Thursday, 30 April 2009


First of all, my GP explained the chemo thing to me. Chemo is hard on your system, to put it mildly. It damages more than the cancer cells. So, if the cancer is inactive, they prefer not to give you chemo.

As to exactly what is left beside the two main tumours, she said to come in after my next scan and we'd go over it.

I like my GP and feel kind of bad that we are leaving her because WE ARE MOVING!

We still don't know what the hearing was about, but . . . let me back up: Inheritance law in France is unique. Napolean wanted to break the tradition of the aristocracy and the landed gentry leaving everything to the eldest son (primogeniture; it's what makes those vast estates in England to this day), so now the law is this: Your spouse is entitled to 1/4 of all your property and has the right to live in your house for the duration. Your parents and your children are entitled to equal shares. It's more complicated than that, but that will do for discussion.

So, consider. A couple die and they had 7 children. The property is divided equally among the 7. Some have died, though, and their shares devolve equally on their children. You now have many, many heirs who are scattered to the four winds, some of whom don't talk to each other. None of them want the damned house, anyway.

You come along as a buyer. The heirs, including those who have been lost for thirty years and must be traced, have to agree a price and the division of spoils. Need I say more?

Back to the present, we are dealing with an uncle and his nephew, who appear to be acting on behalf of the rest of the family. Both have their own notaires -- do you get a feeling of family harmony here? -- and both notaires have hired their own liquidateur-judicière. The l-js are dealing with the debt (back taxes and mortgages) and the judge.

One of the l-js, probably, asked for the most recent hearing before the judge. The judge ruled favourably and the release was sent by one of the l-js to our notaire. But not the other. ("He agrees, he agrees," say our notaire and estate agent, "The paper is only a formality." A formality, without which, we cannot sign the contract.

Earlier this week, I called our notaire and the estate agent and said that the following day was the last day we could cancel the contract, so I was going to. We couldn't take the chance that everything would be postponed indefinitely. Cutting to the result:

We have a letter from the uncle and his nephew saying that we can move in as of Wednesday of this week. And that, if the signing date gets postponed for whatever reason, we are still the buyers and we get the house.

And the second l-j has sent through the paperwork.

So we're moving. Over the next two weeks.


Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Complete & Utter. . .

waste of time and diesel for a 3-hour round trip.

I saw the oncologist. I am to have another set of blood tests and another CT scan on 11 May. With those results, she will make a decision about treatment when I see her again on the 14th.

I had questions. None of the answers seemed liked answers to me. I'm starting to feel like one of those people I usually yell at for not getting enough information. It's really hard when the doctors don't understand that you want it all. Or think you won't understand. Or that you'll be demoralised. Or whatever.

Where's the cancer now? Restricted to my abdomen. But spread about -- besides bladder and intestines? In my abdomen.

Chemo: If nothing has changed since the last scan, chemo will be put off. However, I can't expect the cancer to "behave" itself, so when it reactivates, chemo will start again.

Whether it's active or not, wouldn't chemo still act to reduce the tumours and, therefore, be a good thing? No. Why? I cannot get a satisfactory answer to this or else I am being dense, but the answer just seems to be no.

The visit could have been put off until the 14th, it seems to me.

My pain is gone, but have I mentioned that my fingernails are peeling away from the finger?


Sunday, 26 April 2009


If I haven't blogged or emailed, it may be because I'm don't feel like it. You know: tired or sick or grumpy or nothing to say, or any combination of thereof.

Today it happens to be sick. I have those pains, again, that last time led me to Emergency, thinking I had appendicitis. This time the pain is in my side and I have medicine left over from last time, so that's all right.

This was boring, right? That's why I don't blog or email when I'm not up to snuff.

Tomorrow I see the oncologist. Then I may have something to say.

Monday, 20 April 2009


Terry Kidder wrote a book called House. I recommend it. I think I'll be able to write my own soon. Mine will be about buying, instead of building. Buying from drunks. (Word gets around in small places.)

