Friday, 26 December 2008

This Sporting Life

Christmas Eve was a beautiful day and there is so much snow, we advanced our ski day. For those not familiar with the glories of the sport: For reasons which, until this moment, it has never occurred to me to wonder about, ski lift entrances are on a mound. It turned out that, by the time I climbed the three steps worth of mound to the first lift, I was too exhausted to ski. Maybe it's easier to be sporty two days before a chemo session than two days after one.

After I explained the situation and bared part of my skull for her, the nice woman at the ticket counter refunded my money, which amazed me. So Nick skied his new skis and I spent a nice afternoon reading in the sun. I told him it's a good thing I'm not still 30; I'd have sulked. Instead, we both had a loverly day.

On Christmas, we turned down all invitations in order to stay at home and enjoy ourselves. We opened our presents -- and Nick had bought me a Wii! So on Christmas afternoon, I was a bowling fool in a Cubs cap. (A gift from a Chicago friend. No pictures until I have it altered.)

While I was being chemically enhanced on Monday, Nick went shopping for a turkey leg/thigh and brussel sprouts for our Christmas dinner. Since I forgot about potatoes, we had polenta and, for dessert, pumpkin pie. And, with coffee, Yuppie chocolate (with curry?) that arrived with the Cubs caps. Tasted much better than it sounds.

Then we watched The Dark Knight, one of Nick's presents. (The French don't understand that The Great Escape is a British tradition.)

And now it's Boxing Day in some parts of the world and we are boxing up for our vacation. The weather report from Spain is dismal, but we've packed the Wii.

Hasta la vista! About mid-January.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The stockings were hung. . .

. . . on the window with care. . .

. . . and lo! and behold!
Van-Ly was there. . .

. . . on the terrace
. . . barking up a storm
. . . growling ferociously. . .

. . . at the stockings.

We have received so many greetings this year. Thank you, all. If I do get around to individual cards, it will be in the best French tradition: for the New Year -- before the end of January.

Have a happy holiday!

Nick, Margot, Van-Ly, Nala, FloJo, Harry and Miosa

Medical Expert

As the nurse was hooking me up yesterday, I asked her what happens if the perfusion runs too fast. She seemed to have difficulty choosing between answers, so I asked if it would cause nausea. Could, she said. Then I asked the doctor. "We'll make sure it runs slowly," he said. (Dr. Litor wasn't there.)

Then, for the first time since I started chemo, they attached an electronic monitor and the nurse checked it with her watch.

Woohoo! No nausea today or, at least, nothing terrible.

Blood Results: In the week between the two blood panels, while I was wondering how my neutophiles were going to get from 868 to the required 1500, and if I was going to need another transfusion because the platelets didn't look too great, either, both counts returned to normal. And the CA-125 is down to 61. Another woohoo.

* * *

Domestic front: When I pick herbs from the garden and have leftovers, I keep them in bowls on the counter. Recently, I've been drying summer savory, thyme and mint.

When I collect enough leaves or run out of room, I throw them all together and have a taste surprise the next time I need a mixture.

As many of you know, when they were babies Miosa and her brothers were fed on the countertop (dishwasher, really), so that FloJo was handicapped in her effort to kill them.

Mio still gets on the countertops toward mealtimes or when she's feeling a little hunger pang, but it doesn't much matter because she won't touch anything except for meat and crab sticks. And I figure her behaviour is my fault, anyway.

So the other night, I emptied all the differnt herbs into a soup plate, turned my back for a minute, turned again, and Mio was on the counter.

You know what's coming, don't you?

Gee, a one-cat, grass-lined, urinal. I was laughing too hard to get the camera, but she didn't spill a drop.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Over the Hill & Through the Woods

I didn't think I had it in me.

Nick is making doors for Nadine's and Polo's house. We took one up to them yesterday just in time to catch them, the two kids, and Nadine's brother off for a walk. As it happened, I was wearing my new walking boots. I figured if I got tired, I could turn around and descend to the house, again.

But I made it! I wasn't paying much attention, but I suppose we walked for a couple of hours. I only had to stop for a minute on the last ascent back toward the house.

The picture doesn't do the mountain justice. Polo took it with a telephoto lens, so you don't really see how high and steep it is. That isn't me, by the way. It's Avril, my 85-year-old mother-in-law with Van-Ly last summer.

Sigh. But I still lasted longer than the kids.

Friday, 19 December 2008

"Urgent" Results

Blood test came back O.K. And it only took me 5 phone calls to find this out. I'll pick up my copy on the way to chemo on Monday.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Manana. . .

. . . or later.

Next chemo session will be 22 December, so we have new plans.

We'll be going skiing for Christmas and off to Spain on the 27th where we'll spend New Year's.

On Friday I'll be having an "emergency" blood test. An emergency for the lab, not for me. They have to get the results out within a couple of hours in case I need an injection before the chemo.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Flunked, Again

This is Grignan, a village with a magnificent Italianate chateau about halfway between Rémuzat and Montélimar. We'd just reached it yesterday when the phone call came to say my white count is too low for a chemo session.

To be fair, the hospital had called the house at 8:00 and must have missed us by seconds. And, since Nick was going to go to Avignon, anyway, we headed for the autoroute and I went with him. The day was not totally lost.

Technical paragraph: My poly neutrophiles, which should be at least 1500, are at 878. Wonder what it would be if I weren't having the injections? My platelets have gone from 20, after the transfusion, to 126. They should be between 150 and 450. Most of my other white counts are low, but the C-Reactive protein, although still elevated, has halved to 6.1. And -- this is the good one -- CA-125 is down to 113.6!

The hospital re-scheduled me for treatment on 22 December. I asked if I could speak with Dr. Litor about my vacation, because we're supposed to go to Spain.

"Oh," said the nurse, "Would you like to wait until your scheduled 2 January appointment"?

"Would that be too long?" I asked.

"Not if you really want to go on vacation," she said.

"I'd rather get well," I said.

She laughed. I laughed.

Dr. Litor isn't available until Tuesday, so I don't know what's happening until then.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

New Hat & Other News

Got a new hat.

We are no longer in danger of being homeless come May. While nothing is happening on the house or land front, friends are moving into their new house this week and have offered us their old one to use. Sniff; people are so good.

Saturday we spent all day in Avignon at the exhibition. Well, some of it at the exhibition. At lunch time, we went 'round to see our friends, Gilles and Jean-Marc, who were in the midst of lunch and invited us to sit and share, so we did. Later we met them and some of their friends for coffee. Much more interesting than hanging around an exhibition.

Sunday I rested all day.

Yesterday, well, yesterday:

I dragged myself out of bed to have coffee with a Belgian friend at the local café and Nick joined us around 12. About that time, a couple at the bar decided to go outside and sit in the sunshine. Since, by our reckoning, it's freezing here, we knew they were tourists.

When the three of us left the bar, we made a comment to the tourists -- Parisians, as it turns out -- about the sun and the cold and I was staring at their wine bottle to see what they'd decided to drink after Tony, the owner, gave the rundown on the local vinyards. The best: a Gigondas.

"Try some!" they said. We demurred. "We have too much!, they said." "We haven't eaten, yet." "Have you tried this dish"? the man asked. "No, we said." "Delicious," he reported. Somewhere in the course of this back and forth, it transpired that the woman is a designer, so I accepted on behalf of all of us since she might be interested in Nick's work.

