Here is the summary, full text, and audio of Elin Kjos’s talk titled “My Life Started When They Said It Was Over” at TEDxKI conference.
Listen to the audio version here:
SUMMARY OF THIS TALK:
This talk is a powerful narrative about Elin’s journey through a life-changing diagnosis of incurable lung cancer and her subsequent transformation in mindset and approach to life. The talk emphasizes the importance of living life to the fullest, embracing the present moment, and choosing love, gratitude, and peace over fear and uncertainty. Elin shares her experiences of facing the diagnosis, going through treatments, and making the conscious decision to focus on inner healing, self-love, and embracing life’s uncertainties.
Elin Kjos – Sports Trainer
I was supposed to be dead right now. At least according to the statistics and what I was told almost on this day, two years ago, when I was sitting in a doctor’s office at Karolinska Hospital, just a few minutes away from here, a day that changed my life forever.
This was me. I was living my best life at that time. I had plans of starting my own family. I had a blooming career, working within health and fitness, a job that I loved. And I had also started another business on the side of a regular job. And I felt motivated to keep building and improving that year.
Life was finally falling into place. I also coached group training at least 10 hours a week, late nights, early mornings. And I went to the gym every day as well for my own training.
As you can imagine, my life was going on full speed and I had no plans to slow down or pause. I loved the intensity and drive and I felt strong, healthy, happy. I felt like nothing could stop me. I felt immortal.
But little did I know that life had a different plan for me. Even though I was living a great life, I came to realize I was, however, rarely present in the moment. I was always on the go, almost always stressed, always thriving to get better, to achieve new goals, always planned ahead.
I was never really satisfied with the now. And I did put a lot of my own self-worth into my achievements in all different parts of life. For me, life was a constant race and I expected myself to win and excel at everything that I did.
During this high-on-life period, I had been dealing with an annoying cough for about a year. But apart from the cough, I felt great, so I didn’t think much of it. I thought it could be some kind of inflammation on my vocal cords because steaming my voice a lot during group training, pushing people to their maximum. Or some kind of asthma or similar.
But my cough got worse and my family urged me to check it out. So for six months, I went through a series of different challenging examinations to find out what was causing it. PET scans, spirometry, gastroscopy, to name a few.
And finally, I got a letter home from the hospital saying that I had a doctor’s appointment. So at last, I was about to get some clarity on what was going on in my lungs. And this was March 2020. I still remember this day as if it was yesterday.
I was sitting in a cold and bright doctor’s office at Karolinska and I remember feeling quite calm and relaxed despite being there because I felt strong. I felt healthy. So I mean, how serious could it be? My family was not allowed at the hospital that time because of the pandemic. There was just me and my doctor in that room.
And I still remember exact words that came out of his mouth: We found a huge tumor of 20 centimeters in your right lung. And you’re going to have to go through a major surgery to remove the tumor, but also to remove the majority of your lung.
Time froze. The earth just stood still in that moment. I had trouble taking in what he had just said. But that wasn’t all of it. He also told me that I had lung cancer. In fact, incurable lung cancer, a metastatic lung cancer that had already spread to the other lung and that there was nothing they could do to cure or save my life.
He told me my prognosis was bad and according to statistics, we didn’t even know if I would make it through that year. I was in shock. I could barely think, breathe or even react. After a while, my doctor’s word sank in and I was devastated.
I couldn’t stop crying and I remember crying so hard. My doctor tried to calm me down. I could barely breathe. Just the thought of my limited expected time on earth was just unbearable to handle. Was this it? Was this all I got? I mean, I wasn’t finished living.
It felt like my life had just begun. Later that afternoon, I had to pick up the phone from the hospital to call my family and tell them the same news. That was probably one of the hardest things that I ever had to do.
I was enrolled as a palliative care patient that day, which means life prolonging treatment in the final stages of life. I was a former elite athlete in excellent physical shape. Never smoked a cigarette in my life. I was 32 years old.
After breaking down, crying for days, weeks, some days not even making it out of bed, I made a decision for myself. I could either continue on this dark and hopeless road leading to my inevitable death or I could choose to live with less fear and darkness and more love and light while I was still here. I chose the latter.
So once I made that decision, I started the biggest journey of my life and it has been the most difficult and challenging year that I ever had to go through, but at the same time, the best years that I ever had.
I’ve been through so many changes physically, but above all, mentally. From that day, I started what I call my healing journey. I started working on my inner self. I continued to work on my fitness. I went to the gym four to five times a week, focusing on heavy lifting, and I kept a strict and healthy diet. No sugar, junk food, processed food, red meat, alcohol, and I had tons of vegetables every day.