It’s a wonderful life saver: Donors near and far rush to help Jørn Dybdahl, a local icon who has a cancer Norway won’t pay for


There’s a Mr. Potter (the Norwegian health authorities), a Clarence (a female police officer who helped lead rescue efforts during the avalanche last Christmas) and definitely a greatest gift from the everybody chipping in what they can. But there’s no George Bailey on the edge of suicide – instead, Jørn Dybdahl is going to exceptional lengths to continue a remarkably wonderful life.


An article published at Verden Gangen’s website this month explains why Jørn Dybdahl has to pay for his own cancer treatments. Screenshot of

Dybdahl, 55, is being treated for a form of kidney cancer with a drug Norwegian health officials have deemed as too expensive, resulting in him spending more than 500,000 kroner to date on the medicine. But an article published Dec. 12 in Verdens Gangen resulted in the creation of a Facebook page that raised roughly the same amount within six days – and the contributions locally and worldwide are continuing to pour in.

“You were Santa Claus for all the kids in the street, with your own horses and always a good mood, so now we can try a little to be Santa for you in the form of a small contribution to your treatment,” wrote Hans Egil Irgens, a pilot at Lufttransport, referring to Dybdahl’s locally famous Icelandic horses that many expressed fond memories of.

Dybdahl, in a follow-up interview with the newspaper this week, said the donations mean he can continue his treatment without being forced to sell his home in Longyearbyen.


A photo of Jørn Dybdahl welding a sled in Longyearbyen for a project at the South Pole sold for 11,000 kroner in a Facebook auction this week. Photo courtesy of LNS Spitsbergen.

“People are absolutely fantastic,” he said. “Now I’ve got a respite and established myself financially for a while.”

“It’s really not right that people who are already paying taxes should also pay for this, but I am very touched and grateful that people care so much – even those I do not know. That they are so generous really makes life easier for me.”

Dybdahl, a Longyearbyen resident for more than 30 years, is known for everything from his work as a researcher for the Norwegian Polar Institute to bring the former leader of a new-defunct political party whose views often were on the fringe, to put it kindly (and many of his rivals did, realizing that unlike many dissidents, his views reflected a true desire to do what he truly felt best regardless of political correctness).

He’s also an avid surfer, cyclist and hiker, and some donors expressed thanks for taking more than just a recreational interest in the outdoors.

“A very stormy night 15 years ago: Two terrified UNIS students has an engine breakdown with a zodiak in Sassenfjorden,” wrote Matthias Zielke. “The waves beat us, the boat filled with water. We called the duty officer at UNIS – you – around midnight. You didn’t hesitate one second! Came quickly with boat and picked us up! ”


A Facebook page has raised more than 500,000 kroner during the past six days for Jørn Dybdal, roughly matching what he has spent on his cancer treatment. Page authored by Sidsel Mellerud Svarstad.

He was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2013, and is flying to Oslo every two weeks for to receive the immunotherapy medication Nivolumab. Although doctors consider it the best treatment for Dybdahl’s illness, Norway’s national health care system deems it too expensive. An insurance official told Verdens Gangen they are trying to negotiate a lower price with the drug maker.

Dybdahl – in addition to paying for the medicine and travel expenses – also has to pay the VAT for the treatment.

The website was started by Sidsel Mellerud Svarstad, a police office for The Governor of Svalbard, who distanced herself from taking credit for the donations.

“It is chance that it was I who started it, it could have been anyone,” she told Verdens Gangen.