You will recall that, back in February, the owners of our prospective demeure, finally sobered up enough to send the papers required by the juge d'instruction, so that the house could be cleared for sale. And the judge ruled. And sent papers to us. The house could be sold and the sale was to be completed within three months. Deadline: May 10.

Still trying to get an actual date for signing, I telephoned the notaire a couple of weeks ago. There seemed to be a holdup; the judge wants to hold another hearing. None of the notaires and lawyers involved know what the problem is, but they suspect it's about the succession. The current owners inherited the house, along with its debts, and succession is complicated in France. Maybe the judge just found out it's complicated.

The hearing was set for May 6. This is the same judge that set the sale deadline for May 10. It took a week for said notaires and lawyers to get in touch with the judge (the judiciary in France is so independent, it doesn't have to talk to anyone), but they did succeed in getting the hearing re-set to April 27.

If the outcome of the hearing (whatever it is about) is favourable, the judge will then send more papers. If the papers arrive by May 1 (they won't; it's a public holiday), we should be set to sign on the 11th.

If the outcome of the hearing (whatever it is about) is favourable, the owners have said we can move our furniture in at the beginning of May. But not us. They have a house we can rent, though. Excuse me, while I go clear the steam from my ears.

If the outcome is not favourable, I don't want to think about it.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Books, Dogs, Television & Staples

I got through a book a day in the hospital -- the up side -- including an audio book the first day when my eyes wouldn't focus, and I was too sick to turn pages, anyway.

Endangered Species is really about murder and Loggerhead turtles, but has a nice riff on dog love: You can't control other people or their emotions. You can't make people love you. But dogs love you all the time; hence, their attraction. Pretty good analysis for a cat person. Later, there was a crack about Pit Bulls, but I figure it's an old book and she knows better now.

Before I was a dog owner, I was a cat person (still am) and I considered slavering love a sign of wimpishness -- on both our parts, the dog and the owner. I found it took less than 24 hours of unstinting love from Io Jima, my first Chow, to change my mind.

I watched a little television: the news in English, sport in German and rubbish in French. One afternoon I came across a health talk program entitled The Internet is Not Your GP (in French). Bwahahahaha! How to make your doctor hate you.

My staples came out this morning. Hooray, I can shower.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Hubris & Nemesis

Hospital food. I shouldn't have bragged. The clinic has a new cook. Cuisiner (cook) in French. A chef is the boss. Chef de cuisine is the boss cook. O.K., probably a new chef de cuisine. Actually, probably an outside service. I am avoiding the issue. The food was terrible!

Good news. I didn't get to eat for 4 days.

Bad news. I didn't get to eat for 4 days.

The doctor kept asking if I'd burped. I kept saying "No." After four days I realised he meant gas at either end. (Last August, I remembered, he'd asked me if I'd farted. Someone must have told him the English find the word offensive.) They were waiting for a gas eruption before feeding me. So I lived on broth until I had sense enough to tell him I'd passed gas.

Then I got a little more to eat. A "cheese" course. A slice of packaged cheese so rubbery that you could bend it in two without its breaking. Tasted like a pencil eraser.

Eventually, the dietician came around and asked if I'd had a bowel movement (Vous avez fait des selles?). Even my pronunciation of "Oui" must arouse doubts about my understanding because she repeated it in baby talk (Vous avez fait kaka?). Like I understand baby talk better. The answer was still, "Oui."

So I got dessert, my first fruit. Compote. It's sort of an apple sauce, sometimes flavoured with other fruit, which only makes it worse. It comes in a little container like a one-person jelly tin. It's awful and I didn't eat it. However, if they'd wanted me to make kaka, why had I not had a vegetable since I'd entered the hospital?

The last night I got my tray and, under the plate cover, was green! "Vegetables? For me?" I asked. The serveuse had no sense of humour. I was desperate; I ate half: overcooked, watery, unseasoned courgettes (zucchini). Yuck.

