My name is Linnea Hedeborg and I’m from Stockholm, Sweden where Im currently living with my husband, Matty and our two daughters, Maja and Ester. We moved here after spending almost 8 years in the wonderful city of Melbourne and I think we’re still trying to figure out how to live through these long long winters in here in the nordics. I work as a graphic designer and do illustrations as a side thing, just for fun really. My illustrations are usually just situations from my day or things I’ve observed and I love doing them. It feels important to keep some design stuff free and fun without constraints.
Tell us about your scarf creation and what is the inspiration behind it.
My scarf is called Meet me in the Unknown.
There is something human about wanting to fix things; to reassure and to mend. You just want to say things like “I’m sure it’ll be alright” or “everything will work out in the end”. But when faced with a diagnosis like cancer there are so many uncertainties and sometimes these reassuring comments are actually not that helpful. Because no one actually knows how it all is going to work out.
I have a friend who was going through something a while a go and she said to me “Thank you being in the uncertain with me” and I think that really sums it up. To learn to live with uncertainty is hard and sometimes very dark, but I found that it was when I faced things without trying to solve them, that I could truly accept what I was going through. And that made me move forward and gave me a peace of mind in some strange way. So for this scarf I wanted to illustrate the weird and wild, the uncertain and the strange. The things that sometimes change you in your core. For better and for worse.
You were hit with two huge life changes in one, being diagnosed with Breast Cancer during your pregnancy. Can you speak a bit about how you were diagnosed and what things helped to get you through such a crazy time?
It was during the end of the summer. I was pregnant with my second child, about 30 weeks in. I found a lump in my breast, and I, just like everyone else, just didn’t believe it was anything to worry about. Lots of things happens to your body when you’re pregnant so it just didn’t feel serious at all. But my sister-in-law had very recently been diagnosed with cancer so it was very present in my life and I just thought i might just check it out just to be sure. I did a mammogram and a biopsy and they found a tumour in my right breast that had spread to my lymph nodes under my armpit. I will never forget when they told me. I got very practical about it all. I just wanted to make sure that the baby was going to be ok. And she totally was.
I went to the Breast Cancer Centre at the hospital the same day I got the biopsy result. They had already put together a team for me and planned my treatment together with the speciality maternity ward so I could give birth at the most optimal time between treatments. From that day I was just in the hands of my team and I always felt so grateful to be in a country with such incredible and free health care.
My husband and I took 6 month off work together, I went on sick leave and my husband took parental leave. And we actually had such a beautiful time. It was really really hard going through this, but having a baby to look after (and being two adults home to do it) provided a way to see the beautiful part of life and it really took my mind of things. I just didn’t have time to dwell on my cancer all the time. And I think that really helped me. Like, don’t get me wrong, there were endless tears and such dark and deep holes that we fell into every now and then, but it just wasn’t the majority of the time. I also had regular appointments with a councillor through the whole year, no matter if I was feeling good or bad, we chatted every other week. Since it was the pandemic, (which obviously added another layer of crap on top of it all, but I’m so sick of talking about corona, so let’s leave it at that) we only chatted on the phone, so I still actually have no idea what he looked like.
I’m also lucky to have an incredible amount of support from the people around me. My husband, my family, friends and colleagues. I felt so carried and surrounded by people that when things got dark I could let go, and they where there. People sent so much stuff in the mail (I’ll have Aesop products now until I turn 50), and it kept coming for so long. People got in touch, checked up on me, listened when I need to talk and distracted me when I needed to take my mind of things. They all made such an effort. I will never forget that and I hope they know how much it helped me. And still does.
Today it’s almost exactly two years since I got diagnosed and life has slowly returned to normal. I’m done with my treatments and I’m just waiting to do some preventative surgery. My cancer is hereditary so I’m going to a mastectomy on the other breast as well just to minimise risk. I’ve also taken my ovaries out for the same purpose. But I think what is really helping now is just time. Time away from this whole crazy part of my life, to not constantly live with it and to actually get caught up in normal worries, like getting to work in time or what to have for dinner, rather than if I will survive to see my girls grow up. And the more time I put between me and my cancer, the better I feel. It will always be with me but it doesn’t own me.
How did a cancer diagnosis change your outlook on the world?
I know a lot of people feel like cancer gave them this awesome perspective of life but I really feel like it put a big grey wet blanket over mine. People often told me how they could never do what I did, dealing with cancer and being pregnant at the same time. And I understand it might feel that way, it’s such an extreme situation. But they would. You just have to. For me, the reality was that I just did what I was told. I showed up to my appointments and took my medication. You don’t fight cancer, you just decide to show up and do your best. I also feel that you can’t ‘loose to cancer’. It kind of implies that you somehow could have done more and that’s so often not the case.
But I do think I have less time for bullshit these days. I just don’t feel like I have time for that. And I really treasure my people. Everyone around me.
Has it changed the way you approach your art practice?
In a way it has. My illustrations are very personal, so for a while they were very cancer-related. It was a good way for me to process certain things, or kind of laugh about some of the crazy weird stuff that you have to go through. Like trying to buy swimmers for one B cup and one F cup. Impossible.
Do you have any golden tips for newly diagnosed cancer warriors?
To hang in there, enjoy the good things in life and try to not let it consume you. You are not your cancer and it’s not a part of your personality. So you do you. Be bald, wear a wig, have nights out, exercise, be with people you enjoy but don’t be afraid to argue either. It’s all good, and all up to you. There is no right or wrong, only what works for you.
We have released this piece during Breast Cancer month. What message do you hope to share with other cancer warriors who wear your scarf?
If I could make one lady (or lad) feel a tiny bit better with this scarf then I’d be so happy. I hope I can give back a tiny bit of the love and encouragement I got.
Where can we find more of your work???