Serge, our host, went inside to get more glasses, returned and poured. Soon, Tony appeared with another bottle and another platter of the lunch that Serge and Françoise had had.

So we ate. We drank. We talked. Françoise had noticed that I was wearing a hat to cover my baldness -- and keep warm. It turns out that she was told she was going to die of cancer 10 years ago, almost did die twice, but is a survivor. Laurence, our Belgian friend, used to be an aide sociale in the cancer ward of one of the big hospitals in Brussels. So, between cancer and design, we had a lot to talk about, eating and drinking and sitting in the sun. Even if it was cold.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Red-blooded American

Here is what you do for a transfusion. You get up at 5:45 am (pushing it, but Nick is feeding the animals) so you can leave Rémuzat at 6:30 and get to the hospital in Montélimar by 8:00.

The nurses put you in a room, check to make sure you are who they think you are (name, maiden name, married name, address, date of birth), take your blood group card, and telephone the lab where they will "make" the platelets. (What does that mean?)

The lab starts to work and, when they are finished, they send the platelets to Montélimar. The lab is at the main départementale hospital in Valence, the Préfecture (kind of the capital) of the Département.

Then you hang around, sleeping, reading and yawning at the nurses when they come to take your temperature and blood pressure every forty-five minutes. Then lunch: not the dreaded ham today, but absolutely the worst fish cake I've ever eaten. Or didn't eat.

The platelets arrived at 12:30 and the transfusion took no time at all.

Arriving home, the post contained my blood test results from Wednesday; my platelets were down to 20. Now why is my C-Reactive Protein count, which has been completely normal, suddenly risen -- to 11.9 and then 22.8?

Meanwhile, my nose has stopped bleeding and I feel like a new -- or the old -- woman.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

The Cells are Winning. . . or Losing

Went to the doctor yesterday evening, waited through four patients who beat me to it, only to find that the lab hadn't faxed through the results of my blood test. Sigh.

Dr.Martin (GP) renewed my prescriptions before we go on vacation and said she'd call Dr. Litor (oncologist) in the morning. Dr. M. phoned Nick this morning and said my platelet count was a bit low.

A bit? Next call was from the hospital with instructions to come in for a transfusion tomorrow. At 8 am. Good practice for getting up at 4 am for our Yahoo group's Not So Secret Santa. Since we're part way between the U.S. and Australia, I get the tough time slot. I'd walk a mile for a Christmas present.

Anyway, Nick can go to Avignon to set up for the exhibition that starts Saturday by himself. After dropping me off at the hospital.

This is supposed to be a dog blog, right? Check your dog's dewclaws! Nala has been licking one paw for the last 3 days. I thought it was the usual itch and told her to stop. Last night I decided to look. Her right, front dewclaw had grown in a circle, pierced her skin and kept growing. Infected lump.

We went to the groomer in the summer. I've been grooming her. But obviously not well.

This afternoon we went to the vet
who cut the claw, dug out the lump, put some antisceptic on it, and sent us home with an Elizabethan Collar and five days worth of antibiotics. Poor thing hardly whimpered.

Nala also has another entropion in her right eye -- as well as ectropion. More drops. More cleaning. The right eye is pretty much opaque, again. Half blind.

She didn't lick the paw, again, when we took off the collar, so I'm leaving her in peace.

Twenty minutes into the examination and treatment, the vet began to sneeze. After the fourth time, I asked, "Cold or allergy"? "Cold," she said.

We of the non-functioning immune system persuasion promptly shoved the chequebook and papers at Nick and said good-bye. I hope I got out of there in time.

The picture is of Nala and her rec bone. She may be learning

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Depression and Substitutes for Same

First of all, regarding the picture on my last post, did you know that it's really, really hard to tell boy polar bears from girl polar bears?

That out of the way. . .

When you suffer from depression and you're hypothyroid and you're missing a goodly percentage of your red blood cells, it is really, really hard to tell if you're just tired or you're depressed. Once the depression wears off, though -- should you be so lucky -- you can tell. So, for the last week, I've been tired and depressed, but since yesterday I'm only tired. What an improvement, eh?

Today I even woke up before noon. 8 am even. As I was up, anyway, I called the oncologist to say that I've had a bloody nose for two days and what should I do? This gave me the rest of the morning to get to Nyons for blood tests as I was too late to call the nurse and get the samples in the daily courier service.

So now I've had the blood tests which will be faxed to the oncologist and my GP this afternoon and I'll go see my GP in her 5 to 7 Wednesday evening stint. And try to remember to show her the two little hematomas (I'm guessing) on my leg.

I've had the bloody nose a couple of times before, but this is the first time it's hung on. It's just bloody; it doesn't drip, if that makes any sense. Well, O.K., it drips if I'm wearing my best pale yellow sweatshirt -- the one with the cat's eyes strategically placed that says "Montreal" on it. I wear it when I'm masquerading as a Canadian. I probably won't have to do that any more now that Obama is president-elect.

Then, again, when I get my new passport next year, I not only won't be able to masquerade as a Canadian or anything else; any passing Anti-American can just get out his little card reader and shoot me. Not that we ex-pats are paranoid or anything. We're just better travelled and more realistic than the jackasses who dreamt up the new passports. My theory is that it's a plot by officials who don't get enough junkets.

O.K., maybe I'm a little paranoid.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The Fall

After the two days of terminal nausea, I've just been tired. Flattened. Steam-rollered. Crevée. (Means flattened in French and, for some reason that I cannot fathom, is a Bad Word.) Mostly, after I've managed to get dressed, I lie on the sofa and read. And sleep.

Two days ago, I wondered why I've been using Fungizone as a mouthwash every night (and then, according to instructions, swallowing it), so I stopped. Yesterday, mouth ulcers returned.

I'm getting something for my white blood cells, maybe next month I should ask for something for my red cells.

And I asked about jogging! Ha ha ha!

At least if I'm telling you I feel rotten, you should believe me when I tell you I don't.

Apologies to all I owe e-mails.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Monday, 24 November 2008

Fourth Chemo

Dr. Litor is back. Hooray!

She agreed with my GP. I had an intestinal problem last week. Not a blockage, but not enough throughput. Or something like that.

And she told me to forget the tons of paracetamol and just take the pred for the joint pains. (Meanwhile, I had the prescription refilled and I have a lifetime supply of paracetamol. I guess the city pharmacist didn't read the "5 days" part.)

And I don't have to peel my fruit. I can eat it the way I always eat it.

And I can do anything I feel like, including jogging. I know I can no longer get around my 1.7 km "track" (just over a mile) but walk and run will do it. I have to do something before I fall apart.

And I can go to Spain as long as I have a doctor available. I figure John's, my brother-in-law's, oncologist will take me in, if necessary.

And -- ready? -- My CA-125 is down to 230!!

I'm eating today, again, too.

Two more chemo sessions, a scan, surgery a month after the last chemo, if ready, then more chemo. I have a terrible feeling this could interfere with my skiing this year.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Pride Goeth Before the Fall. . .

. . . or: Never brag about how sturdy you are.

I'm recovering from terminal nausea. I've been sipping cokes for 2 days, but I can't even swallow tea. At least I'm finally out of bed.

