Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Just when I think I've had enough of the news...

My local newspaper, the Times Colonist, ran this item today:

Naked man taken to hospital

A man who had been walking naked around Rock Bay was taken to hospital by police.

Officers who responded Monday after a complaint found the man "completely naked except for moments when a concerned woman citizen was able to place a towel around parts of him," said the Victoria police operations blog. When the officers asked why he was naked "the man responded by asking why they were walking around in clothes," the blog said.

"Unable to reconcile this philosophical paradox the officers conveyed the man to hospital for a mental health assessment."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Can Someone Please Explain to Me...?

What are the (presumably Chinese-language) spamming comments all about? I'm wondering if perhaps a few seemingly idle blogs are singled out for clandestine communication. Could it be criminal? Political?

Monday, April 05, 2010


I love COSTCO...I love it enough to foolishly linger over the name, highlighting the letters all the while smiling adoringly...

Costco kept me going when there was little I could enjoy. I had something over fifteen months of intensive cancer treatment - chemotherapy, hospitalizations, radiation, surgery, more chemotherapy. It wasn't much fun, but throughout the ordeal there was Costco. We went twice a week, usually every Monday and Friday. Monday is when the new 'sales' start and I often buy a small amount of whatever interests me and then decide during the week whether to really stock up on Friday. I missed only one of my regular Costco days - the Friday after my Thursday surgery. I actually thought about going but caution prevailed; it would have been quite embarrassing to start hemorrhaging or something... But I was back shopping the following Monday!

There's a lady who runs a floral kiosk there...I remember her hustling over to help me lift down a heavy detergent bottle. I hadn't asked for help but I suppose I looked like I needed it. Then there's a lady named Christine who works behind the customer service counter (I must write the company to tell them about her). When we figured I was almost dead I wanted to change all the accounts over to Peter's name. I've always handled all the paperwork and details in the past so most accounts were in my name. I had an ongoing problem with our Costco American Express card and busy though she was, Christine took it upon herself to take over the telephone when I announced "I give up, I haven't the strength to deal with this". I love Costco and I love their staff!

Now all of this is leading somewhere... My daughter Martha came up with the idea: "Mum, you've got to plan something fun to do when all this is over!" First I decided it would be a trip down to Los Angeles to visit her, then I had my inspiration! It's going to be the "Great West Coast Costco Tour", culminating in a visit with my daughter. I'm busy printing out a list of all the Costco's between Victoria and L.A. and I seriously hope to hit them all. "Hit" as in "shop there" not rob them.... We're leaving early next month.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kimmy's Meme

It's been so long since I last posted... I got out of the habit and nothing seemed interesting enough to merit publication, even in this medium. After wrestling with the Grim Reaper for so long everything else looks pretty trivial. Still, life goes on and each day is really a patchwork of trivialities. Kimmy - sweet Kimmy - put up this meme on her page and I think it will mark my return to blogging. She titles it "Strange Questions". Here it is, with my answers (Go to Kimmy's page for her answers) :

What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now? I don't really know or care (bet you don't either!) Something...we do use soap...

Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator? Not yet. It's too early in the season for watermelon, but we will have it!

What would you change about your living room? Not much. I like my living room. It's quite comfy.

Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty? Always dirty. If they're clean, they're outa there.

What is in your fridge? Two fridges - one in the kitchen, the other in the pantry. About twelve litres of skim milk, cream, three dozen omega 3 eggs, butter, mango juice, Romaine lettuce, broccoli, carrots, onion, mushrooms, a wide variety of cheeses, coffee, V8 juice, soda pop, pickles, olives, salad dressing, sauerkraut....a lot of other stuff....Tiramisu cheesecake!

White or wheat bread? We don't eat much bread, but I prefer white.

What is on top of your refrigerator? Two large binders. One has plastic sheets that I slip appliance booklets and directions into. The other is divided into sections with headings such as "Paint", that section containing labels for the various colours of paint used in our house and the formulation so that they can be repeated.

What color or design is on your shower curtain? One shower has a glass door, the other has a yellow curtain with mauve and pink floral trim.

How many plants are in your home? I'm not going to attempt to count them. Far too many for a normal person. They're everywhere. I counted twenty-three in the living area (some are taller than me). I'm trying to remember...maybe ten or twelve in my bedroom...

Is your bed made right now? Yes.

Comet or Soft Scrub? Bleach.

Is your closet organized? Fair. My spices are in alphabetical order! I recently amused myself mightily by adding a second set of labels to my spices. Cinnamon now has the label "Botulin", Cloves is "Ground Glass", Garlic Salt "Giardia", Ginger is labelled "Arsenic", etc. I suppose I am quite juvenile.

Can you describe your flashlight? A big rechargeable one on a stand, a standard D-cell and a wind-up one with a radio for emergencies. (We do live in earthquake country.)

Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home? China. Tea is my beverage of choice.

Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now? No.

If you have a garage, is it cluttered? Very messy. But messy with a lot of good stuff.

Curtains or blinds? Blinds, and some seaside windows left uncovered.

How many pillows do you sleep with? Three

Do you sleep with any lights on at night? No, but various electronic gizmos keep the room bathed in a Christmas-y glow. I'm particularly fond of the red light projecting the time onto the ceiling above my head. Then there's a blue light from a little vacuum cleaner in the corner, an orange one on the television, a nightlight glowing in the bathroom.... Heck, YES, I sleep with lights on at night!

How often do you vacuum? Sporadically. When the dust is thick enough to notice.

Standard toothbrush or electric? Standard.

What color is your toothbrush? One's red, the other blue. I use whichever is dry.

Do you have a welcome mat on your front porch? Yes. I used to have one that said "Get Lost!" This meme is making me examine my childishness....

What is in your oven right now? Grease and ash. It needs cleaning.

Is there anything under your bed? Maybe the Toe Catchers...

Chore you hate doing the most? Tax returns. I foolishly got myself into that muck a few years ago when I complained about the mistakes made by our tax preparer. I do a good job and that's the problem. I find it quite worrisome because I want to do a perfect job.

What retro items are in your home? Many things from my husband's grandparents' home because we live on the property they lived and died on. Peter's grandfather's eyeglasses - quaint round ones in a worn black case - are sitting on the grandfather's old bookshelf. That bookshelf has glass doors and is filled with interesting old books (classics, many art books, etc.) Actually generations of household possessions are blended here, mostly ordinary things with only sentimental value.

Do you have a separate room that you use as an office? Yes.

How many mirrors are in your home? I'm not sure.

What color are your walls? Chocolate ice-cream brown downstairs, cream and woodsy green upstairs. Pantry and ensuite a lovely pale yellow.

Do you keep any kind of protection weapons in your home? Quite a number, but they're hobby items really. The most dangerous item is the ornery old bag at the top of the stairs (me).

What does your home smell like right now? Lilacs.

Favorite candle scent? I don't like scented candles.

What kind of pickles (if any) are in your refrigerator right now? Dills and gherkins. And twelve litres of garlic-stuffed green olives in the pantry. I really like garlic-stuffed olives....

What color is your favorite Bible? Red, a giant tome with four side-by-side translations.

Ever been on your roof? No. I don't want to. But I'd do it if I had to.

Do you own a stereo? Yes.

How many TVs do you have? There are six in the house, four are mine (One in the kitchen, for following the news; one in the living room; one in the computer room; and one in my bedroom). I don't watch tv much at all either - mostly just news now. Peter and Jon have tv's in their rooms too.

How many house phones? Six.

Do you have a housekeeper? Just me.

What style do you decorate in? Not much. I used to describe it as "British India". It's more like a British men's club look. Dark. Dark wood, leather, a herd of ceramic elephants, a jungle of plants and the occasional spot of bright colour.

Do you like solid colors in furniture or prints? I like lots of things.

Is there a smoke detector in your home? Yes.

In case of fire, what are the items in your house which you’d grab if you only could make one quick trip? An unfinished painting that hangs above our living room mantel. It was a collaborative effort of Peter's grandparents. Margaret (Grandma) did most of the painting I believe and Gus (Grandpa) posed for the figures. It's a picture of Romulus and Remus defending the gates of Rome. Not precisely my taste, but there are two figures who look exactly like my son Jon. The picture has a sad history - it was set aside, unfinished, when Gus died prematurely. We tried to find a suitable frame for it but couldn't, so even that remains unfinished. Still we love it. I've also put a plan in place to rescue pictures. When we had new bookshelves installed I had them put in drawers underneath. There are twelve drawers, eight of which are packed full of photo albums going back generations. The family has a standing order to get the painting above the mantel first, then pull out as many drawers as they can and take albums out by the drawer-ful.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Wrapping up

It was fun, but I'm glad it's (mostly) over. As I expected, my too-pale Irish skin didn't tolerate the radiation well. I'm so glad that I shunned all reading matter relating to treatment (I do love surprises!) I would have been pretty worried had I known in advance that the state of my skin after the twenty-fifth 'zap' was only the beginning. The burn continues for another ten days to two weeks after treatment. I'd already been sent for nursing advice before treatment was complete because my skin was starting to bubble. (Not a technical term, 'bubble' is my own description of early blistering). A few days after my twenty-fifth treatment the radiation department called to ask how I was doing. "I'm miserable!" They suggested I go in to see their nurse again. She took one look and said "Holy moley!" (technical term). She brought in two doctors who looked quite subdued then presented prescriptions for more massive doses of antibiotics. It did look pretty gruesome -- bright red of course, oozing serum, black in some places and one pointy bit burned right off. I got some great pictures but decency prohibits posting them!

