Friday, 23 October 2009

The Opium Den

For the past couple of days I've been feeling rotten, again. Do I have a cold? (Arghghghgh! Will I miss my chemo?) Do I have SAD? It's been raining and raining and raining and raining and raining and. . . (Nick says only 3 days.) I took to bed. Sulking.

Today Nick figured out the problem. For a couple of weeks now, I've not needed my top-up morphine -- not enough pain -- but I've been taking the 20 mg slow-release pills, anyway. A few days ago I ran out and they require a special prescription. Not only do I need a special prescription, my doctors can't get it together about who gives me what, so I haven't been taking any morphine at all. Withdrawal symptoms, anyone? Never let the hospital tell you you're on too small a dose to have a problem. I got a new supply yesterday and started on halves about an hour ago. Hello world.

Saw the urologist. He went on about my kidneys (which are still O.K.) I said my major problem was my bladder and the infection. That may be your major problem, he said, but my major problem is your kidneys. The look on his face was both horrifying and priceless when I told him how long I'd had the catheter and it hadn't been changed. And it wasn't working, anyway. So it's out!!!! I have these little self-service units called intermittent catheters which I don't seem to need much. Mine's the green model.

When the urologist sent me upstairs to get the Rx from the oncologist, we had a longish wait in the waiting room. The lunch trolley came by and they asked if I wanted to eat. "Oh, I'm not here for treatment," I said, "just for a consultatation." But there was a tray with my name on it (they must not have realised it's my off week), so Nick and I had salad, veal steak, buttered macaroni, goat's cheese, bread and peach compote for lunch. LOL!!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

A Dog Blog

I am really tired of cutting up the "dogs'" food in cat-sized portions. Starting this week, they're getting whole pieces -- or, in Van-Ly's case, halves. But today she goes on wholes. Nala ate a whole pork chop last night, uncut! (She's Reformed.) After having carried over a chicken meal the day before, Van-Ly ate her pork chop in halves. A mighty improvement. And she's only 5 years old. :-)

Nala, by the way, is dancing around like a, uh, um, a dog! Walkies! Food! I think this is because she found out I either can't add or my memory is shot. We got her when Van-Ly was one, not at the same time. Van-Ly is only 5. Ergo, Nala is not 12, but 11. Hey, I'd dance, too, if someone wanted to take 7 years off my age.

She had to go out in the middle of the night a few days ago. She woke me up and stood at the back door. When I let her out, she went to the back of the courtyard and I went back to bed for a few minutes. When I got up to let her back in she came down from the garden. You may find this boring, but Nala doesn't do back door. Hey, she understands night! (I don't do walkies at night.)

Still holding up under chemo. Lunch was lousy this week. Well, it wasn't lousy; it was choucroute -- sauerkraut and hotdog and bacon and (skip the ham). I love sauerkraut, but can't eat it on my low residue diet. Maybe I should tell the hospital about my diet.

Going to Lyon Monday afternoon and staying the night with friends. On Tuesday, we're meeting Nick's sister, Jane, and their mother, Avril, for lunch, after Avril's eye appointment. Then we're returning home Tuesday night with Avril. Such nice hosts: we're taking the dogs.

I have just given out our first trick-or-treat treat in the 17 years we've been here. You remember the kid across the street?

Have a nice Halloween.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

I'm blogging, I'm blogging

Well first, I forgot to tell you about the human fly.

During my last treatment, I noticed a guy standing on the balcony of an adjacent wing of the hospital. Another guy was standing on the balcony around the corner. Then he stopped standing and started climbing. I asked the nurse if this was normal. She said they're working on the new wing, which the oncology unit is moving into in the spring.

Current unit looks all right to me, but I lived for 13 years with English hospitals: Victorian, haven't been cleaned since, light bulbs not replaced, trash unbagged and piled in corners, food delivered down the corridors in tractor-type vehicles -- that have been driven OUTSIDE. I am not making this up.

My legs are going down quite nicely. My feet no longer look like baloons, my legs no longer look exactly like they came from a piano stool, but I still have these golf balls on my ankles. Rats!

Saw the Lyon oncologist on Monday. He was happy with the progress I reported, too. A 5-hour drive for a 10-minute consultation. We decided that the catheter may have to come out as it isn't working very well, anyway, but I don't see the urologist until the 21st. Meanwhile it's Big Girl Panties!!

I also have an infection around the catheter; the microbe is proteus. I looked it up, but it's a bit complicated and I haven't had the time to read. Another test tomorrow and a course of antibiotics, I believe. The Valence oncologist actually telephoned and left a message on the answering machine. They talk to me!