My three-hour drip was concluded about 40 minutes early. Could that do it? Or could it have been my roommate who says she suffers nausea and vomiting (I skipped that part) every time she has a treatment? That would make me not only not sturdy, but weak-minded, too.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Where's My Keeper?

As we were leaving the house at 7:15 this morning, I took one more look at my appointment card. After a short discussion of the date, I noticed that my chemo session is tomorrow. It doesn't bear thinking about if we'd already driven the hour and a half.



Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Party Hat

As the festive season approacheth, our friends in Spain, Sheila and Bob, have sent me a hat to wear for the celebrations. Is this a great hat or is this a great hat?
It's so great, I should have changed my clothes first.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


We hope to have the house by the end of the year. There has been a lot of legal stuff to clear because it had a lien on it. Actually, it all cleared up pretty fast. Now we have to put a rocket under the notaire and sign some papers.

We're not really sealing the attic. We're going to clean it up, with the help of Saturday Kids, and ignore it. A quick look among the filth says there will be careful triage required. I saw letters and receipts dated around 1900 and there is a pile of stuff.

I'll get the kids to do most of it, while I read and sort.

The kids, by the way, are two brother/sister pairs who lived next door to us in the old house; two 8 year olds and two 13 year olds. They still come around borrowing tools, bicycles, anything they need -- our adoptees.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Home Movies

... or their dispiriting equivalent.

We went to visit the new house yesterday. Measured up and took photographs. You can view 54 of them right here.

I forgot to photograph the Elf station. Next time.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

I've Got a Little List

I made out the meds list. It is below. In French; feel free to ask questions.

So off we went for the 3-hour round trip plus the wait plus the time of the visit. What a bloody waste of time!

The interview. "You're taking all this"?! Shocked, I say. Shocked! "Not all the time," I said, "See, this is what I take every day, this I just started taking, this I take once a month," etc., etc., etc. Meanwhile, he was copying the list. I kept repeating I'd made extra copies and he could keep one for the files. He kept copying.

The exam. "So, it hurts all over the abdomen (pressing & prodding)"? "No (teeth gritted); just this one spot. But it has begun climbing up the side." He keeps pressing abdomen.

I'll spare you the rest.

His conclusion: I should be taking what my GP had prescribed, not what the emergency doctor had prescribed. That I probably don't have an infection, but an inflammation. And the Spasfon-Lyoc is for pain and I don't need another painkiller.

My conclusion: I don't trust any of them any more and I'm not stopping antibiotics two days into treatment, just in case I do need them, so I'm going to take it ALL for another few days.

At any rate, the pain is lessening while spreading, if that makes any sense, so I'll just wait and see what Dr.Litor has to see when I see her on Thursday. If I pass my blood tests.

Where did they get this guy?

Meds List 14/11/08
En Permanence
1¾ 5 x par semaine, 1½ 2 x par semaine
40 mg le matin
50 mg si besoin
10 mg si besoin
5 mg le nuit
5 jours par mois suivant le chimio
8 mg, matin & soir
10 mg si besoin
1 jour par mois suivant le chimio
5 jours par mois env. 2 jours suivant le chimio
40 mg le matin
1 g 4 x par jour

Pour la bouche
Bicarbonate de sodium Aguettant 1,4
plusieurs x par jour
Fungizone 10%
le soir
Amoxicilline/Acide clavulanique
2 comprimés 3 x jour

En stock
Forlax 10g
Motilium 1 mg/ml
Spasfon-Lyoc, 80 mg

Friday, 14 November 2008

A goin' and a comin'

So I called my GP for a new pain killer yesterday evening and she said to call the oncologist, but, of course it was too late to call the hospital by then. For heaven's sake, I just want a pain killer!

(Du calme, Margot Carol, du calme.)

This morning I managed to get through to the hospital on the fourth try. Not bad, I think. And for those of you still worried about Dr. Litor, she'll be back on Monday.

Meanwhile, I talked to her replacement, who asked me if I'd talked to my GP. "Y-e-e-s; she said to talk to you." Asked me a couple of more questions and then said to come in. Sigh. I just want a pain killer! However, it's nice of him to squeeze me in. Let's hope he doesn't keep me there.

The meds list is a good one. We pause in this complaint to go make one.

Did I mention it's an hour and a half to Montélimar? What the hell; we're on the last tape of our Spenser novel.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Useful Information. . .

. . . as the French say.

For the dedicated readers of this blog, who do not have feed readers, you can receive the posts by email. Email me privately and let me know and I'll sign you up.

Isn't technology wonderful?


Didn't last 3 days after the visit to my GP . Didn't last 1 day.

I'd have felt worse about waking Nick up at 1 in the morning to take me to the hospital, but my screams of pain were probably going to disturb him, anyway. Eventually.

We drove to the hospital an hour and a half away and, fortunately, we were the only ones in the waiting room, so there wasn't a long wait. It just seems long when you're in pain.

I was taken to an examining room and a very nice nurse hooked me up to a pain drip. He was so interested to find I'm an American. (Quick Essay for expats and tourists: What Does Obama Mean to Me? Answer: People like me, again.)

I lay around suffering between being wheeled or walked to various labs for sonagrams and X-rays. I got a lavage (enema, yuck.) They could find neither intestinal blockage nor swollen appendix and decided to keep me at least overnight.

Les Urgences have their own rooms, comfortable enough, but tiny, without bathroom and, worse, without an extra bed. The nice nurse rustled up a padded wheelchair for Nick to sleep in and, in the morning, another brought him breakfast: hot chocolate, two croissants, "toasts" like non-sweetened zweiback and 3 packs of jam. Me, I couldn't have anything while waiting for another round of tests. The odds were 3-2 that I'd die of thirst before making it to the tests. Not even an ice cube?

We had locked the dogs in at home, in case they started seeing the spirit world or whatever it is that sets them off, and barked in the night. I suggested we call the village ambulance service and check if they were coming to Montélimar. We could give them the house keys and someone could let the dogs out. "Oh," says Nick, "I left the back door unlocked." Now he tells me. He called a neighbour who let them out.

About 5 everybody decided I was staying and Nick went home. I fell asleep about then and slept until 12:45 the next day, barring the interruptions for blood pressure every 2 hours or so.

Another lavage and a fast shot of something to keep me from throwing up. Another X-ray to make sure they couldn't find anything. The diagnosis (wild-assed-guess) is an infection in or around the ovary. I asked if my oncologist was in the hospital and could I speak to her. They checked and she's on sick leave. Sigh. So, Jerrold, if you're reading this, I still don't know what the white spots are that I have on my knees, again. Obviously they can't be from cream or the sun because it's long past shorts season.

About 3, they said I could go home and Nick showed up to wait with me until, at 5, the X-rays and prescriptions arrived: Tramadol for pain, an antibiotic (Amoxicilline for the detail-minded) and anti-constipation medicine. I now have 3 lots of constipation medicine and I am not constipated. Does everybody think I am lying about this? Why would I like about this?

A quick check of the information in the Tramadol pack and a run by the internet confirmed that Tramadol is contra-indicated when takings SSRIs. It's Wednesday and my GP is off until this evening. I left a message, but so far I seem to be doing O.K. on industrial-strengh paracetemol and the antibiotic, so I may just carry on.

