Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Faits Divers

Faits divers = This & that; In brief

Actually, the weather is perfectly lousy, but I live in hope.

I am not allergic to my cats. I am allergic to chemo: runny nose, leaking eyes. If only I had stock in Kleenex.

I've started up my book blog, again. (See sidebar) I missed it.

Blood tests have never bothered me; they're just a pin prick. About three weeks ago, I had one that hurt. I blamed the nurse. Then, the following weeks they hurt, too, and I've been bleeding more. This week I yelped. A year and half of constant pin pricks has taken its toll. However, the hospital staff tell me that the patch that I don't wear prior to chemo to deaden the pain (because it doesn't hurt) will work on my arms. We shall see when I have the scan.

* * *

O.K., I've had the scan. Patch worked like a charm; I didn't feel a thing. I am slowly learning to read the scanner reports, but even with a dictionary, I don't really have the education for this. Anyway, results as I interpret them:

Tumour on the ovaries is is pretty much unchanged.

The pulmonary (?) microtumours, which the reports seem to mention as the mood takes them and don't seem to worry the doctors (so I haven't mentioned them, either) are still, or again, there.

The small tumour on my liver, which no one has mentioned before, but I see reported for the first time last May, has shrunk.

I swear the last time the oncologist told me there was nothing but the tumour on the ovaries, so I have to ask, again. The radiologist said he thought I'd be going back for chemo, but I have an appointment with the oncologist in Lyon on April 19th. He will decide.

I also visited my GP last night to refill my regular prescription. She asked how I was walking and I said, "Badly." Evidently, this is also the Taxol. She said I should practice walking properly to stimulate the nerves in my feet. She thought walking in sand would be good. So I told her we were going to Spain. She thought it was a joke.

But it isn't! We leave on Monday and will be gone until the 16th when we'll return to repack and go to Lyon overnight on the 18th.

Our friends near Benidorm are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary today with a party in England. On the 10th they are having another "small" party in Spain. (They bought out the restaurant.) The 10th happens to be our 28th anniversary (everyone in England gets married in April for tax reasons), so we're going to the party.

Nick's brother and sister-in-law are joining us for a few days, too. And we intend to stop in Figueres for two nights and see the Dali museum on the way down. On the way back, we're going to spend a couple of nights in the nice little hotel in pretty little Sant Feliu de G├╣ixols just for the hell of it.

We are taking the dogs. The neighbours will put up with the cats.

Happy Holidays! Talk to you at the end of the month.

Saturday, 20 March 2010


Our village sewage system is being brought up to European standard.  New drainage, which has the added benefit of new pavements (sidewalks). Don't ask where the old drainage went, but note that France is full of rivers.

We've been pleased at the timing because we have to do the plumbing, anyway, with separate pipes for used water and rain water.  (Our neighbour says, "Poof!  I'm not doing that."  He will, though; they can check.) 

Yesterday the workers and the mayor stopped by and pointed out that the current kitchen is in the middle of the house, between the two new sets of plumbing and has its own outlet.  We can re-do it or pay a double water bill.  Whoops!

So Nick is busy digging up the living room floor (packed earth) and drilling through two 2-foot stone walls to connect the kitchen plumbing with the new bit.  I'm locked in the bedroom with the cats.

Today, when I came back into the bedroom after lunch, saying, "O.K. cats, let's go," Nala got up and followed me.  I know that Chows are cats and our friends know that Chows are cats, but I didn't know that Chows knew they are cats.

Here's how Polo and Nick got the rain water tank and the roll of pipe to the back of the house.  They rolled them up boards onto the trailer, drove the trailer up the hill to our neighbour's house in back of us and then rolled them down the hill, through the olive orchard, to the back of our property.  And didn't tell me, so I could get the camera.

In other news, my other big toenail came off yesterday.

Thursday, 18 March 2010


Chemo yesterday.  The doctor looked at my hands and feet and asked if they bleed occasionally.  Bleed?  They can get worse?  She lowered my Taxol dose by 25%.

