Ebbe Skov was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable, universally fatal cancer, in 1999, less than a year after I was. In such a horrible context, it was great good luck that I met him and his devoted wife Margrit at a local support group meeting. A difficult journey into a strange and terrible land is always easier with amiable companions, and he was certainly that for me: always cheerful, supportive, objective, and reliable. He belonged to a like-minded group of us who fought the disease together in a similar way: now, I’m the only one of us left.
We were scientists who fought our disease like scientists. Ebbe read every relevant journal article he could find; plotted the mathematics of his disease on charts and spreadsheets; and knew his options better than his doctor, whom he doggedly tried to educate. He did his homework, which many of us are unable or afraid to do.
Ebbe managed to be vigilant without being afraid, which is a rare accomplishment. I’ve never known anyone who monitored his condition as closely as he did, which, for him, was a requirement. While most of us have bone tumors which are easy to sense, because they hurt, his could be anywhere, symptomless: around the throat, over the heart, or in any soft tissue. He was regularly besieged by them.
Yet throughout the ordeal, I found his spirit to be truly remarkable. Fear did not bend or break him as it does so many others. He did not panic, nor did he feel sorry for himself: I never heard him say, “Oh, woe is me,” “This is so unfair!”, or a bewildered “Why me?” Instead, he donned his armor, polished his sword, and went after the Beast with everything he had. He fought an heroic battle despite knowing he would eventually lose: a rare man indeed, a leader and an inspiration to the rest of us who must follow.
My theory is that the bravest and most successful cancer warriors have the support of a strong woman, and Ebbe certainly had that. Despite the heavy bludgeoning of fate, Margrit was forever beside him, loving him, lending her strength. As a result, he lived more than twice as long as most of us do.
My personal journey will be harder now without him. Good bye, Ebbe, dear friend!