I did initially think that one's appendix is lower then where the pain was, but my grasp of anatomy is only marginally better than my handle on geography. I thought my ovaries were lower down than they turn out to be, too. I consulted my friend, Google. Typing in things like "female anatomy," even if one adds "medical," leads to many interesting sites For Educational Use Only. Eventually, I found a legitimate site and darned if my ovary isn't right where it hurts. (And the appendix is lower, just like I thought.)

It was good to get home. Van-Ly was so excited, she got the zoomies. She hasn't done that in awhile. Nala, who was inside because it was raining when Nick left, managed to wake up and come to the door for a sniff. Even the cats were at the door.
Of course, it was way past their dinner time.

Monday, 10 November 2008

If It's Not One Thing. . .

Feeling fairly miserable today and I hate being sick! I may have appendicitis. Went to my GP today and have a bunch of medicine to take. If I'm not better in three days, I'll have to go to the hospital to be checked, so my oncologist can keep track. Sigh.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Pictures of the Week

O.K., Laura, not everyone would do this for you.

Ack! That's my nose?

I'm going to put on a hat now.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

It's the Big Day!

Had my MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan today. One of the tumours has reduced by 2 cm, the smaller one by a little less. The liquid is gone from the peritoneum. Other organs don't seem to be affected, except:

There is a little thickening in the pylorus, the opening between the stomach and the duodenum. There are a bunch of primitive mesenteric ganglions (none more than 10mm) in the lombo-aorta and hip region on the left. So? Someone?

The reason I don't mention my slightly tingling fingertips is it is permanent, although I am assured it will go away. Same thing for being easily fatigued and having no hair. They aren't random symptoms; they're conditions.

(Yes, Sheila, it is like getting medical training. I am more and more impressed with Lance Armstrong, who tackled all this information with more zeal than I can muster. Google is your friend.)

Had my wig trimmed, but took it off before I remembered to take a picture. Next time.

I had duck for lunch and I'm eating my vegetables. Bought crab sticks and cheese to keep me going during the night while I sit up for That Other Event.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Blood Tests Back

Mail today, so I have my own copy of the blood results. Neutrophiles actually stood at 1674 before the last session. Red counts don't look too bad: hemoglobin, hematocrite and hematies are a tad low, but not bad. Platelets were within normal range and I have no Leg Lurg this time.

I thought I had Chest Lurg. Bright red emerging on the right side of my chest Sunday evening. By midnight I could see it encircling the chamber in my chest and I thought something terrible was happening. "Look!" I said to Nick ("Oh, did I wake you up"?) "It's a circle."

"Or a square," he said. Ha, ha! Very fun. . . Ah, the bandage the nurse had put over the site after the treatment. (Big bandage.) I forgot to tell her I'm allergic to adhesives.

CA125 is now down to 571.99. That's almost a fifth of what I started with!

I've not been sleeping well for the last 10 days or 2 weeks. Maybe that's an improvement, too. I've not been sleeping well for 20 years until after my stay in hospital.

Another thing I haven't mentioned is the numbness in my fingertips. It's constant and has been so from the beginning and is normal. Well, you know: normal for chemo.

I still have some fuzz on my head and I have my eyebrows and eyelashes. I wonder why that is?

Tomorrow is the scan and then we'll know if the CA125 means anything.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Third Chemo - At Last

Thanks to my former good health and membership in a raw feeding list for dogs, I'd always thought that Prednisolone was a veterinary medicine. But, sonofagun, if I'm not on it, myself. That and industrial-strength (1000 mg) paracetamol, both for the joint and muscle pain that I experience from about the second to sixth day after chemo.

Had the session on Thursday. The neutrophilles just made it. Normal is 1500-8000. I clocked in with 1600. I am now receiving a Neulasta injection the day following chemo to stimulate production of white blood cells. I think the red ones could use some help, too, but I'll just have to keep yelling at them for the next three weeks. I haven't yet received my copy of the blood tests. No mail today. It is All Saint (Souls?) Day and a public holiday.

Dr. Litor is on vacation. Her replacement was a very nice man with the bedside manner of a born researcher. But he was pleased, not to say suprised, even, at how fast my CA125 is falling.

I asked about the flu injection that I am reminded to take each year. I never do, and I don't get the flu. It's a killed vaccine, but I thought I'd check. No, don't take it, he said. Pause, then, but your husband should, so that he doesn't give you the flu. Poor Nick.

My "roommate" this time was a confused middle-aged woman recovering from breast cancer. She had come for treatment before, but been sent home. From her conversation with the nurse, I gather it had something to do with her blood pressure, but she didn't know. She also had never seen Dr. Litor; I can't imagine how she bypassed that step. And she had no idea she'd be there for 3 hours or so, so she'd brought nothing to read and no puzzles to amuse herself. This tells me that she either didn't see the nurse for the explanatory session or just didn't understand it. I didn't get much reading done and I'm getting tired of ham for lunch.

She wondered why I hadn't lost my hair. Because I keep it next to the bed, so no one can steal it. No, I didn't say that. She couldn't get over how real the wig looks. (This is my punkierish style, but I'm still going to try to get some more cut next week.

Yesterday, I had the worst reaction since starting chemo. I was crevée - vulgar slang for feeling like you'd been run over with a steamroller. Applied to tires, it means flat. No one can tell my why this should be vulgar.

Anyhoo, I started to think that, more than being cumulative, the effects of chemo were exponential, I was so tired. We went to lunch at a friend's. I couldn't cancel because she'd already had to reorganise other people due to the treatment delay. Climbing up the old village in Nyons, I actually had to stop and rest for a minute. I felt much better about this when the other guests arrived and they were puffing harder than I. And they're supposedly healthy.

Anyway, I feel fine today, so it was temporary, whatever it was.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

If at First. . .

The nurse has been here this morning and left with more tubes of my blood. If I don't get a phone call from the hospital by about 6 o'clock, I'll be going for my third chemo session tomorow.

Addendum: No call: tomorrow it is.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Anemic and Leukopenic

I got out the blood results and tackled them with Google. I am both anemic (not enough red stuff) and leukopenic (not enough white stuff). Other stuff is low, too.

But the key was on a post-it which I noticed (post-its are useless; you write them and forget them) stuck to the Blood Test Results folder in the notebook I was given to organise my treatment life. There the nurse had written:

Globules blancs
* neutrophiles > 1500

That, she said, would determine whether I could have my chemo session or not.

Lo and behold, the blood results show:

Poly Neutrophiles 30.4%
1186 / mm3

So now you know.

If you're curious about those other things in the illustration, my Eosinophiles, Basophiles, Lymphocytes and Platelets are normal. My Monocytes and Erythrocytes are low.

But my CA-125 marker (normal <24.50) has dropped from a high of 4460.60 to 2542.70 after my first chemo to 820.60. That means the treatment is working!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Testing, Testing

In answer to the question, "What happens when my blood work is off?"he hospital telephones to cancel my chemo session and we wait for it to look better. My booklet tells me that if it gets too bad, transfusions might be in order.

Then the hospital calls and reschedules. I've been rescheduled for next Thursday. I will have blood drawn against next Wednesday. It has to be checked within 48 hours of the chemo. Because of the timing, I do it the day before.

