Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Fun Day at the Hospital

No, really.

My first roommate of the day was a woman who has been undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer for eight years . She has had 6 operations. She had all those things removed that I talked about a couple of weeks ago: bladder, intestine, anus, etc. But she doesn't have pouches. Her primary care is at a specialist research clinic in Lyon and she says the excision is temporary and then they put something back. I do believe I read something on the internet about that, but didn't understand it.

I almost fell out of bed when she told me she was 70. She looks 50. And, like me, she says she doesn't get colds or otherwise sick. (One of the nurses mentioned this phenomenon to me a few months ago.) "In fact," she says, channelling me, "if it weren't for the cancer, I'd be really healthy."

What more encouragement could I ask for?

I picked up my blood results on the way to the hospital. Good thing, because they were faxed to the wrong number. Anyway, I have platelets. Lots of platelets. More platelets than I've had since last summer.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Les Volets Bleus

or: The Blue Shutters.

Blue is the traditional colour for shutters in Provence. And, in the old days, farm carts, too. These days shutters come in every colour under the sun.

However, blue isn't my favourite colour, so for months -- literally -- we discussed colours. We first thought a natural wood tint, but then we'd see colours that we liked, then we'd think wood, then. . . we never could come to a decision. Eventually, we settled on navy blue. Tres chic on stone.

Navy blue, though, only comes as paint. I prefer staining (and treating) to painting. The stain/treatment applies easily enough that even your local Jewish American Princess can come up with a good result. Also it's softer against old buildings than paint. Lasts longer, too. And it now comes in colours.

When we finally went to buy the stain the darkest blue we could find was Blue Jean. We tried it and decided it looked good, personal preferences aside. So that's how we chose our colour: by default. (Would there be a market for a system called Default Decorating, I wonder?)

Tradition says that blue shutters keep the flies away, something that we foreigners think is kinda cute, but probably in a category with planting with the new moon and other tales from the paysans.

Funny thing, though. The paysans' gardens do better than ours. And I've actually just figured out about the blue.

The first light bulb went off when we went canoeing a couple of weeks ago. When I took off my flashy aqua tights (also known as ski underwear) and laid them on the ground, they were immediately covered with butterflies. Later, when I was staining the shutters and planning on telling you about keeping the flies away, I could hardly keep my paint brush ahead of the flies. So much for that theory.

But, no! That's the thing. The blue doesn't repel flies; it attracts them. And keeps them out of your house. Aha!

Remember this?


I'm not crazy about the blue screen door, though. It may have to revert to a normal wood stain.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Dog on a Hot Tile Roof

Here's my little athlete.

Did I ever tell you about the time we thought she was kidnapped because she went into the stand of bamboo and couldn't get out?

Monday, 22 June 2009

No Chemo Today

I spent so much time running around to doctors last week, I forgot to get my blood tests on Friday. So this morning I had to sit around the hospital for almost 3 hours to wait for their lab to process this morning's take.

Never did get the white cell counts. My platelets have reached a high of 78 (normal is 150 to 450) which, while better than 5, is not good enough for chemo.

Next try is next Tuesday.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Day of the Triff. . . Transfusion

Since we had done all the shopping the previous day, Nick stayed home to work and I took the taxi to the hospital. The nurses were laughing that the driver called me Margot, as opposed to Mme. Bentley. "I've know him since he was eleven," I said.

The 11-year-old is now an ambulance driver, on the town council, head of the Youth Committee and various other things. Good thing I know longer mind being old. But I digress. . .

Another digression: the Bentley is because when we were issued with new health cards, mine was 6 or 8 months in arriving. When it had Nick's name on it, I was afraid to send it back for fear it would never show up, again. So I'm Bentley to the health system and my newer doctors.

Anyway, Stephane picked me up at 6:45. The boulangerie wasn't open, yet, and I had a yen for a croissant all the way to the hospital. The instant I entered the building, my stomach turned. Nevertheless, when the dietician came around to see what I wanted for lunch (whee! You get a choice if you arrive at 8), I gave her the order. At lunch time, I could barely look at the tray. I said I'd try the dessert because sometimes sweet things go down better. It did, but she'd left the tray and I could smell the food. So I reparied to the bathroom to decide if I was going to throw up or not. Not; I controlled myself.

This food thing is just so ridiculous. I know it's psychological and still I can't eat. I could barely eat when I came home. Except sweet things, so it's not even as if it's doing my weight any good. Maybe if I knew what it psychological about.

I came out of the bathroom, saw the dietician in the hall and she took the tray away. I opened the window for a little air. Then I scratched an itch on my right arm. Mosquito bite. During the day? Tough mosquito. Then I found another bite on the left side of my waist. Then one on my stomach. Then my back itched.

The light dawned and I called the nurse. Apparently, although I didn't have one last time, allergic reactions to transfusions are not uncommon. Whatever they gave me gave instant relief and also put me to sleep, again. I'd slept all morning, waiting for the platelets to arrive. I am not a natural early riser.

I saw Dr. Séreiné and discussed my other doctor visits with her. Funny, she also had that same odd look on her face as Dr. Leriche when I said I'd been canoeing.

Finally, Stephane came to get me and I came home and slept for another four hours.

When I was leaving and reaching for my purse and medical records on the floor next to the bed, I hit my head on the table. But I have platelets now, so I didn't die.

Lotta Cooks in this Broth

Don't you just hate it when your doctor is trying to reach you and can't? New GP, Dr. Leriche, was trying to reach me all weekend, but our phone wasn't ringing (now fixed) and he didn't leave a number. (He does seem a bit odd.) He even called the garage across the street.