The good news: I lost 2 kilos, but that includes the fat and tumours lifted from my stomach, an event no more gross than the meals I was eating. Or not.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The American Patient

Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts and even your jokes.

And thank you to my blogger replacement who has done sterling work, as always. (I married him, didn't I?)

On March 31, we arrived at the hospital reasonably on time and were promptly seated in front of an in-take person. Good. She immediately got a telephone call, evidently from a friend. Bad. After 5 minutes, I was muttering to Nick. After 8, I interrupted her to ask, loudly, if someone was available to take care of us. She hung up. (Credit where due, many others would have continued nattering.)

She had no record that I was being admitted. She had no file. She had no private room. That's when I exploded. It was a loud explosion. (Poor Nick; he does put up with some stuff. I have never been able to get the hang of the stiff upper lip, mustn't complain, let's find a queue and join it attitude.) It got loud enough to have the entire waiting room's attention and, better, a supervisor. We sat down with the supervisor.

Gosh, my file was exactly where I'd said I'd left it (on the surgical floor). And, son-of-a-gun if there wasn't a private room for me, too. Breathe in, breathe out. Lower voice.

I was scheduled for surgery at 10:30 the following morning. Priority, even! And yes, Jane, the cute orderly was there to take me to surgery, again. That's all I remember. Boy, that anaesthetic works fast.

Woke up in less pain than last time, probably due to the extra drip and the extra pump. The rest of the stay went pretty much as usual, except that my platelets were low, so they had to give me a different kind of anti-coagulant that required 2 shots a day, rather than 1. Picture of right leg. Left leg is the same with bigger bruises.

Normally, I have to continue the anti-coagulants when I come home, but my platelets are too low.

Platelets are what make the blood clot, right? Why was I getting anti-coagulants at all? Anyone?

Between my inability to formulate questions until after rounds, and the surgeon's "you don't ask; we don't tell" policy, it took until this morning for me to get the report straight. Maybe. The tumors on the ovaries seem to be connected to other tumors on the bladder and intestine. Or the tumors on the ovaries are also connected to the bladder and intestine. One way or another, they couldn't take them out.

But -- get this -- he did drain my abdomen and remove some fat that came with the cancer (?) and had tumors in it. Liposuction -- the hard way.

I will be going back into chemo, probably with a change of drugs or protocol and we will try, again. Appointment with the oncolgist is scheduled for April 27.

This stay was good for lots of blog material. More to come.

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Sunday, 5 April 2009


Success the computer worked in off-line mode. Today Margot was able to read all your messages and sends a big thank you to you all. Except, of course, for Bluefilly's comment that made her laugh and was not good for the stomach muscles :-)

She was even able to put up with a little discomfort and sit on the side of the bed without drip tubes to do it. Although later she had to a pain killing infusion to calm things down a bit.

That's about it for news, just slow progress.


Saturday, 4 April 2009

Waiting to come home.

Yes, Joleen, Margot told me how much she is ready to come home but she is going to have to hang on a while. She is still attached to a few drips and has a rather sore stomach. Other than all that she is still in good spirits.

I tried again to give her a working computer with all you messages and failed again. Tomorrow will be third time lucky or I will print them out!

Love to all, Nick

Thursday, 2 April 2009

After all that ...

Damn, after all that, they were still not able to take all the tumors out. Some are still attached to other organs like the intestines and could not be touched. However there were others in fatty tissue that they did remove which is good news. So, they say, it is back to more chemotherapy in a month or so.

Margot is holding up well and fortunately appears to be in less discomfort from the op. than the last time. Which is more good news.

I tried to pass on all your messages in detail, in off-line mode, on the portable computer but it didn't work. I will try again on my next visit.

Margot says hello to everyone.


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Day 1 update

Margot is out of surgery and the nurse says she is OK. I got about three words out of Margot before she dropped of to sleep again and she sounded good although her voice was very scratchy. For a full report we have to wait for the surgeon's visit tomorrow.

Thank you everyone for your messages.