The nurse comes to my house (French medical care, folks!) in the morning and drops the blood off at the pharmacy. It's picked up at the pharmacy at 10 A.M. and delivered to the lab in Nyons, 27 km away. Before 5:30 P.M., the lab faxes Dr. Litor, giving her time to telephone if I can't have the treatment.

I get a copy of the results in the post. Then I know which cells to yell at so they shape up.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

F on the Tests

The hospital just telephoned and cancelled my chemo session for tomorrow. The results from this morning's blood tests aren't good enough. Nick answered the phone and I have no more details, but I should receive my own copy of the results tomorrow or Friday. They'll telephone with another appointment.

Well, rats! I feel good.

Back to writing about the house.

From Rick to Ruin

Not quite a ruin, but certainly a wreck. We are buying a house.

I know, I know. What happened to the straw bale house? We're still ready to build, but we cannot find a piece of land to put it on. The land is either classified flood plain (most of it), agricultural, with no building allowed (much of it) or it's mountain (or next to it) and protected. My theory is that the French government, while boasting of its rural underpinnings, secretly wants everyone to move to the city.

So we are buying this house. It includes the bit at the right, but not the car.

It's main drawback is it is smack on the road. The second drawback is that it has a great view of the Citroën garage facing it. However, since it's also smack in the middle of the village, the speed limit is restricted, giving the cats a sporting chance, and the family that own the garage are really nice; it's the garage we use.

Here are the good bits (besides being available).

The house is an old postal relay. Please note that, having moved out of a former school, we are temporarily resident in a former gendarmerie, and are moving into a former relay. History 'r us.

On the ground floor there is plenty of room for Nick's workshop and wood storage as well as a -- ta ra! -- shop.

The left end is a garage leading into a tiny inner courtyard. I love inner courtyards! Removing the garage doors and part of the wall will get us back to the original arched entryway. We'll put in a grill cum door, tile the garage floor and courtyard and it will look very Spanish.

At the side entrance there is a bathroom, built into -- ready? -- an old wine vat painted white. Cleaned up, it will be fantastic.

The floors are a combination of old dark red tiles, called tomettes -- not beautiful, but interesting -- and rammed earth. We plan on keeping as much of the floors as we can.

Upstairs will be our apartment: 2 bedrooms, bathroom, a real kitchen and big living room in stone. In back, at upper floor level (the house backs onto a mountain) there is a strip of land that will be ours and an olive orchard that we can stare at. We'll open up the back end of the living room and make a terrace, so the dogs can be upstairs or down. Maybe the cats can learn to roam the mountain instead of the road.

Because it needs new everything, including a roof, we'll be able to do much of the ecological stuff we wanted to do in the straw house: eco insulation, solar hot water, underfloor heating, at least in the living room which, currently, does not have a floor at all, and in the bathroom, which currently does not exist at all, water recuperation, LED lighting and so on.

The village is only 11 km from Rémuzat, so we can still get back easily. There is a little grocery, the garage, a bakery, hotel, restaurant, bar and magazines. It's closer to Nyons. Farther from our doctor (on the other side of Rémuzat), but closer to the hospital. It's friendly. It's called Sahune.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Nag, nag, nag!

This edition is dedicated to Doobie, my Guardian Nagger, who prods me, worries about me and, altogether, makes me feel as though Someone is Watching Over Me.

NTR! (1)

I got some new hat/scarves sorts of things in the post today, thanks to Rachel's mother. I'll try to get pictures.

Nala, after four years of living with us and being fed raw, has finally chewed on a recreational bone. Twice! (Yes, I missed pictures of that, too.) I'm not sure the bone is the attraction. She chews and chews and the bone slides on the tile floor and soon it and she are on the other side of the kitchen, fancy that!, right next to the cats's leftovers. But we caught her in time.

It's been a busy week; hence the lack of posting. (Besides NTR.) Friday, Saturday and Sunday taken up with friends. Being in the village is a spur to socialising. Yesterday, all day in Avignon shopping for: hardware, wood, more hardware, Pyrex pot, more hardware and more hardware.

Today, we bought a house.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The Thing About the Wig

The thing about the wig is it's alien.

You put on a hat or a scarf and it's an accessory -- decoration. It's part of you, your personality, your style.

You put on a wig and it's camouflage. And not great camouflage at that. You're worried it will move. Or that it won't move. Or that you will put your glasses on the wrong way, exposing its edges. Or that it just looks false.

Hats and scarves don't look false. And if they move a bit, it's no big deal.

Granted, with no hair peeking out from under my hat, I look like one of the seven dwarves, but it's a Look.

Here's my new hat.

Friday, 10 October 2008


Over on the Livestrong site, there is a questionnaire that you can fill in to get information on your treatment options.*

By the time I reached question 3, which involved reviewing some of the test results I have on hand, I was terrified into quitting.

I'm not gonna do that any more. :-(

* The questionnaire. Feel free to log in under my email address with password: cancer.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Tales from the French

When I enrolled at the Institut Français in London, my second-year syllabus began with a comic-book style serial about collegiate life. Young ones pile into their cars to return to university after the holidays and immediately have an accident. Lots of good vocabulary for changing one's plans, calling parents and breaking the news, dealing with emergency services, sojourns in hospital and other life event not dealt with in your Pocket Berlitz Guide.

Given the driving habits of the French, this approach to language teaching may not have been all that strange, but it was certainly not a scenario we anglais would have proposed. We began to recognise the depth of our cultural differences when, later in the year, we came to the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. In the French version, the rabbit dies.

For my "graduation" present, Parisian friends gave me a copy of Alphonse Daudet's Letters From My Mill (Lettres de Mon Moulin) with Daudet's classic tale of Monsieur Seguin's Goat (La Chevre de Monsieur Seguin), Farmer Seguin's goat leads a good life, but yearns to be free. M. Seguin keeps telling her it's dangerous out there while the wolf keeps coming to taunt her with his freedom. This this goes on for awhile until, eventually, the goat convinces M. Seguin to let her roam. This is a test: guess what happens to the goat?

Studying French in a French school gives you a glimpse into French culture that no English-authored text will ever achieve. The French are a dismal race. My theory, developed while writing that last sentence, is that they enjoy themselves so much in compensation for the doom that they know awaits.

All this is prelude to the account of my doctor's visit this morning. In an effort to catch up with my brother-in-law's stash of drugs -- he's recovering from spleen cancer -- I went to check out the state of my state.

The rash is neither uticaria (violet patches) nor erythema (red rash), as I speculated yesterday. (See why you need doctors?) It is probably caused by a low platelet count and, so, I'm having another blood test tomorrow. After I have the blood test, I have no idea what happens. I also don't know what a low platelet count means, so if anyone wants to enlighten me, it will save me hours of Googling. (Because one thing leads to another, you know, and I start with platelets and then I'm into white cells and the next thing you know, I'm in Columbian pre-history and cars runing on compressed air.)

Besides the prescription for the blood test, I have a new mouthwash, a new toothbrush, new shampoo, paracetamol and a patch in reserve for my next chemo session. But I still have a long way to go to catch up with John.

As I leave her office, I say to Dr. Martin, "But I feel fine, really."

And Dr. Martin replies, "It's early, yet."