One of the things I've been doing is translating the menu for the hotel/restaurant. When I offered, the owner looked slightly offended, but when I told her she was giving away the napkins and tablecloth with the starter (No, not making this up), she thought she'd avail herself of my services.

We got free drinks out of it yesterday evening. "Do you think we should order a second round and pay for it to be polite"? I asked Nick. We did. That one came free, too. So I bought a magazine. The bar is also the local magazine shop.

For the first time since we've been in France, I have bought a couple of new clothes in advance of the changing season and the advance in my weight. Today I bought a purple knit poncho. I've never worn a poncho in my life. Fat clothes. Here's one of my latest outfits: wide-leg trousers to hide the catheter bag; loose tops to hide stomach. Never been so stylish in my life. The point is, though, I don't mind autumn arriving as much as I usually do.

Read slowly. Nick's brother, John (John B. as opposed to John P., sister Sarah's husband) and his wife, Carole, arrive tomorrow from Spain, so I may be even more behind than usual. They're great houseguests and I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Chemo and More WAGs

And I forgot to say:

  • The swelling in my feet and legs has diminished slightly. You'd have to be living with it to notice.
  • I lost two kgs. Not easy when you're eating an entire package of madelines a day.
So I told this to the doctor and she said, "Glad to hear it," and wrote it down. Of course, she might have been writing, "This woman is a complete nutter" -- I couldn't see -- but she seemed happy.

Slight nausea at end of chemo, treated with an anti-nausea drug. No nausea today.

Lunch was salad, pork roast, mashed potatoes, soft gruyère (packaged, I'm sorry to say), apple and pineapple sauce. I had to stick around an extra half hour in order not to miss it.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

How Well Do I Know My Body? (Graphic-ish)+

We've already noted that one of the first casualties of my cancer was shame, so I thought to evaluate my current condition -- on my blog, so I couldn't take it back.

I am having a good week. I feel human for the first time since, maybe, June. Here are some of the things I've noted that I can check out tomorrow when I go for chemo.
  • I've stopped sleeping ALL the time.
  • I've made lunch (full meal) twice this week.
  • I've fed the dogs twice (maybe 3 times) my very self.
  • I've walked the dogs (with Nick) twice (maybe 3 times).
  • I've gone back to house planning -- working out the lighting for the terrace and garden.
  • I've gone back to finishing the bathroom. Working on a shower curtain system. And sewing.
  • The catheter is moving. Well, it moves frequently; I can tell because of the different discomfort and a very minor amount of blood. But this time I think it's descending. That means it passage is widening enough to let it slip. This is good news and bad news. Bad news: slippage makes for more leakage. Good news: urethra has less pressure on it.
  • I have had a normal bowel movement three days in a row, for the first time since I can remember, but certainly before June. (This is the no shame part.) That would mean (to me) the my intestine is less constricted.
I find it hard to believe that one chemo treatment has done this much, but tomorrow I might be able to get some information, pro or con, on my thesis.

Saturday, 3 October 2009


In French villages, it is the custom to air bedding and such before remaking the beds in the morning. Our neighbour across the road:

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Friday, 2 October 2009

Chemo Starts Again -- New Plan

Wednesday was chemo and look at this: my own Personalised Care Sheet. It's filled out on Both Sides. Not only did the oncologist tell me (write me) which medicines I'm having, but what they do and what side effects might occur.

I'm getting Taxol (side effect: no hair) and Avastan (side effect: no capillaries). (Remarks simplified for literary effect.)

Taxol is chemeotherapy. Avastan is a medicine. I don't know what the difference is. Anyway, treatment is 3 weeks on, 1 week off. I started with 1 1/2 hours of therapy which will be reduced week by week to 1/2 an hour. Plus the cleansings and anti-nausea stuff. Whew! No more all day at the hospital.

Instead of all the nurses treating all the patients so I never learn their names, I had my own nurse. This one is Sylvia. I think. Sigh.

Lunch was good. Real cheese in a container, not plastic-wrapped industrial stuff.

I finally found something to talk to the psychologist about, so I asked to have my day changed. She/he/it doesn't come in on Wednesday. I'm still pissed off with the other hospital and lack of care. It has occurred to me that if I can get answers from the doctors about any deterioration or lack thereof in my condition, I won't really need the psychologist, but I might as well start somewhere. I think it makes them unhappy when you tell them you don't have any problems.

No nausea, no nothing. Went to market and lunch at a friend's house on Thursday. Cooked lunch for volunteer workers (on our house) on Friday, and had a 5-hour nap. Today, the little market in Rémuzat and voting against the privitisation of the post office. Why does the government want to privatise an efficient service which also makes a profit?

Life is a vast improvement.