Monday, 30 March 2009

Second Try

Off, again, tomorrow for the hospital. I'm scheduled to be there 8 to 10 days.

I've loaded Gmail Off-Line and we're going to test it. Nick is going to bring my laptop to the hospital in a few days and I should be able to answer my mail.

If it doesn't work, you'll hear from me later.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Wired for Sound

You may recall that the cardiologist wondered if I have sleep apnea. Yesterday afternoon the technician arrived to test me.

4:30 in the afternoon and he told me I'd have to get into my pyjama (that's French). After a few alterations on the straps that attach the machinery -- "You're so thin!" he kept saying. I'm not, but I guess his usual client is obese -- we began to make headway.

To start, strapped around my upper chest, came the box that records everything. It is not comfortable, and, worse, it kept sliding and pressing on the plastic chamber in my chest. I got permission to move it slightly sideways.

I forget what got plugged in first, but it had to be taped, securely and abundantly, to my neck. Good thing I have my own tape; what he brought I'm allergic to (a component starting with S that I never quite catch).

Next came the belt to measure my breathing. Or something. Then two electrodes, one under each collar bone, for the heart. Then the breathing tube. I didn't have to start breathing through it until 11:30, so we had a demonstration: Nose piece in nose, hooks facing up, wrap tubes around ears, bring back to chin, tighten tubes with thingy, tape tubes to sides of face, so nothing moves.

Next, demonstration of flashing red light pocket, a sensor for blood oxygen. Index finger in, not protruding from end, wire taped to arm in two places.

All of this stuff gets plugged into the box, sort of like USB ports.

Trussed and cranky, I'm a walking fire hazard and the lovely dinner I was going to prepare as part of my new turmeric regime, is out. (Nick made pasta.)

And here she is. It's finally 11:30 and I'm in bed! Have you no shame, woman?

Posted by Picasa
Results next week?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Family Blood Tests

Got my blood results back today. CA-125 is at 51. Last reading was 66, so I don't figure to die -- or sue -- before my postponed surgery.

Van-Ly has results, too. (Dog blog, remember?) She's been mopey the past couple of weeks, so I finally called the vet for an appointment yesterday morning. I had hardly hung up the phone before she was her old self, but I'm the vengeful sort, so I made her go anyway.

She has high cholesterol. When her blood is separated from the plasma, you can actually see how greasy it is. Most peculiar. Cut down the fat, the vet said, and come back for a checkup in 3 months.

She obviously takes after Nick's side of the family.

Monday, 23 March 2009

This and That

I can't remember if this was always true, but I clicked on Free Rice yesterday and found that there are all kinds of quiz games you can play, not just vocabulary. Lots of fun for charity.

Also yesterday, I managed about 7 km (4+ miles) on my bike. Set me up nicely for a nap.

After the nap, we went bowling. Well, we didn't went, but we bowled. Then we played tennis. I love my Wii!

Van-Ly has been moping for a couple of weeks. She isn't interested in walks. I can't decide if she's just a spoiled little bitch who wants to be an only bitch, if she's grown up (she's 4 1/2), or she's sick. She is less lively than Nala. Tomorrow we go to the vet for a blood panel.

An acquaintance oncologist in Belgium informs me that surgery usually takes place anywhere up to 10 weeks after chemo. Our spirits are raised.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Books, Movies and Life

A friend has offered me a new book, The Adventures of Cancer Bitch, by S. L. Wisenberg. I looked it up on Amazon, but you can't read excerpts, so I went to Wisenberg's blog. Some of the early posts were good, but she's now travelling the world and I'm not much interested in Grand Rapids. Although I actually have fond memories of the place. I was once there overnight on a business trip when I got a call from my boss, directing me to Houston.

"Hey, Andy!" I said. "I don't have any more clothes and it's winter up here and Houston is, I believe, in Texas, where it is summer. I'll have to go shopping." Andy just sighed. I found an open shop and bought a fabulous burgundy suede blazer, a grey wool skirt, a couple of blouses and other necessities. I can't remember what they turned out to be on my expense account, but I can tell you that shopping on other people's money is the most fun way to shop.

Anyway, Cancer Bitch's blog led me to, a support group with attitude, where the C.B. had had her head styled in a fetching anti-war slogan. It's not 10 in the morning and I already feel cancered out.

Odd, but I feel that all these people are concentrating on their cancer too much instead of having lives. Then I thought of my own blog, which must give the same impression. I don't, as one of the Chicks said, start all my conversations with "before I had cancer" or "after my cancer was diagnosed" (which has to be an improvement), but it must seem like I am cancer-centred because that's what I write about.