Vive la France.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Leg Lurg

In case you are reading the Daily Journal, here is what the booklet from the Spanish hospital tells me: I might have uticaria (violet patches) or it might be erythema (red rash). It looks sort of like a red rash, but it's dark and there's so much of it, I can't tell if it's violet or red. It doesn't itch or anything; it just looks like I have the plague. I'll put the pictures below, so you can skip the gruesome details.

Then, while photographing my legs, Nick noticed my feet: the booklet doesn't describe white lurg, but I seem to have that too.

Going to my GP tomorrow to check it out and to get a prescription for the novocaine (not novocaine, but some kind of ...caine) patch that the pharmacy advanced me for my last session. I suspect I don't actually need it. I had such a long wait last time, its effectiveness was probably nil by the time they stuck the needle into the chamber.

Lurg Pictures

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Friday, 3 October 2008

Second Chimio

There, now. You have a new French word: chimio, short for chimiothérapie. Sh sound.

I love rolling up to the hospital and seeing the staff sitting outside for a cigarette break. Not right outside the cancer wing -- those are the visitors -- but next door. Hello in there!

This is Dr. Litor. She's much prettier than this.
I think I embarrassed her when I asked her for a
I embarrassed myself, too.

First stop: doctor. Good news: my CA-125 count, a marker, which had doubled in two weeks, has halved, again. It's still about 25 times as high as it should be, but the drop does mean I'm reacting to treatment. Bad news: I've gained 3 kilos. I do believe I'll have to stop spoiling myself quite so much.

The session went just like the first one, really -- nothing to report, medically. But the hospital was even more disorganised than last time and I had to wait even longer. The pharmacy was closing for the afternoon; some kind of maintenance, maybe repairs from the floods last month.

I didn't know this, but each patient's drugs are mixed in the pharmacy right before treatment, so yesterday all the afternoon patients had to come in during the morning, making a great shortage of beds. A nurse finally came around with a blood pressure machine on a roller rack and measured and took temperatures in the waiting area. Some were offered portable tables and lunch. The nurses promised me the next bed and asked if I'd mind waiting for lunch. No, not at all. Meantime, they started the infusion in the doctor's office and I sat in the waiting area until a bed was available. And lunch.

I amaze my Type A self that I don't get impatient; all because the nurse in the original interview warned me that they're always behind. Waiting is so much less a trial when you're prepared for it.

My roommate this time was a 28-year-old mother of three with breast cancer. Because her breasts are small -- she's terribly athletic looking -- they did a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy, so now she has reconstruction surgery to look forward to after her chemo and radio. Talk about unfair.

She had a great wig. I thought it was her hair and, after spending time with the coiffeuse in the morning, I was so sure I could tell the difference, too. It was very short, but she said her own is normally shorter. Punk, I suspect. Anyway, she was nice enough to say she thought my hair was real, too.

I'm still not crazy about it. I'm going to get more cut off.

Unfortunately, when I sent Nick to the pharmacist for my prescriptions I forgot to give him the one for Zophren and I'm having to struggle without until about three this afternoon. I do have my other anti-nausea pills and cokes, so I'm not doing too badly, but I'm looking forward to 3 o'clock.

I also slept badly last night for the first time in 2 or 3 months. Got up, watched the debate recap, read the reviews and went back to bed. Mio was still on the pillow. I grabbed a set of legs in each hand and wrapped her around my head.

I thought it best not to wake Nick at 5:00 am to get the appropriate picture.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

I Voted -- and other stuff

Yesterday I got around to downloading the paper Absentee Ballot forms and I voted. Sometime soon I will receive computer forms, by post, and -- in the finest Chicago tradition -- I will vote, again. As far as I know, however, only one AB gets counted. But I live in hope.

I have also updated my Daily Journal to reflect the absence of a couple of symptoms. It's easy to notice when something unusual is occurring, but I need to train myself to note when things are normal. Like when my appetite has returned to the normal huge and I no longer want to eat Cleveland. And I no longer feel pressure in my lower stomach.

It has just occured to me that I'm writing the journal in English. Fat lot of good that's going to do the doctor. I foresee a translation job this afternoon.

Tomorrow is my next chemo session. I'm going to the coiffeuse first, so she can trim the wig. Maybe I'll even wear it, at least for a picture. I prefer my hats, but I feel silly in people's houses and restaurants with them.

Nick has decided to take me to the hospital instead of the taxi. He'll get some of his own shopping errands done during the day and spend the time with me doing design work. The pharmacists (husband, wife, 2 kids, Frenchie) want cupboards covering one wall of their new flat.

I hope all my friends, of whom I didn't know I had so many, are reading this, because I'm having trouble keeping up with all my correspondence. All the support and love I am receing are a constant amazement to me as well as nourishment for the soul. Thank you, everyone.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


Someone lent us a DVD of Crash. We watched it tonight, the first time we've seen it. What leaves me open-mouthed is not only that it won the Best Picture Oscar over Brokeback Mountain, but that it won an Oscar at all. Didn't anyone except the New York Times see through this flyweight melodrama?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Hair today. . .

Everything I read and everyone I talk to, who has had cancer, tells me the same thing: Cut your hair now. It's too depressing when it starts falling. If I were 25 or I lived somewhere where style mattered, I might get depressed, too, but losing my hair doesn't really bother me.

It bothers Nick, though, so I've waited.

Until yesterday.


I didn't have to buy expensive
hats. My own do nicely.

Even the 7-dwarves hat doesn't look bad if I don't wear my glasses.
I think I need new glasses.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Fête du Pain

First, thank you for the reminder on the journal entries. I didn't report because there was nothing to report (NTR). But, of course, NTR is something, too, so I've journalled. Besides, I'm going to use the same entry after each chemo session, colour-coded for date. Then I can see what the differences are in reaction each time.

Yesterday was a Fête du Pain at Cornillon, just up the road. Our friend Polo, whose house we are helping to build, is a baker. He comes all equipped to teach anyone who wants to learn and the bread -- and pizza and quiches and tartes -- are baked in the village bread oven. I've been making bread for years, but this is the first time anyone has shown me how. It's a lot easier the professional's way.

So, here I am in one of new hats. And one of my old ones. You can see why I don't much like turbans .

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Dog Teeth

Adding to our knowledge of all things dog, someone posted this article about brushing your dog's teeth to Raw-Lite today, the Yahoo Group I belong to.

I'm giving up pets.

First of all, I now have to brush my own teeth half a dozen times a day and gargle 10 times. (I'm not making it on the gargling.) Then there is my hair. Washing and towel drying every day is already a challenge to my attention span. The wig I bought comes with more hair care products than hair, most of which must be used daily -- brush, spray, gel, twitch. Every week, it must be washed (twice) in its own shampoo and conditioned. Then dried on its stand, brushed, sprayed, gelled, twitched. Whatever formerly free time remains to me is spent in more trips to the kitchen, measuring out another slurp of the 2 to 3 litres of liquid I must drink every day.

Let the dogs brush their own damned teeth.

But, of course, simpleton, here, will be asking for doggy toothbrushes for Christmas. Sigh. Please don't send them.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Books: From Baghdad With Love & Jarhead

This is a quote from an astonishingly tepid review of Anthony Swofford's Jarhead from Amazon:
  • When the last page has been turned, the reader has gained a small measure of understanding about what being a soldier is really like, but that is all.
That is all? All? That is not enough? The reviewer was, by his own admission, confused. It can't have been the big words, so maybe it was the big thoughts.