She's a lovely nurse, Beverly -- probably ten years younger than I am, but after visiting her a number of times I got to thinking of her as "Mom" for all her tender ministrations. One day a chemo nurse I knew wandered into the nursing station while "Mom" was soaking my burns. Calay, the chemo nurse, came over to have a look and Mom said "Ill tell you, when I first saw it, I GULPED! It was all red, like this (pointing to a still-dark area) and oozing."

The burn got better. The skin texture remains rather like heavy brown paper.

Next up was surgery. I seriously considered passing on that, thinking I'd endured a full year of torture already and now I was going to top it all off with mutilation?! I told "Mom" I might back out on it. She waggled her finger andf said "Now, you're going to have that surgery." I told dear Dr. Karimuddin I might not be showing up for the party and he said that if I didn't he'd keep calling me back to his office until he'd convinced me. "Surgery is still the best chance of effecting a cure."

I'm not really easily led. Had I decided not to proceed, no one would have been able to change my mind. (Actually, my mother considered me a very determined, obstinate person... ) At least I've also got a dollop of common sense and I listen to good advice. So I showed up for the surgery. That was a little different from what I had observed over the years. It strikes me that a mastectomy used to be considered a "big deal". Now it's treated almost as an outpatient procedure. You do your own pre-surgical scrub, once in the evening before surgery and again the morning of surgery. For me, admission was 11 a.m. and surgery about 1 p.m. They kept me overnight and I was dischaged at 9 a.m. the next day.

I was worried about having a general anaesthetic after the awful reaction I'd had to the bronchoscopy drugs (remember, I coughed out the I.V. and they had to replace it at least twice). I think I suffered real brain damage then; my memory was gone for months and suddenly I was an addled old lady. Fortunately the synapses seem to have reconnected, but heading into surgery I was concerned. The anaesthetist came to my bedside to introduce himself. Dr. Fard. A very pleasant, fine looking young man with cafe au lait skin and milk chocolate eyes. And you know what I was thinking? The night before I'd been talking with my daughter on Skype and she'd made a vague comment about anaesthesia. She didn't say much but my mind was back at work and I picked up on what she was thinking. She was thinking about those horror stories we've heard of people who are only half-drugged during surgery, paralyzed so they're helpless, but still able to feel every cut. So, when Dr. Fard introduced himself, I thought "Dr. Fard, I need to remember that name in case I have to kill him." The poor dear man! I'm sure I wouldn't really have killed him! Maybe knee-capped him...

They wheeled me into surgery and introduced three nurses. One of them came over to do the mother role, holding my hand. Dr. Fard put a mouthpiece on my chest. "Take three deep breaths" he said, walking away and peeking back over his right shoulder. If it had been a trick, it wouldn't have worked == he looked too darned shifty! I inhaled once through the mouthpiece, twice, then a third time. Third time, I thought "Whoa!", looked up to the ceiling, thinking "that's powerful stuff!" It was probably quite a laughable scene because looking up to the ceiling obviously was quickly followed by my eyes rolling back in my head as I lost consciousness.

Anyway, I woke up from surgery and one of my first thoughts was "Dr. Fard. brain damage."

Minor glitches: I still have numb fingers and toes, a lingering side-effect from chemo. I've lost two nails from my feet and four more are definitely packing to leave.

They forgot to give me the painkiller prescription that Dr. Karimuddin had left for me, so I used Tylenol and Advil for post-surgical pain. I probably suffered a little more than I should have. (Doesn't matter.)

They told me my dressings would be fine left alone until my post-surgical visit with the doctor. The appointment was delayed and the doctor's office insisted it was still no problem leaving the dressings untouched. It was a problem. Apparently I'd been bound too tightly after surgery and there's some skin damage. I've also got some odd looking little folds. I don't know if they'll eventually disappear. I hope I'm not looking at future corrective surgery. Ah well, I'll worry about that later.

The wound still isn't healed. That's to be expected when surgery follows radiation. When I saw the radiation oncologist he said he wanted me to go back in four months because if I'm not healed by then there are "things we can do". Whoopee. But, never mind, it's all good.

Ten days after surgery I went to see Dr. Karimuddin. The pathology results still weren't back. Peter and I went to Costco then came home for tea. As we were sitting down, the 'phone rang. Peter picked it up and told me "It's Shri, from Dr. Karimuddin's office."

I went over "Hello, Shri".

"Actually, it's Ahmer, Ahmer Karimuddin....I couldn't wait to call you! Can you put your 'phone on speaker? The lab results just came in. They couldn't believe them at first, so they repeated all the tests. They didn't find a single cancer cell! This is the best possible outcome!"

