Saturday, 30 August 2008

My Own, Private Yahoo

You guys are such good support. I love you all.

I'm sorry I had to start moderating messages. The spammers found me.

This week's corrections: I see the nurse on the 5th.
I start treatment on the 11th.

Good thing, too. I'll still be well on the 10th when we have a new date for signing the final papers to sell our house. I wonder what it was like before lawyers?

We went to an after-the-convention Obama party last night. It didn't turn out to be what I thought it might be, more like a normal summer dinner party in Provence. But the food was great and the company was excellent

One guest was the former head of Reuters, worldwide. Fascinating, but scary. You don't want to know the news that the news channels are skipping. But, being a news freak (thanks to living in the U.K.), I guess I'll make Reuters my home page.

The pharmacy is not the place to go for wigs, odd because that's where you go for everything else. You go to a hairdressing establishment and give them your prescription. This promises to be entertaining.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Doctor

Naturally, I left my carte vitale at home. As I do. It's a green, chipped, credit-card sized register of your insurance and entitlements for billing and such. And -- wait for it -- the woman at registration said it didn't matter. She said she'd figure out the information another way. And she kept smiling. Evidently, she missed out on Doctor's Receptionist School.

Next I registered with the doctor's receptionist and went to the waiting room. There was a short wait before a young woman called my name. I thought, "Now we take the history." To give me credit where credit is due me, I instantly said to myself, "Or that could be the doctor." It was.

Woohoo! You should see my doctor. At least, Brother Dave should see my doctor. I bought a camera yesterday. I'll take her picture when I see her, again. She's almost model thin, not so model tall, and beee-you-ti-full. Young. Corkscrew curl hairdo and gold high-heeled sandals. Form-fitting jeans, cool T-shirt and doctor jacket.

She's also very nice and explained everything to me clearly. When she finished I only had a couple of questions from my list for her, both meaningless in France, as it turns out.

I asked what type of ovarian cancer I have and she said they don't classify in France. You've got cancer; you've got cancer. I asked what stage I'm in. They don't do that, either. So I asked what my chances are. She said it depends on my reaction to the therapy.

Actually, she was very reassuring. When, in response to something that I don't remember, I said to Nick, "No more marathons, then," she said, "Why not"?

She even explained about the costs. (Apologies to American readers for this paragraph.) Rather than our insurance dealing with it, the government pays everything directly. But, she said, it was best to keep our insurance, because there were a couple of somethings not covered (senior moment, but it sounded minor). I just tell everyone I have a (supply 3 initials; senior moments are getting more numerous) and we never have to put out any cash. For the best medical care in the world.

So, here's the program. Next week I meet the nurse who is in charge of me (or whose job it is to take care of incoming patients). That's about a 45-minutes session to go over everything, again, I guess.

I start chemo on September 9th. The delay, if one thinks of that way, is for me to heal up after the surgery. Once you're in chemo, you don't heal.

I'm scheduled for one session every three weeks, six sessions in all, After 3 sessions, they'll do another scan to see how I'm progressing. If all is well, they'll continue the therapy. If I'm not responding well enough, they'll change the drugs. After 6 sessions, another scan and, hopefully, surgery.

I shouldn't be sick. At worst, I'll feel ill for maybe 3 or 4 days after a session. After that I might be tired, but not sick. But my immune system will be suppressed, so I have to be careful. I'll need to take my temperature regularly and if it goes over 38°C, I'll need to call the doctor.

They do a blood panel 24 to 48 hours before each session. The village nurse will come to the house for that.

I assume that I'm going to be getting heavy doses of drugs, a) because I've got an implant in my chest for the needles, rather than them sticking a needle in me each time and b) because Dr. Litor said I'd lose my hair immediately, after the first or second session.

I have a prescription for a wig. What do you think? Grey or white, for continuity? Blonde, so I can check if it is more flattering than grey and I should start colouring my hair, again? Sigh. I'm so lazy. Or blonde with a couple of pink strands, very fetching on Martine who owns the hotel/restaurant in the village? All votes count.

At any rate, I'll be ambulatory, during the treatment. My brother-in-law, John, who has just finished he treatment for cancer of the spleen said the worst part of the therapy was having to stay still for 4 hours at a time. Dr. Litor said I could do what I like. I forgot to ask if I could bring my computer. Next time.

One benefit of only being tired and not sick would be that maybe I can help with the house, after all. John, who is restoring an old Spanish farmhouse, continued to work.

What else? My stitches and staples came out two days ago. The bandages came off today. First shower in over 2 weeks. Ooooooooh, clean!

In other news, our social life is booming since we're in the village. The neighbourhood lunch in our old neighbourhood (La Combe) was a grand success on Saturday. There were about 40 of us and we had a great time Ate well and drunk well. A given.

Tomorrow night we are invited to a post Democratic Convention party to celebrate Obama's nomination. I shall meet some Americans. Feel free to express your political opinions. I'm now moderating comments. Bwahahaha!

And, if you're interested in more detail, is an excellent site. I got there from Livestrong, the Lance Armstrong Cancer Foundation site. I got to Livestrong because I live in France and, by default, am a Tour de France fan.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Drinking at Home

We have an internet connection. Nick says it's because Joan, from whom we're renting the apartment, had service, and the line already has a modem. There goes my excuse for going up to the bar in Cornillon every evening. . .

