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.