Archive for Month: November 2016

The tumors that changed my life

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my faith lately, and since this blog suddenly caught a more personal vibe, I figured maybe it’s time to share it with you all. But first, I’ll have to tell you about the incidents that led me to become a believer in the first place.

The Beginning
It all started when I was ten, and one morning woke up with the worst stomach pain I had ever experienced. After two weeks with flu-like symptoms, I was finally hospitalized, but the doctors had no clue what was wrong with me until they did an ultrasound of my stomach, and that’s when they found them — three cystic tumors on my liver. And yes, they were huge (the largest one was 8cm / 3 inches!)

I was immediately transferred to a bigger hospital; and test results were sent to specialists in London and Paris, yet none of them had ever seen tumors like these before. The symptoms looked like the ones associated with the parasite Echinococcus Multilocularis, but this had never previously been seen in a patient in Norway.

Source: emedicine.medscape.com

Removing the tumors surgically was not an option because if the parasites spread outside the cysts it would have killed me, so I was put on strong IV-antibiotics while the doctors were waiting to see what else could be done. Every second day I had to get new scans and ultrasounds to track the development of the cysts, but there was no trace of any recovery.heal1

Two Months Later
Almost two months had passed and I had lost one-third of my bodyweight. I could no longer walk upright, I had started to lose my hair, and we were running out of time.

One day, the doctors told my parents to be prepared for what they had feared for so long  — if I didn’t get better soon, “the situation may not have the outcome we are hoping for.”

One Saturday night in October that same fall, I have a vague memory of doctors rushing into my room, attaching me to all different kinds of wires and instruments. I was drifting in and out of consciousness, and I only remember bits and pieces from that night. The next morning I was told that my pulse and blood pressure had been so low they had to monitor me all night. That was the first time I was actually worried. Isn’t it weird how kids never see the seriousness in their situation?

The Black Book
In the mean time, people prayed. My grandparents’ church prayed, some of the members there even contacted a church here in the US, and they prayed. Everybody prayed for my recovery. I didn’t know anything about that, but a fun-fact is that I actually got this strong urge to read in the Bible during that time. I even insisted my parents took me to a bookstore near the hospital so I could buy a black leather Bible. I could barely walk, but I needed that specific Bible, so, off we went.

In between every change of IV-fluids, scans and blood work, I read. It must’ve looked a little weird; a 10-year-old girl reading, underlining and taking notes from the Bible for hours every day…  The nurses never commented on it, but they always made sure my favorite stuffed animal and my Bible was on my bed whenever I returned from the scans.

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My handwriting as a 10-year-old. “This Bible belongs to Maria Elisabet Lavelle. Autumn 2005.”

“Do you see what I see?”
Anyway, let’s keep the storyline straight here: I had my usual ultrasound and MRI scan on a Friday — still no sign of recovery. The Monday after, I was scheduled for a new ultrasound. I hated ultrasounds more than anything, because that’s how they first discovered the tumors.

With x-rays, MRIs and CAT scans you don’t see the doctors’ immediate reaction, but with an ultrasound you’re desperately trying to read their face as they glide the cold, gel-covered instrument across your skin. When they find something, you can tell — and that Monday morning we could definitely tell something was up.

The doctor’s face froze and she just said “something happened here.” My dad tried to ask her what exactly had “happened,” because we were, of course, expecting the worst, but she just left the room. I started crying, and the next minutes felt like four eternities.

Then she came back with two other doctors. She turned away from us and asked them: “Do you see what I see? What happened here?”

——————–          ——————–          ——————–

So, what did happen?
Well, only God knows, and I mean that the literal way. The doctors couldn’t explain it, I still can’t wrap my head around it — but the tumors were gone.

The new images showed hints of scar tissue and the “shell” of what had once been tumors, but they were gone. My CRP-levels (used to measure inflammation) had dropped from 140 to 4 out of nowhere, and besides the fact that I was incredibly malnourished, I felt fine. Actually, I felt so good that my dad and I decided to take the gondola to Ulriken, a mountain top I had seen through my hospital-window every day for weeks.

Photo: Studentbergen.no
Ulriken in Bergen. Photo: Studentbergen.no

The following day, the doctors decided to perform a laparoscopic surgery to get a biopsy, but they didn’t find anything, and I was released from the hospital two days later.