Having looked at my papers, my appointment with the oncologist is the 27th, next Wednesday. And it's just a consultation, no therapy. That means I can go to Avignon with Nick and take Avril to the train.

And buy a new laptop for Nick.

On the moving front, we are in the apartment, surrounded by boxes and bags. After two days of listening to Harry doing his imitation of a Siamese, we have let the cats out. It's been a quarter of an hour and they haven't run away, yet.

The Deroy family have arrived to take up residence in the schoolhouse. They came last night, with their two kids -- and two friends with their three kids. The friends are going to help them unpack when the moving van arrives this morning. That's friendship: drive 2000 kilometers (round-trip) with your kids for two days to help your friends unpack.

Monday, 18 August 2008

How Do You Feel?

Dedicated to all those who wrote to me and to Nick in the past couple of weeks and all those who rallied 'round to help Nick move into our temporary flat, to those who didn't yet get the news and those who happened to pause at this blog out of idle curiosity.

A couple of weeks ago, when I got what I thought was the usual bladder infection, I took the usual bladder infection medicine that I keep on hand. When it didn't do its usual job, I went to the doctor. Hmm, she thought it might be stones or, even, cysts and sent me for a sonogram. That doctor thought it might be cysts or something worse and sent me for an MRI, a CAT scan and blood tests, including marker indicators. The MRI guy thought I might have an infection, which is one of the things the markers can indicate and my GP was willing to go along with that. The CAT scan guy mumbled some of the same stuff, but when I asked flat out, “Do you think it's cancer,” he answered, “Yes,” and marched me over to the other side of the clinic to meet with the surgeon. The surgeon sent me home to pack and return the same afternoon to the hospital for surgery. That was last Monday.

I've lived the last 25 years in fear and terror of breast cancer. My mother died after her cancer had spread to every part of her body. My maternal grandmother had done likewise 25 years before that. And my aunt, my mother's sister, was a breast cancer survivor. Was. I don't know if she still is. She stopped talking to the family many years ago, but that's another story. I have a mammogram every year. Which is still clear, by the way.

Two years ago, when the endocrinologist found the tumours on my thyroid, my reaction (out loud, to Nick) was a terrified, “But I'm supposed to die of breast cancer, not thyroid cancer”! Anyway, the thyroid tumours appear to be benign, if lack of growth is an indication.

Back to the present, I went into the hospital on Monday and was operated on on Wednesday. Thursday morning, waiting for the good or bad news, I got the bad news. I'm not wholly clear on this, but I think the tumours have spread around my abdomen and /or are too big, so the surgeon just closed me up, again. He wants me to have a few months of chemotherapy to reduce the size or the tumours and then he will operate. He's making the appointment with the oncologist (23 August) and then perhaps all be clearer.

Since I don't know exactly what is wrong, I have no prognosis. So far, they've been easing me into the knowledge, sort of a day at a time. Also things could be worse than they're telling me. So I should be panicked, right?

Wrong. I feel like the usual me.

Maybe it's shock. Or maybe the antidepressants I've been on for the last few years (paroxetine) are even better than I think they are . Or, maybe it's the report I read last week about France having the best cancer treatment in the world (along with the United States, but here it's so much more universal). Or gratitude for not being in the U.K. (rated somewhere with the rest of the third world). Or it could be that age has made me into a philosopher. Or. . . damned if I know.

I realise I could die. And it seems better to face that possibility, since we're on the verge of buying land for a house that we intend(ed) to build ourselves. Even if I come out of this alive, I'm obviously not going to be in any shape for housebuilding for a few months, so it had to be discussed. Like, can Nick build the house while I keep him company or should we buy one? If I die, will Nick be better off in the village where he knows people or in Nyons where there are more distractions available? So we discuss it.

But I don't feel bad or sad or scared. I feel like. . . normal. Just get on with it and see what happens. I'm going to die – or not. It will be soon – or not. I don't know a whole helluva lot more than I knew a couple of weeks ago about my mortality, so I don't feel a lot different.

Some of my decisions, of course, have to take an imminent death into consideration; things like, uh, maybe I won't get a new puppy for awhile. On the other hand, the clinic where I currently reside is about 150 meters from a small shopping centre and, since they want me to get out and walk, yesterday I walked to the hypermarket and bought a pretty set of towels (slate blue and mocha; I'm planning on brown for the new bathroom) and new sheets for our new queen-sized bed (which we haven't bought yet). And a T-shirt, 7 pairs of knickers (a sale), and a kitchen timer.

There you have it. The new me and the old me, one and the same.

This status report should get rid of some awkward questions, like: what do you say? Answer: the normal things. You can ask questions, too, about my treatment or how I'm feeling physically or whatever you're curious about, just as you would about my thyroid treatment or myriad knee injuries. I don't mind. Shame about the puppy, though.

P.S. Our phone is being transferred to the apartment and we won't have the internet for 10 days. The next time you hear from me will be from the hotel/restaurant/bar up the road where they've just installed wifi.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

The Squeeky Wheel

It's amazing what threatening to take your notaire business elsewhere can accomplish. And just in time, too. All of professional France is now on vacation until the end of August.

Yayyyyyy! We're signing the papers for the land on September 1.