By the time I got the messages, it was too late to really worry, so yesterday I called and went to see him. He had my blood results from Friday. Everything is off and platelets stand at 5. It's true that I'm covered with enough bruises to get Nick jailed for life (doctor's little joke), but I wasn't actually bleeding, so I didn't think it was that serious.

His face was a picture when I told him I'd been canoeing. "But you could hit your head and then it would be bleeding internally like your legs and you'd die"! Well, thanks for that hindsight. So glad I'm here for it.

He wanted me to go immediately for the transfusion, but I already had an appointment with the new surgeon and I said I'd go this morning. I always win these arguments, so Nick and I went to Avignon for shopping and then Carpentras to the doctor.

What a hunk! Perfect for Dr. Sériené, the now-divorced, former Dr. Litor. Perhaps I'll find out if he, Dr. Kanor, is married.

If I wanted the straight story, this was the place. My cancer is Stage 3c. I pretty much knew that, but I prefer the professional opinion. Internet research has its limits.

As for operating, that would be a last-ditch effort. He would have to remove not only the ovaries and uterus, but the bladder and anus as well. Then you get two pouches. He has several patients rolling along, merrily or not, seven years after this procedure, which is encouraging, if not especially attractive.

Would it restrict my life very much, I wondered. Well, he said, he had a footballer patient with a pouch (or two) playing at national level. I said I didn't really aspire to that. You know, a little jogging, a little cycling, a little canoeing. . .

I asked if he thought clinical trial would be appropriate and he said he would present my case to the interdisciplinary board next Tuesday. ("Like ours," Dr. Séreiné said when I told her. She didn't seem mad.) He wants to see my next "control" (checkup) scan after another chemo session or two.

Nick and I left, truth be told, a bit overwhelmed by a lot of information that is necessary to face, but still comes hard. But this morning I felt a lot better after I had digested the fact that this last resort. Chemo is still the way to go to control the cancer.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look to me too under control at the moment, blood tests being all over the place. My CA-125 is over 1100. I thought that was up from 358, but Dr. Litor said today that my last test, which apparently no one gave me, was at 1000, so that's O.K. She said I need a second treatment before a decision can be made on the protocol, and I am already scheduled for next Monday.

Here's the state of play. I've had the transfusion (more about that tomorrow). Dr. Kantor is going to call Dr. Latil, my current surgeon ("Not a bad surgeon, you know," said Dr. K.) Dr. Sérieiné is going to call Dr. Kantor. I assume they'll find a good story for me and tell me about it later.

You wouldn't think there would be a positive side to all this, would you? Well, there is. The other day I realised that I have finally stopped worrying about getting old and wrinkled. Bring it on!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Moving & Clearing & Playing

We moved. We began clearing up. This week I will try to get pictures of the state of play.

New doctor is very up on ovarian cancer because his mother had it. I haven't got up the nerve, yet, to ask if she's still alive. At any rate, he wants me to have another opinion at a bigger hospital. Tomorrow I have an appointment with a professor/surgeon/oncologist.

Nick has started with a new physio. She seems to be pretty good.

The neighbours are wonderful.

New doctor says I can go out in the sun, so yesterday we went canoeing on the Drôme. I was as in the sun as I can ever get. Like the tights? Skiing underwear.

Last year, the girls had to meet boys on the river. This year they brought their own: schoolmates. We started with 9 canoes. By the time we'd met more schoolmates on the river, we returned to base with between 22 & 24. It was hard to count.

We'd have pictures of the afternoon, but the camera got wet. So did we.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Nala is Home

Shaved for the sonagram. Shaved on her paws for blood tests and perfusions (the first one fell out). But happy. And eating.

They tested her this afternoon with an "aperatif" and she ate it, so they said she could eat tonight. And she did. The vet (the one I like was there) approved her menu of overcooked rice and chicken breast. Let's hear it for Dogaware.com.

The thing is the blood work, the sonagram and the x-ray all indicate pancreatitis, but the only symptom she has is/was not eating. She's only lost 2 kilos and that will help with her elbows, so I won't worry. Anyway, we're going with the pancreatitis diet and I'll call the vet Monday with the results.

Fortunately, my new computer, the equivalent of my old computer, was half the price of the old one. We spent the other almost half on Nala, but getting away with under 400€ for the sonagram and a 2-day hospital stay wasn't bad. Good thing, we're going for a cheaper kitchen.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Nala, Nala, Nala - Free Dog

Nala hasn't eaten since Saturday morning, so we went to the vet. He did a blood panel and the counts that are out of whack point to pancreatitis, but she hasn't been throwing up or doing the other things that would entail. So, we went back this afternoon for a sonagram. There is liquid in her stomach and a lot of fat. The fat is white and thick and prevented the vet from seeing her pancreas very well. He did see a little nodule somewhere, but it didn't seem to indicate much. He also couldn't find her spleen.

Opting for the conservative course, we left her there for an x-ray, and infusion and 48 hours of observation. If she improves within the next couple of weeks, which presumes that she starts eating, we go with pancreatitis. I will now have to review all those Raw-Lite posts that I previously ignored about a pancreatitis diet. If she doesn't improve, we do exploratory surgery to see if there is an obstruction or the nodule means anything.

Here's the good news: So far, it doesn't seem like cancer and someone once loved her enough to have her spleen removed. Her whole life has not been bad.

Tonight we have opera tickets for the first time in 2 or 3 years. Watching Lucia slaughter her new husband and the wedding party will probably take my mind off Nala.

Correction: She only slaughtered the husband, but it was bloody enough for the kids in the audience.