But I don't write as much as I do other stuff. The rest of my life is taken up with reading, the dogs, reading, the cats, reading, Yahoo groups, reading, and the daily rounds of village life. I feel no need to use my bald head as a statement; it just is. And although I think the Livestrong Foundation is a boon to cancer patients everywhere, I don't avail myself of their support group. You are my support group. And we don't have to sit around telling each other bad stories.

So, to lighten up a little, perhaps I should mention that a friend lent us the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice, which we watched this week. Oh, my! Even for the (old) BBC, it was a magnificent production. I may have to buy it.

And that there are a ton of movies in English at the cinema in Nyons for the next 3 weeks: Revolutionary Road (it took me quite some time to figure that out; in French it's Rebellious Wedding), Milk, Slumdog Millionaire (I'll be in the hospital for that one) and 3 old Alec Guiness comedies. We'll be too lazy to go, though, so I'm putting them on my rental list.

And that yesterday, I got a preliminary kitchen plan together, so that next week we can go let the experts have a crack at it.

And today is market day, so I'd better get going.

The book is a maybe.

Friday, 20 March 2009

The Mimosa Season

The mimosa is about a month late this year, due to our unusually cold winter. Normally, we expect its bright yellow flowers to cheer us up in February. This year we had to wait until March.

The almond orchard near Nyons was always my favourite marker of the end of winter, but it has been replaced by something more profitable -- to the pocket if not to the spirit. So this year, I am particularly grateful for the mimosa.

And it's a twofer. This morning, Marie-Noƫlle, the nurse, came to take a few phials of blood and mentioned something she'd seen on TV: a vaccine for ovarian cancer. She back-pedalled a bit when I began questionning because it was an "as seen on TV" sort of thing, but she thought it might be available in 2010.

Almost right. It's called the Mimosa Project and those "many" women it describes translate in the French version to death for 3500 women out of the 4500 diagnosed each year in this country. The problem is both late diagnosis* and the relapse rate, but now there appears to be a vaccine on the horizen. The first results are due to be published in 2010, but in fact encouraging results have already been noted, here and elsewhere.

Naturally, I plan on being one of the 1,000, but you know what Robert Burns said: best laid plans, etc. So, another avenue to explore, if necessary. Let's hear it for the mimosa season.
* My reading this morning indicates that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that have made me a prime candidate for breast cancer are also the culprits in my ovarian cancer. Which means, of course, that I should have been tested regularly all these years when having mammograms. Take heed and scream at your doctor.

Thursday, 19 March 2009


I have phoned everyone.

The surgeon can operate in two weeks, 1 April, so I'll be back in the hospital on 31 March.

My oncologist says "Fine. No problem."

"But it's another 2 weeks," I say.

"Nothing can happen in 2 weeks," she says.

" But that makes 8 weeks since my last chemo," I say.

"But if you have another chemo session, you won't be able to be operated on for another [whatever] weeks," she says.

I am unconvinced, but we agree I will have another slew of blood tests because they didn't test the marker when I was in the hospital. The nurse is coming tomorrow morning.

Then I called my GP. She sounds, also, not at all worried. "But I am worried!" I say.

"Don't worry," she says.

At least I will get to go to the Foire de Lyon and look at furniture (on the 30th). Meanwhile, I'll have to sign a power of attorney, so that Nick can sign for the house, if the papers are ready before I am conscious. But I have had to postpone a friend's visit. And my mother-in-law's visit. (My mother-in-law is nice.) Hmmmmph!

This morning I walked the dogs as far as the little field beyond the fire station. I decided to give it a shot and ran the circumference. Probably a hot 100 metres, but it was something.

Tell me: If I try to get some exercise in the next couple of weeks to strengthen myself before surgery, will that also make the cancer cells more active and inclined to spread?

Having good health is hard.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Short Stay

Where to begin... the beginning?

Got to hospital last night. They now have a form for you to check off anything you don't want to eat. Hooray, didn't have to look at ham. Green soup, pork cutlet, mashed potatoes, cheese and apple/strawberry sauce.

The first bad news is that I'm scheduled for surgery the next day at 3:30 in the afternoon. I can have a light breakfast at 7:00 a.m. ("toasts" and tea) and then nothing further to eat or drink. After my breakfast, I went back to sleep, which got me through most of the morning.

At 1:00, I took my second Betadine shower and put on my fetching navy blue hospital gown. About 2:00 I was given a sedative. I read for a couple of minutes, then the next thing I knew I was being wheeled to the surgery floor by a really cute guy.

