This week I am joined by Lene Fogelberg, author of Beautiful Affliction. There is really no better way to introduce Lene than to share the heartfelt and utterly deserved praise I offered for her beautiful book:
On Monday, Lene shared a guest post, ‘Writing My Way Out of the Silence.’ Yesterday, she shared eight stunning quotes from Beautiful Affliction, with eight more to come on Friday. Until this, enjoy this spellbinding excerpt from the book.
You could also win a $25 Amazon gift card by taking part in the giveaway below.
I hope you enjoy this week with Lene Fogelberg as much as I have enjoyed her breathtaking story.
There was this photograph, a small piece of paper, which disappeared a long time ago, maybe hiding in a box in my parents’ attic or some old forgotten album.
I don’t know why my mother brought the camera. Maybe she thought to herself: this might be an important moment. One we will need to remember.
Closing my eyes I can still see the photograph’s faded colors, square shape, thin white border. I can see my strawberry blonde hair around my pale face and my blue eyes looking right back at me. I’m six years old, lying on a narrow bed covered with a strip of hygiene paper. Chin to my chest, I’m smiling at my mother, who holds the camera. My thick winter coverall has been pulled down to my feet, like a molten skin above my heavy boots. My chest is naked. White cords run crisscross over me and onto a machine. The machine is measuring something, I don’t know what, only that I need to lie still.
“That’s good . . . And a big smile!”
I smile as wide as I can and the camera flash lights up the small examination room. Blinking away the stars in my eyes, I can see Mom putting the camera back in her purse.
“Okay, we’re done with these.” A nurse removes the cords from my chest. They are attached with stickers, pinching my skin. I don’t complain. If I’m good, I will get to choose something from the toy store downtown. Maybe even the white teddy bear I saw in the shop window, the one with the fluffy fur and the black, almost-real eyes.
A doctor comes into the room. “I’m just going to listen,” he says, “if you can sit up.” He presses something cold as ice to my chest. I know what that is, it’s a stethoscope, my mom told me earlier. I’m sitting with my legs over the edge of the gurney, dangling my heavy boots and shivering from the cold. And then I remember. I need to be good. Be still.
He listens and listens, leaning over me. The stethoscope wanders across my chest. He sighs. The stethoscope climbs onto my back.
“Breathe heavily,” he says.
I do. I inhale as heavily as I can. Hea-vi-ly.
I-i-in and out.
“One more time.”
I do as he tells me. I am a good girl.
“Yes, she has a distinct heart murmur,” he says. And then he is silent and listens again. I can see Mom is holding her breath, I don’t think I have ever seen her do that.
I’m just as still as the white teddy bear in the shop window. Later I will be walking through the store, looking at all the dolls and the toys, making up my mind. But it will be the white teddy bear with the black, almost-real eyes. I know it. If only the doctor could be done. He has come here especially for me, from a big hospital, maybe even the biggest in all of Sweden.
My feet are getting warm in the boots. I accidentally squirm and my coverall rustles.
“Shhh,” Mom says.
And then she is silent. Everything is silent. I stay completely still so that the doctor can hear better.
“Okay, we’re done.” He removes the stethoscope from my chest, turning to Mom. “You’ll never have to worry about this ever again. It’s a harmless heart murmur.” He smiles and looks into my eyes. “Just like your mother’s.”
The words grow and linger in the room, in my mother’s smile, in the sounds of the doctor’s steps toward the door.
You will never have to worry about this ever again.
Ever again. The opinion of a specialist. A dismissal. I can still feel my mother’s relief, as I examine the photograph in my mind.
You will never have to worry about this ever again.
Growing up in a small town on the Swedish West Coast, Lene Fogelberg developed a love of poetry and reading, nurtured by the enchanting surroundings of her childhood; deep woods, fields, and ocean.
Fogelberg went on to study Foreign Languages at the University of Gothenburg: among them English and French as well as Literature and Creative Writing. She also studied German in Germany and Creative Writing at the Stockholm Academy of Writing.
Always curious, Fogelberg has embraced opportunities to live abroad, in Germany and the USA. Shortly after moving to the US it was discovered, by luck of circumstances, that she was in the last stages of a fatal congenital heart disease. Within weeks she underwent two life-saving open-heart surgeries and began the long battle of recovery. Now she is well and grateful for every day with her husband and two daughters. She is currently living in Jakarta, Indonesia.
An award-winning poet in Sweden, Fogelberg has always felt drawn to writing in English and switched language when writing the memoir BEAUTIFUL AFFLICTION, to be published by She Writes Press September 2015.
The riveting true story of a young woman’s struggle to raise a family while her body slowly deteriorates as the result of an undetected fatal heart disease.
Lene Fogelberg is dying―she is sure of it―but no doctor in Sweden, her home country, believes her. Love stories enfold her, with her husband, her two precious daughters, her enchanting surroundings, but the question she has carried in her heart since childhood―Will I die young?―is threatening all she holds dear, even her sanity. When her young family moves to the US, an answer, a diagnosis, is finally found: she is in the last stages of a fatal congenital heart disease. But is it too late?
Unflinchingly honest and often harrowing, Beautiful Affliction is an inspiring account of growing up and living on the verge of death―and of the beauty, harshness, loneliness, and, ultimately, unbending love that can be found there.
View the other posts
This week I am joined by Lene Fogelberg, author of Beautiful Affliction. There is really no better way to introduce Lene than to share the heartfelt and utterly deserved praise I offered for her beautiful book: Please stop throughout the week as Lene shares a wonderful guest post, an excerpt, plus poignant and stunning quotes from the book.
This week I am joined by Lene Fogelberg, author of Beautiful Affliction. There is really no better way to introduce Lene than to share the heartfelt and utterly deserved praise I offered for her beautiful book: Please stop throughout the week as Lene shares an excerpt, plus more poignant and stunning quotes from the book.