My journey to become an expert in helping people in medical need was not at all on my mind when I was 13 years old, and my best friend was hit by chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Fifty years ago leukaemia was an even more serious condition than it is today, but thanks to visionary doctors back then, he was among the first children to receive a bone marrow transplantation. This gave him almost two more years of normal school life, but we of course all knew he was living on borrowed time. Being around him taught me to live and enjoy the now as much as possible. When the leukemia returned and his condition deteriorated, it became increasingly difficult for me to visit him at the hospital, battling his and my own pain, and struggling with how I could be there for him and his family. His death overwhelmed me emotionally and what saved me was the promise to myself, that I would become a medical doctor and develop a cure for leukaemia (which is still on my to do list). The worst pain in our lives can become our best motivator for doing good.
When a few years later my grandfather was diagnosed with esophagus cancer, I had lost the fear of illness and death, and could be there for him in a better way and up to today treasure the talks we had in his last months.
Two years later I enrolled at Copenhagen University of Medicine. To earn a living while studying, I worked in 30 different hospitals and nursing homes from the bottom and up in across departments. I got to know all the ups and downs in the Danish healthcare system and how to navigate it, if you want something done. Before I graduated from med school my mother called and said she seemed to have broken a rib, as she was very careful with regular health screenings, a breast cancer diagnosis was not the first that came to mind. I took her to emergency room and an X-ray confirmed the broken rib, and I had my first of what was to become an endless row of discussions with the responsible doctor, as I thought the X-ray was not typical, and could indicate breast cancer. However, I was too inexperienced to be convinced that I was right and the ER doctor was wrong, so we were dismissed and I did not insist on taking her to another hospital or a more specialised hospital in Germany or Sweden. So valuable time was lost and the breast cancer diagnosis of my mother was further delayed beyond the point of meaningful intervention. Proper screening could have saved her life at that time. What I only realized years later is that all women with dense breasts should be screened by MRI and not by a mammogram – a fact is well known among specialist since 1986, yet still not mainstream procedure today!
As a young physician, I joined the pharmaceutical and biotech industry to lead the development of numerous new medical products while helping those that contacted me from all over the world, navigating the healthcare system and finding best possible treatments.
“If a treatment is not available, it can be developed.”
The rest of my story is for LinkedIn or a late evening conversation; let me just say, my job at Rigi Care builds on the decades of my medical journey, but remains challenging every day, as international science and research constantly move the boundaries for what is possible to treat and how best to treat it – combined with the infinite number of ways we humans get into health trouble, abuse our health, or lack the knowledge to care for ourselves in a better way in the middle of our busy, demanding lives.