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!