The globetrotting demanded by his international banking career ground to a halt in 2004, when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and forced to retire. Doctors only gave him a couple of months to live. It took awhile for Per-Odd to receive that dire diagnosis—he had known something was amiss after he started getting recurrent infections, but he was dismissed as a hypochondriac. His health care providers now believe he had the disease for many years before it was discovered.
"2004 was a very difficult year because I had to try to stay alive while they were looking for a donor," Per-Odd said. "I was in good shape and was extremely careful. I was very disciplined in what I ate and did. I was in the hospital a few times, but I had no treatment before I started the pre-transplant regimen." Luckily, a stem-cell donor was found and he had a successful transplant at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2005.
Per-Odd credits his wife of nearly 40 years, Kathleen, with helping him regain his health after the transplant. "She was my caregiver, and without her, I wouldn't have survived," he said.
Per-Odd dealt with graft-vs.-host disease for a few years after his transplant, but eight years later, he's happy to report that his doctors call him a star patient. "I feel well. I'm on very little medicine now," he said. He continues to eat well, exercise frequently at a gym and take supplements.
"Most people tend to have all kinds of side effects after a transplant. I have many fewer issues than others have," he said. "My advice to people going through this: Be disciplined, follow the book, stay physically active as much as you can, and be careful what you eat. You have to do everything you can in order to avoid infection. That's what they ought to focus on."
Chemobrain is an ongoing struggle for Per-Odd. "My short-term memory is intact but not my long-term memory," he said. "It's a bothersome thing. I try to train my brain with different exercises." He hopes it will get better over time.
Per-Odd visited the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Survivorship Clinic in November 2012, and for the first time, received a complete treatment summary. With his penchant for travel, he said a concise record of his cancer treatment is as invaluable as his passport.
"To me, it's very useful," he said, remembering times when he wished he'd had such a document. "When I was overseas, I got really sick with a severe infection and the doctors in Norway were not willing to give me strong antibiotics. They wanted to try other things first, so I almost expired from infection. I really needed a complete summary of my treatment."
Treatment summary in hand, Per-Odd continues his treks to Norway, where he enjoys visiting his almost 100-year-old mother, his son and other friends and family.
The gift of restored health is not lost on him, he said. "I'm in good health now, relatively speaking. I'm probably 70 percent of what I was before the transplant, but I don't sit around and complain. I'm as active as I can be. You never want to give up."