He left me and I nodded and dozed until the anaesthetist, Dr. Koala, came by to say hello and drop my folder on the bed. Then the surgeon, Dr. Latil, came by and did the same.

Then all hell broke loose. A surgical nurse was running down the hall past me with a phone to her ear screaming, "Dr. Latil! Dr. Latil!" Other people began running. They kept running.

This went on for quite awhile, although, occasionally, someone would stop next to my bed and say, "We didn't forget you." I wasn't worried about being forgot. I was worried about my surgeon having killed someone.

Eventually, Dr. Latil came by and explained that all the anaesthetists were called into surgery and he was having to wait for information. At least it wasn't his patient that had had the relapse.

An hour or so later, bored out of my mind and having finished reading my medical records that they'd left on the bed (I'm doing very well), Dr. Latil returned to explain that there was no anaesthetist and they'd have to reschedule my operation. Like, in two weeks!

I asked if I could go home and he asked if I didn't want to stay for dinner. How kind. No, I wanted to go home. All the surgical staff dropped by with apologies and the cute guy wheeled me back to my room.

There, the staff wanted to know if I didn't want to "stay and have dinner with us," and, when I declined, insisted upon a snack, so that I wouldn't leave with an empty stomach. All the nurses came by to say sorry, wish me luck, and say goodbye.

Nick came to get me and I'm home. Tomorrow morning, I'll call for a new appointment. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Behind Me

As in "I am behind."

We've had a lot to do this week and, as we're running around, we've been running errands for Polo and Nadine. Then, when we get home, we go up to their house to make deliveries and Nick works. I provide moral support. Anyway. . .

Monday I saw the cardiologist and had an electrocardiogram, as you have to do here before surgery. I am fine. (I knew that).

Today, I saw the anaesthesiologist, as you have to do here before surgery. He is fine. His name is Dr. Kaoula, which I can remember because I call him (silently) Dr. Koala.

They're going to give me a morphine pump this time. I hope I don't get hysterical and start crying the way our friend, Philip, did when they gave him one.

Here's the schedule: I go in at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on Monday. The operation is Tuesday. I stay in the hospital for 8 to 10 days. The recovery period -- I finally read the papers the surgeon gave me last week -- is reckoned to be 45 days.

I have a fuzzy head; I think my hair is growing. So by the time I start chemo, again, I should have some more hair to lose. Really, losing your hair once is O.K. Losing it twice is annoying.

It also appears that it's going to be growing in white. It must appear that way to the hairdresser (wigdresser?), too, because she told me she can colour it a little with some kind of vegetable dye. And she gave me a card for the first appointment free.

While running medical and construction errands today, we bought an expresso machine to be built in to our new kitchen. When we have one. The budget for the new kitchen is considrably reduced now. But it was on sale.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

House Pictures

Silly me; should have posted a link. Here is my Picasa album. I'll be keeping it up to date with before and after pictures. After will be a long time a-comin'.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

No News is House News

What can I say? I'm feeling better, more active, waiting for appointments with cardiologist for ECG and anaesthesiologist pre-op.

Shall I talk about the house?

We've made another visit to sort out measurements. We're still unable to decide where to put another staircase or how to replace the current one, so that people don't have to enter the living room via the workshop or the kitchen.

Should visitors have to ring, be buzzed in through the gate, walk through the court, up and around to the back where the living room will be? Outside? The buzzing and the stairs -- inside or out -- are unavoidable, whatever the final decision.

Still haven't decided where the bathroom should be, , either, although we ordered the sink I've been looking at for a year. I was afraid they wouldn't have it any longer by the time we're ready.

The bathroom-in-a-wine-vat will be in full use while we're "camping." The toilet and sink are O.K., but the previous owners' solution to a shower was to put in a square shower pan and hang plastic currents all around it. Needless to say, the pan, itself, is disgusting, and what it has done to the wall doesn't bear looking at. So, first, we'll be tiling the wall and building in a new shower before moving in. Fortunately, in my years outside the States, I've gone from Jewish American Princess to Tiling Queen. Is that a promotion?

Our friends, Polo and Nadine, have not only decorated their walls beautifully, but Nadine tiled the shower in a pattern that would never have occurred to me. I told her that's why we have so many books: I have no imagination. I've just ordered three more: tiling decoration, kitchens, and lighting.

I've found a kitchen manufacturer that looks good and reasonably priced (I hope). I've had a terrible time trying to make a layout with all the little cutouts they gave me. It's easier now, though, since Nick realised he made the drawing at half the scale it should have been. I suppose it's his way of checking to see if my brain is still functioning. Answer: no.