’d like to have, we may not be able to do the things we wanted to do in our old life. Still, we all have to adapt and try to find something that we are able to and want to do in our new life after treatment. It’s OK to mourn the loss of your old life though; I did for a long time, and I still miss it sometimes.
What has changed in your life since your cancer diagnosis?
There were a few things that remained the same. I used to be very athletic, and energetic, attending school like any normal teenager. This was gone within a month or so of starting treatment after I got a couple of deep-vein thromboses that spread, blood poisoning, and shingles a couple of times.
Afterwards, I had intense fatigue, PTSD, depression and many other physical issues. However, I also gained life experience and a large community of friends all over Europe. It’s what led me here and I wouldn’t undo getting cancer even if I could.
If you were to meet yourself the day you heard a diagnosis, what would you say to your younger self?
I would’ve informed myself of the potential late complications and that I should be prepared for the fact that things might not go back to the old normal after the treatment.
I’d also say it doesn’t have to be a bad thing as I’d find a new normal – it’s just the process would likely be faster knowing it from the get-go, even if I wouldn’t have accepted it immediately.
What would you like to accomplish within EU-CAYAS-NET?
I’d like to help build the community and get more survivors involved. This aspect is extremely important to me as joining Barncancerfonden and YCE in 2017 was the best thing that ever happened to me personally and I’d like others to experience it, too.
Further, with lessons learned from the Ambassador programme, peer-visit research as well as what I’m learning through EUPATI, I hope to help lobby for more equal and improved care of CAYA, especially care for late complications and mental health.
What do you do in your free time?
I have a few hobbies I’ve cycled between for years. Mainly I game and do wildlife photography but I also like RC cars, mainly crawlers but bashers as well.
I also spend quite some time doing things related to the activities in the EU-CAYAS-NET community, right now particularly the peer visits planned for this summer, as well as the Youth Cancer Survivors’ Discord.
What is your favourite motto in life?
Things can pretty much always get worse, the only real limiting factor being death, so ask for help as early as possible. It’s also why it’s important for the healthcare system to act quickly.
What is on your bucket list?
I’d like to visit the Amazon rainforest for wildlife. And do skydiving (anywhere).
I’d also like to revisit some of my favourite places I’ve been to: the rainforest in Borneo as well as Costa Rica, especially Corcovado National Park, as well as Cazanele Dunarii in Romania.
What do you do to relax?
I’m exceedingly bad at relaxing. But playing games whilst having a beer or two works.
What in your life do you feel most grateful for?
That my depression, PTSD, issues with the pancreas, fatigue and all the rest is still all manageable and that I’m able to be engaged in activities such as these at #beatcancer and YCE, that I’m able to travel, walk, talk.
It’s my luck. I’m not grateful to merely be alive though. It’s more of an expectation – at least until I’m actually dead.
What’s the last thing you watched on TV/internet/Netflix and why did you choose to watch it?
The last thing I watched was The Last of Us. I played the game when it was released to PS3 many years ago and loved it. And they did a great job with the TV adaptation – it’s a series anyone can enjoy, not just us nerds who played the game.