I read Jarhead as a companion piece to Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman's From Baghdad With Love. Kopelman's book is about the humanising effect a puppy has on him after half a life-time immersed in the Marine Corps' ethic of "Don't feel; kill." Jarhead filled in the background beautifully -- as in "fully" and "beautifully written": the boy drawn to the Corps; what the training is designed to do and how it succeeds; the life of the warrior. And the warriors are different to you and me. The wonder is not that so many leave the services and have trouble adjusting to civilian life; the wonder is that anyone ever recovers.

Kopelman's book is recommended to all my doggy-loving friends, but be warned: it's not just about the dog. Swofford's book is -- well, I go with A. L. Kennedy: "A terrific memoir: intelligently self-aware, moving and considered."

Hmm, that applies to both.

Session 1 - Day 5

I'm still keeping this information in the Daily Journal entry, but that's more for me and the doctor. Anything of interest (?), I'll re-say here. So:

Day 5: Wow, I feel better. Still a bit tired -- I probably need to stop saying that, as I don't think it's going away, but no aches and pains. I even ate a bigger lunch -- although we don't want to over do that one.

Did I mention someone brought me 6 litres of Coke the other day -- in 1 1/2 litre bottles. It was too much to face, so I put it away, but yesterday I thought I'd try some. I remember being fed Coke syrup, which you could buy from the drug store, when I was a little kid and had the flu. It was disgusting and made you throw up. Throw up even more. You knew when you were getting well because it was no longer disgusting and you even looked forward to it. They didn't let you have any more then, of course.

Anyway, I tried the Coke (diet Lemon) yesterday and it went right down. Much easier to drink than anything else except the grapefruit juice and the juice has to be limited, for fairly obvious reasons.

So, no more problems drinking my 2 to 3 litres of liquid a day to flush my system. On the other hand, probably the Coke will kill me. Or scour the rust from my system.

The wig and hats have arrived. Tomorrow morning we go to Montélimar to see the coiffeuse.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

It's My Blog & I'll Complain if I Want to

Bad night and bad day.

Bad night because I had pain. I think it's all the liquid; it's not coming out fast enough and causing pressure. I'm trying to drink more tea today and to finish my 2 litres earlier, so I won't have to keep getting up all night.

Bad day because of the itching. My father had some skin condition that was never understood. He itched and nothing helped. Slight rash, more itch. The Itch From Hell. I never fully understood it until I developped a mild form of it, myself. It usually affects my shoulders. Creams of any sort make it worse and antihistamines help a little.

Chemo can engender skin problems, or aggravate them. Today when we were walking the dogs, I scratched a mild itch on my right arm. To get from A to Z as quickly as possible, within fifteen minutes, both whole upper arms itched beyond anything I can describe. Sort of like a million pin pricks. Probably what it felt like when the Redskins tied you over the anthill and doused you with honey. Couldn't stop scratching long enough to take a pill. While I scratched and whimpered, Nick started the shower for me; it took me four tries to stop scratching long enough to get undressed. Clean skin and the antihistamine have kicked in now and I can control myself.

Not my best day, but I'm sure there will be worse.

I should mark these posts, so people are free to skip them. But here's a goodie that I forgot from my day at the hospital. Nick and I stopped for coffee in the morning and I was thinking about the treatment in a fuzzy sort of way when a fully formed thought came to mind: "I'm going to the hospital to get well." Incorrigibly optomisitic.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Daily Journal

This is more for me, so I can track how I feel from one treatment to the other.

NTR = Nothing to Report

Session 1, 11/09/08
Session 2, 02/10/08
Session 3, 30/10/08
Session 4, 21/11/08

Day 0: Didn't hurt, no problems, fine at night.
Day 0: Not much appetite at night. Some nausea; I forgot to fill the Rx for Zophren.
Day 0: No problems; dinner with friends.
Day 0: No problems; dinner with friends.
Day 1: Lost appetite; everything else normal. Lots of activity. 10 mins. on bike with Van-Ly.
Day 1: More appetite than last time. Pharmacy has to order Zophren & I won't be able to take it until tonight. Getting by on Domperidon and lots of Coke. Just.
Day 1: Crevée! But went to lunch, anyway.
Day 1: Nausea!
Day 2: Tired; read and napped in the afternoon. Lots of niggly random aches & pains. Maybe I always have niggly random aches & pains and don't notice. 10 mins. on bike with Van-Ly. (This is for both of us.) Ate breakfast, sm. lunch, tea and dinner. Good me. Pain all night uterine region.
Day 2: My legs from knee to ankle are covered in red splotches. Nausea -- not uncontrollable. Not very hungry. Rode bike 6 or 7 km. Constipated since Thursday. Don't think I got my liquid quotient; two more glasses of water before bedtime. Sigh.
Day 2: Feel much better; not particularly hungry - snacked on fougasse and Mars bar. Aches have started; hope medicine is helping because, otherwise, I'd be screaming.
Day 2: Nausea!
Day 3: The Itch from Hell. Small nick on thumb from maybe 2 days ago, is not healing.
Day 3: Aches in legs started last night and are going on today. Knees are the worst. OTOH, I'm *not* tired like last month, just a tad unmotivated to work.
DAY 3: Medicines are definitely helping; pain reduced to discomfort.
Day 3: Better!
Day 4: Legs hurt last night and today. Muscular, but it was worse last night. Not so tired. Finished the bloody translation job! Thumb still bleeding if I touch it.
Day 4: Leg joints still hurt; not sleeping well because of it.
Day 4: Not been sleeping well for a couple of weeks. Fall asleep in early hours and today slept 'til 12 and felt better.
Day 4: Tired & depressed
Day 5: Wow, I feel better. Still a bit tired -- I probably need to stop saying that, as I don't think it's going away, but no aches and pains. I even ate a bigger lunch -- although we don't want to over do that one. Still the thumb.
Day 5: Rash is improving. Leg pain the same; also legs feel weak. Hair will come out if I pull. Why doesn't it just fall out when I wash it?
Day 5: NTR
Day 5: Tired & depressed. Stopped Fungizone.
Day 6: I feel normal; very few aches & pains. Long, long day, so was tired. Still the thumb. Appetite back with a vengeance! Sigh.
Day 6: Rash & pain improving. But not last night; trouble sleeping.
Day 6: Went to GP for sleeping pills; home too late to fill Rx.
Day 6:Tired & depressed .
Day 7: Slept until after 10:30. Thumb is starting to heal, so I won't go to doctor tomorrow. I'll ask about it when I go back to the hospital.
Day 7: More improvement, but trouble sleeping, anyway. Maybe sleeping until 11:30 yesterday had something to do with it.
Day 7: NTR.
Day 7:Tired & depressed . Mouth ulcers returned. Re-start Fugizone.
Day 8: NTR.
Day 8: No sleeping this morning. Up early for car test and market.
Day 8: Pills worked; now I'm groggy. Tonight I try just half. Constipated for a few days.
Day 8: Tired & depressed.
Day 9: NTR.
Day 9: Found sore bump in mouth last night. Gone this morning; mouthwash must work. Constipation gone, too.
Day 9: Half a pill is much better.
Day 9: Tired & depressed.
Day 10: Trying to have Reynaud's Syndrome in thumb- and finger-tips, but not quite succeeding.
Day 10: NTR!
Day 10: NTR!
Day 10: Tired & depressed.
Day 11: Tingly finger-tips. Cut hair. 3 stabs of pain in UR in evening.
Day 11: NTR
Day 11: Pain in side during the night.
I might have appendicitis. Sigh.
Day 11: Just tired; things are looking up. Bloody nose.
Day 12: Intermittent stabbing pains UR are back.
Day 12: NTR
Day 12: EmergencyRoom
Day 12: Just tired, but up before noon. Bloody nose. Doctor.
Day 13: NTR
Day 13: NTR
Day 13: EmergencyRoom
Day 13: Platelets way low. Transfusion tomorrow.
Day 14: NTR
Day 14: NTR
Day 14: Home now. Pain is bearable, but no real change.
Day 14: Transfusion. I'm a new woman. At least one with no nosebleed.
Day 15: NTR
Day 15: NTR Isn't this good? I rode my bike 8.5 km today (5 miles).
Day 15: O.K., Busy day.
Day 16: Either today or yesterday, my appetite has returned to normal: huge, but not gargantuan.
Day 16: Tired. Overdid it yesterday.
Day 17: No pressure in my abdomen for the last couple of days. Hmmm.
Day 17: NTR
Day 17: Mieux (better)
Day 17: O.K. I neglected to mention I've been having mild headaches for a week. Not serious migraines, but enough to have had to take my Imigraine a couple of times.
Day 18: NTR
Day 18: NTR
Day 18: Mieux (better)
Day 18: Still sleeping 'til noon, but O.K. otherwise. No headache.
Day 19: NTR
Day 19: NTR
Day 19: O.K.
Day 19: NTR
Day 20: NTR
Day 20: NTR
Day 20: O.K. and no call from the hospital, so I'm good to go tomorrow.
Day 20: NTR