The sun came out on Sunday -- and stayed.  The Mistral is not blowing.  It's not warm, but it's not frigid, either.  So today, leaving the hospital, instead of head retracted like a turtle against the cold and wind, I was walking tall, eyes forward.  And saw myself in a full-length glass building.

Omigod!  I'm going to have to stop whispering endearments  such as "Tubby Tum" and Pudjin (a Yiddishism for pudding) to the animals before they start whispering back.

When the doctor examined me, I asked her if the tumour felt smaller.  Yes, she thought so, "but," she said, it's a little hard to tell with all the weight I've put on.

I think maybe we should find a mirror and put it on the wall. In the meantime, I'll just go eat a doughnut and cheer myself up.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The Dangers of Diagnosis by Internet

I don't have Hand-Foot Syndrome. What I have is Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN). Which I also found on the internet. I guess a name which has to be reduced to initials is as chic as a syndrome.

I decided to join a cancer bulletin board, crossing my fingers that it wouldn't be too depressing. It ought to be, but it seems more educational. Your signature is supposed to include your first name, age, location and condition. Me, I just write "ovarian cancer," but some of these women have lists of conditions and complications. I would find that very discouraging.

One of the women who has suffered the same side effects as I sent me references to a bunch of medical studies. There have been trials of drugs, vitamins and even accupuncture to help with CIPN. Turns out there are some things that can lessen the severity, but only as prevention. Nothing seems to work once you are in full red/rash/peeling mode.

I noticed that heat or massage -- even just rubbing in creams -- makes my feet and hands go redder and itchier, like a histamine reaction. So I've gone back to my antihistimines for a couple of days. I don't want to rush into saying they help, but yesterday I couldn't walk and today I can.

Toes crossed.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Reading the Right Amount

I have decided to read less. Not less, really, but slower, so, inevitably, this does mean fewer books. The impetus for my first Resolution since 1978 (when I gave up self-improvement) is a . . . book: The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry.

If you don't know Stephen Fry, first of all you aren't English, but second of all he's an actor, writer, director, poet, comedian and probably other stuff.

I thought his book would help me learn to like poetry, but it turns out to be a book on how to write poetry. That's all right; you usually like things better if you know the rules.

Fry starts by insisting the you read s-l-o-w-l-y. This is a formidable obstacle to poetry reading as far as I am concerned. I don't have time to read slowly. I don't read fast, but I read as fast as I can. There are so many books in the world and I'm having trouble getting to them all.

Reading all the books that one sees puts great pressure on a person, like counting the number of books read per year -- which, you will remember I've stopped doing. Well, you'll remember if you used to read my book blog.

But Fry has given me the idea that I'm doing it wrong. What's the point of reading if you're missing stuff because you're in a rush to get to the next book?

So, read less.

This will be harder than not counting. Part of counting included reviewing and that was work. I can always give up work.

I may keep you posted.

Friday, 5 March 2010


I knew there was something else.

While researching Hand-Foot Syndrome, there was a Google link to Avastin. Why, I don't know, but Avastin is the drug I get at the same time as the chemo.

So I clicked and came across a WSJ article, probably a press release, about Avastin's effect on ovarian cancer.

Nice one, Roche!

And: My treatment came to 24,000€ last year (is that all?), of which we paid 1,000€.

I Have a Syndrome

First, my energised period didn't last a whole long time. Maybe half a day. Which is just as well since my feet have reached the point where I don't want to walk unless it's a matter of life and death. Or the bathroom.

And to think that only a couple of days have elapsed since I took the dogs for a long walk. That's Palmar-Plantar Erythrodysesthesia (PPE) for you. More familiarly known as Hand-Foot Syndrome. It has affected my feet and ankles and the tops and sides of my hands (not the palms, as indicated by what I've read so far). Evidently, ice does not help prevent it when using Taxol.

Following Wednesday's treatment, my right heel hurt so much, I can barely walk. I guess that I won't be going against the treatment advice and jogging.