Some of you are probably thinking that I must have left out some essential details here, or that this sounds very unlikely, and I don’t judge you. I actually find it pretty hard to believe it myself, and I even had to confirm every single sentence with my parents before publishing this. I don’t need to understand “how” or “why,” because the fact that three tumors disappeared over a weekend is good enough for me.

After
Do I believe it was a miracle? Definitely.

Would I have been a believer even without that experience? Maybe. But I certainly wouldn’t have put my everything into living my life for God, had it not been for that. Besides, I probably wouldn’t even have been around to tell anyone about it, but let’s not go there.

It was actually during my stay at the hospital that I first realized I wanted to become a film director, but that’s a topic for another post.

Also, maybe I should correct the headline, because the tumors didn’t change my life — God did.

When I returned to my hometown, my younger sister and her friends were thrilled that I brought real (needleless) syringes for them to play with, and they insisted I taught them everything about “hospital life,” which certainly brought our doctor-games to a new level of realism. I guess that was a nice way for us to process everything that happened, too.

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First week back home. I had lost so much weight I almost looked younger than my 7-year-old “patient” on the floor, but I was healthy, and that’s what mattered.

So there you have it. If you didn’t already know, I’m a proud believer in Jesus, and I’m forever thankful I got a new chance in this life.

Have a blessed day,
Maria

Photo: Naras Prameswari
Photo: Naras Prameswari

Stage Directorial Debut Yay

Hello!

I’m just checking in to share that the theatre performances went really well this weekend! If you’ve read my two previous posts you may remember that I directed my first theatre show. Read more HERE and HERE.

My actors, Anita and Coleman, killed it three nights in a row, and I’m so grateful for their hard work. The snow and fog-effects also worked well, so I’m very relieved.

I picked the play “Precipice,” and it’s basically about a young couple who gets stuck on a cliff with a deadly blizzard heading towards them. They have two choices: To jump into the fog and hope they’ll land on the ledge they jumped off earlier that morning, or wait for the storm to hit. The fog gets thicker and thicker each minute and they’re running out of time, so needless to say, it’s not exactly a comedy, but I liked it because of the big questions it raises about faith and believing in what you can’t see.

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This is a picture from the dress rehearsal without the fog and snow, but you get the idea. With Coleman Peterson and Anita Raile.

Like you already know, I’ve never been a theatre fanatic, but over the past year I’ve really learned to like it. I picked up a theatre minor to improve my directing skills, because even if theatre acting is much bigger and bolder than film, it’s the same concept, and the communication between a director and a stage actor is the same as with a film actor = useful.

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This is what we look like after I tried to smoke an eyeliner. Photo: Alessandra Abel.

We started rehearsal six weeks ago, and I’m impressed these two put up with all my ideas and awkward self-composed words that suddenly became very present when I tried to express my creativeness in English, haha. I’ve realised that normal conversation and creative visions require a completely different set of English skills, haha. At least we’ve laughed a lot!

I’m so happy I stepped outside my comfort zone and joined the “theatre gang” almost two years ago. This has been a very valuable experience, and I’m excited to translate everything I’ve learned onto the screen.

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Ladies in black. Director Rachel Poland and Stage Manager Michal Barnes.

Bless you all,
Maria

Opening Night, Homeless Awareness Week and Blizzards

Good afternoon darlings,

First of all, thank you for the incredible response on my last post! The number of views reached an all-time high, in fact, it doubled the previous record. Wow, I’m still a little blown away actually. Thank you!

Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week
Over the Bridge was screened at a Sioux Falls Homeless memorial on Wednesday. I had my hands full with tech rehearsals and was unable to be there, but I’m happy I could still contribute. Also, this is a great time to get involved in volunteer work for the homeless. If you live in the area, The Bishop Dudley House is the perfect place to start.

Blizzards
As a sidenote, I want to share that the winter came to Augustana today —

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Trying to do a photoshoot during a blizzard was a bad idea, but Naras pulled it off. Photo: Naras Prameswari.

— I went running in shorts and a t-shirt just three days ago. Oh well, South Dakota…

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Trying to look like I’m not choking on the wind #Blizzard Photo: Naras Prameswari.