Friday, 12 September 2008

First Treatment

Of course the alarm didn't go off, so we got up an hour late. For me to get ready in 10 minutes is no problem, but I'd never believed Nick could. And he fed the animals. And made me a cup of tea.

The first appointment was with the coiffeuse. We were only 5 minutes late. She was 15 minutes late -- and hadn't ordered the wigs. A misunderstanding, she said. Maybe it's my accent. Oh, well, back next week.

Here's the routine at the hospital: Show up, wait an hour, get a bed, get anti-nausea medication dripped into you, get first real med dripped (1 hour), get second drip (3 hours), get next drip (1 hour), go home. No drama, no sickness, no nothing. Well, a tiny comedy. When the nurse inserted the needle into the CAP (thank you, Karen) in my chest, she said to take a deep breath, expand my chest and hold it. She got the needle in (I felt nothing) and asked if it was O.K. I nodded. No pain? I shook my head. Suddenly she said, "Breathe!" Well, geez! She hadn't said. Ha ha ha! We all had a hearty laugh.

They gave me lunch. To go with anti-nausea meds? "Eat," they said. I ate. I was mobile, but there was no place to go except for the bathroom, which you do a lot when they keep pouring liquid into you.

I had a roommate for the afternoon. They were testing her for Alzheimers. They finished the tests just before lunch and she had to wait around in the room for 5 hours, poor thing, to get the results from the doctor. She didn't go shout at anyone, even once. Her exemplary behaviour was rewarded; she doesn't have Alzheimers. Her husband, though, had colon cancer which has metastasized into the liver where it is too deep for them to operate. The man has been having chemo every two weeks since February, plus some sort of home chemo for the 48 hours after his hospital visit. He is not as chipper as I. Nor would I be. I'll probably meet him one day when our paths cross.

At first I didn't want to know, but it was interesting to hear how he felt and his reactions. Not to mention that, if they're successfully struggling to keep him alive, I might have a great future in front of me.

In the waiting room in the morning, I talked to another woman who was told, four years ago, that she was going to die. Four years and four rounds of chemo later and she's still here.

These are the sorts of stories to which my mother's reaction was, "I know you're in the hospital and you're bored, but, really, this isn't great conversation." Then, again, at the time, I was telling her about someone who'd died in my room during the night.

Nick came with me and went out to do a little shopping during the day. Next time I'll take a taxi. We left home at 7:45am and returned at 8:15pm. Waste of time for him.

They sent me home with prescriptions for Zophren in tablet form (the anti-nausea drug that was in the drip), which I am to take for 5 days whether I need it or not; a prescription for Domperidone in case the Zophren isn't enough, and gallons of bicarbonate solution to gargle with 10 times (!) a day. Not sure I'm going to make 10.

To make a friend happy -- to get her off my back -- I've allowed my mother-in-law to send me a packet of travel bands to help prevent nausea. They "work" through accupressure. And I am wearing them. I'm not nauseated, but how do I know if it's the bands?

Since starting this post, lunch time has come and gone. I have my first symptom; I'm not hungry. I can't believe this; they ought to market it. As my lack of appetite is likely to continue, I can see where the chocolate muffin and ice cream diet is the way to go. Roll on, tea time!

(More pictures here.)

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Drink, Drink, Drink

We seem to have so many visitors, I'm not getting anything done.

Friends drop by almost every day. Some even came from Spain -- for the day, would you believe? Busy friends. They brought me a wonderful booklet from their local hospital that has every bit of information you could want. In English and easy to read. Very helpful.

Thursday I had my appointment with the nurse. This one isn't drop dead gorgeous; she's what used to be known as cute as a bug's ear. And nice.

We went through all the procedures, sides effects and whatnot, again, the refrain being, "Drink, Drink, Drink." 2 to 3 litres a day. I was given a binder set up to organise my blood tests, prescriptions, appointments, questions and other stuff. It even has a section -- with drawings -- about my implant (my PICC?). The funny straight bit that I was wondering about leads from the "chamber" and goes into a vein.

It's green -- the notebook -- and doesn't say Lance Armstrong Foundation on it, but that's its only drawback.

Then I went wig shopping. I am sorry to disappoint the goths and tattoo artists, but normal wins. I've always been a fashion conservative.

The coiffeuse and I discussed colour for awhile, she insisting that my hair is dark in back and me saying that I can't see the back. Finally, I picked a model and she is ordering it in white-ish, pale blonde and mixed blonde, so I can try all three. This wig is in the upper price range, so tomorrow I will check to see how much the insurance covers of the extra.

But that hats! Great hats -- and I love hats. And I'll be able to wear them any time. So far, I've found a great floppy picture-hattish hat, a giant cap, a toque for skiing and a sort of seven-dwarfs wrap-around for the house. Or for sleeping, she said, in case my head gets cold. Somehow I doubt that; Miosa sleeps on my head. The hats are an optional extra, not covered by insurance. Happily, we have the money from the house sale.

In other news,the apartment owner came to put some things away in the cellar, locked up, and went to England for a week. The next day, when we still couldn't find Mio, it occurred to me that she was in the cellar. Sure enough. Nick had to break a window to get her out. Cats!

Oh, yes. One of the booklets suggestions to stimulate the appetite is to have a glass a wine before dinner. Drink, drink, drink!