Regine Stokke, Author
Zest Books, Nonfiction, Oct. 23, 2012
Suitable for Ages: 14 and up
Themes: Leukemia, Living with a Serious Illness, Courage, Teen Memoir, Blogging, Photography
Regine Stokke was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in August 2008, a few days after her 17th birthday. The diagnosis was a big shock for this Norwegian teen who felt like her “life had been shattered.” Shortly after her diagnosis, she decided to blog about what it was like to live with a serious illness and how it affected her life. She wrote about the countless painful biopsies and blood tests, chemotherapy and hospitalizations. There were days she was very ill and ready to give up and times of hope when donors were found. Her life was an emotional roller coaster and took its toll. She shared her deepest feelings and fears of dying. Regine was surrounded by her loving family, friends and community who were of tremendous support and brought some normalcy to her life.
She received her bone marrow transplant in January 2009. Her life began to improve. There were times when Regine felt well enough to pursue her love of photography and painting and exhibit her work. She attended concerts and movies, went shopping and went to restaurants with friends. She celebrated her 18th birthday on Jun. 6, 2009 with two parties. She visited children with cancer in the hospital to lend her support. In between, there was good news and bad news. Regine never lost sight of the fact that what was most important to her was living in the moment and her relationship with family and friends. She loved life and had no intention of giving into her illness.
In October 2009, she received some bad news that her medications weren’t working and the aggressive cancer cells were back. She wrote, “I’ve been crying nonstop today…This wasn’t supposed to happen. The last time I met with the doctors we discussed the future, and talked about when I could start taking classes again — and now all of a sudden, it looks like I’m going to die. Things changed so fast, and I don’t understand anything. This is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. Going through something like this is just absolutely brutal. No one deserves this… I think about my family having to go through all of this. It’s so awful to think about. It’s not just my life that’s being ruined.”
Meanwhile, what started out as a blog with a few followers, rapidly grew to thousands of followers daily. Because of her articulate and soulful accounts, she touched the lives of many people in her country and worldwide. Readers sent Regine words of love and encouragement. Regine’s own written words became this beautiful book about her remarkable journey and a life lived. The book is interlaced with family photos, her photography and heartfelt comments from friends and people who followed her blog. Her last blog entry was December 1, which resulted in 6,700 reader comments. Regine made a peaceful transition on Dec. 3, 2009 at home surrounded by family members. After her death, her parents, Lasse and Julianne Stokke found a beautiful poem (undated) on her computer:
My path has only one direction
There are no signs
And there is no map
It’s impossible to go to the left or the right
It’s impossible to turn
I can only go straight ahead
But the road is crooked
It’s neither light nor dark in front of me
And no one knows what
Will be found on the other side
Why I like this book: This book is as real as it gets! Reading her words are almost sacred. It is an honest, gut-wrenching, raw, powerful and inspirational story told in Regine’s own words. Although Regine only wanted to be ordinary, she was extraordinary. Throughout all that she endured, she shared her day-to-day ups and downs of living with leukemia with others through her blog. She continued her dreams of being a photographer and exhibited in her work at both 2009 and the 2010 Nordic Light photographic festivals in Kristiansund, Norway. And, she became a strong advocate for cancer patients. She urged people to register as blood and bone marrow donors. In those short 15 months, Regine accomplished a lifetime of work. Regine’s book sold over 30,000 hardback copies in 2010 and over 17,000 paperback copies in 2011, before it was translated from Norwegian into English. The book is beautifully presented as a piece of art. The book was printed on a heavier paper to display all of Regine’s photographic work, which runs throughout the book. It is a book filled with so much love and grace.
I won this book from the publisher, Zest Books, on Amanda’s Born Bookish blog. It was so compelling that I wanted to share Regine’s story.