Opening Night
Other than trying to cope with the weather, I’ve spent most of this week preparing for the “7×7 plus 1” show. If this is your first time reading the blog, I want to assure you that I’m NOT talking about a math contest. I’m actually directing my first play ever, and it will be presented as a part of the “7×7 plus 1” show this weekend. Opening Night is just hours away now!

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This is my play! “Precipice” starring Anita Raile and Coleman Peterson.

Come to the Edit Mortensen Center Theatre at 7:30 PM tonight, Saturday and Sunday!

I’ve sacrificed my morning workouts for this, so that itself should be reason enough for you to come. But seriously, we’ve all worked really hard, and I’m excited to see all my theatre friends show their work!

Blessings,
Maria

Why I am single

My relationship status on Facebook has remained untouched since … well, I’ve stopped counting the years, but it’s been a long time since I had any romantic news to share. For that reason, people have made some very interesting assumptions about my sexuality and lifestyle-choices, so I figured I’d use my blog-voice to explain a thing or two.

When people ask me about my love life, I have a number of manufactured answers that I alternate between. They usually include the following words: “still waiting,” “busy,” “not enough time,” “busy,” “and more “busy.”

It’s not far from the truth, because I haven’t put in much of an effort in finding the one, and nobody seem to have put in much of an effort in finding me either. But that’s a terrible excuse, I’m aware of that. I know you have to give something to get something, but right now I embrace the freedom of being single, prioritizing my own projects and focusing on what I want to do.

Well, let's go! #losangeles #filmfestival #OverTheBridgeFilm #hollywood #lol #selfie 😅🎬

A post shared by marialavelle1 (@marialavelle1) on

 

If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you may have noticed that chasing a dream as a film director is not a hobby — it’s more like a fulltime job. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to find love. In fact, I want to find great love. I want to get married and have kids. Many kids.

But not until the time is right.

It may be in 15 years, or it may be next year.

So, to clarify:
I’m not secretly becoming a nun,
I’m not asexual,
and I’m not gay.

I wanted to include the latter, because, over the past few years, more girls than guys have hit on me. I don’t know why, but I should take it as a compliment, I guess. Anyway, very few guys have shown any interest. The guys who have, however, told me they put it off for a long time because they thought I was so intimidating (!)

Hellooo?! I think I’m a real sweetheart, so how anyone can think of me as intimidating, is beyond me. But even if I am, that shouldn’t be an issue. I mean, just look at the word: intimidatingintimate dating — that should give you all the courage you need!

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This is my intimidator-pose. Photo: Naras Prameswari.

I do admit that I have wondered if maybe there’s something very weird about me that keeps the guys away, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a real catch, so until my man comes and sweeps me off my feet, I’ll snuggle up in all my weirdness and enjoy every minute of my single-life, because once I step out of it — I don’t plan on returning.

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Bless you all,
Maria

Guest Speaking and Rehearsals

Thank God it’s Friday!

We’re currently in the midst of rehearsals for the play I’m directing here at the Augustana Theatre. Read more about it HERE. And as a result, I’ve had to adapt to the circadian rhythm of a theatre director — laaaate nights, and not-so-early mornings. I usually hit the gym at 06:00 AM, and if I go to Yoga-class I leave home at 5:00 AM, so I basically live in a different time zone now, but rehearsals are going well, and I can’t wait to see my actors take the stage on Friday.

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The set is still under construction, but we’re getting there.

Yesterday I was at the Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell to show Over the Bridge, and do a Q&A with the audience. I actually felt pretty honored just to be invited, and it was nice seeing a different campus, and a different crowd respond to the film.

To show a documentary with profane language — in the chapel of a Methodist college — was a tiiiny bit uncomfortable, but the reason I didn’t cut or bleep it out was because I wanted to give a realistic view of what Sarah and I saw and heard when we explored the homeless community in Sioux Falls. Luckily, the audience was cool about it, and the event went very well. Thanks to Arin Winger for making me feel so welcome, and to everyone who showed up and asked questions after!

This weekend is another busy one, so I better get to work. Talk to you soon.

God Bless,
Maria

Photo: Naras Prameswari
Photo: Naras Prameswari

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