I can't help but feel a little nervous about believing this, but I do. Dr. Bernstein called a couple of days later with the same news and the same 'take' on the report. And Dr. Alexander, the radiation oncologist, came into the examining room saying "I was so happy reading your file! We don't get many like that."

I remember saying to Dr. Bernstein once "I don't believe in illness". She responded, "Well you should, you've had plenty of it!" I don't know, ignorance seems to work for me!


Friday, May 01, 2009

Glow-in-the-Dark Susan

That's me lying on the radiation table. (My arm really isn't as 'meaty' as it looks!) . The facility has five of these machines and each one treats between fifteen and twenty patients every day, five days a week.

I've had fourteen of the planned twenty-five 'zaps'. Actually, so far it's been fine. The system is very well run (Amazingly, this is one of the few times I'd be hard-pressed to suggest any improvements.) Appointments are seldom delayed and the people are capable and invariably upbeat. I haven't experienced any negative side-effects yet, but I've been told I can pretty much drop in any time for advice or prescription needs.

The major chemotherapy is done now and I've progressed to a 'maintenance' schedule. I had a somewhat difficult time with the second four-part series of chemo. My white blood count went down to dangerous levels after the first treatment with Docetaxel and Herceptin. I was admitted to hospital and dosed with Neupogen to rebuild the blood and I.V. antibiotics every eight hours to protect against infection. All very nice, but I don't want to go back there any time soon.

They reduced the dosage on the Docetaxel for the next treatment and ordered subcutaneous Neupogen injections for seven days after each subsequent chemo treatment. I was supposed to give the shots to myself but my neighbour Rose did most of them for me. When Rose went out of town for a few days I finally 'screwed my courage to the sticking place' and did the injections myself. It wasn't too bad. I developed a rash though....and by 'rash', I mean RASH. Funny, I told Rose that my face looked like a baboon's bottom. "No it doesn't!" Rose said, and all the while the silly grin on her face was saying "You're right! You're right! It does look like a baboon's bottom!" It was ugly alright, but not disabling and my family still loved me, so 'no big whup'.

The circulation in my hands and feet was affected too and that's a problem. My fingers and toes are still numb (I'm told this could last a year.) The nails of feet and hands look pretty disgusting and although they haven't fallen out yet, it remains a possibility.

They reduced the Docetaxel dosage to 75% for the third treatment. The rash got much worse. My face and hands were bright red and my eyes were red and watery. The doctor thought it might be an escalating allergic reaction. I was warned that the next treatment might do irreparable harm, that I might be permanently unable to fully close my eyes. They didn't seem too anxious to continue, suggesting there were alternatives we might explore. Ignorance is bliss -- I told them I was prepared to take my chances. We carried on and the final Docetaxal treatment didn't do much more damage. I did, however, develop another annoying side-effect. This one was so alarming that I kept my mouth firmly shut about it; I didn't want anyone jumping to the conclusion that cancer had spread to my brain. Every waking moment for at least two weeks I heard music! It started out with an endless loop of Nancy Sinatra singing "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'", then it switched over to a very bad bit of music with even worse lyrics. If I concentrated I could switch it over to either The Star Spangled Banner or O Canada for a little variety. Thank goodness that's over!

I'm still on chemo - IV Herceptin now, every three weeks - and having radiation treatments five days a week for five weeks. My face is back to normal, my hands are still a little 'stained' (looks like a wide-spread birthmark). After radiation I think they said they'd give me a month to recover and then surgery in early July. Ugh. I'm scared about that -- thinking of hitchhiking to Whitehorse instead....

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Long Time No See...

So....I'm alive. I'm actually feeling quite well. I've had a bit of difficulty, but things seem to be improving. I was scheduled for eight rounds of chemotherapy, spaced at three week intervals. So far I've had seven. The first four treatments were with Doxorubicin and Cyclophosphamide. I had an unexpected reaction, the doctor saying "That's not a side-effect with these drugs". I don't blame the doctor - everyone's unique and I guess I'm no exception... I spoke up right away, telling them that I felt I had 'swollen like an over-ripe tomato'. (How can I say this delicately? I can't. ) I experienced pretty severe internal and external fissures and suffered quietly for close to four months before I cried in public. Then they finally believed me!! I must say, I was amazed by the reaction. I'm not a crier, so it really took me by surprise. Talk about TLC! It was almost embarrassing, the attention I got. They called a specialist who came from his office to meet me at 'Emergency' within the hour. The nicest man! Love him. His name is Dr. Ahmer Karimuddin - young enough to be my son, but absolutely confidence-inspiring. Anyway, God bless him, his parents, his brothers and sisters and his descendants for all time. He diagnosed my problem and put a treatment plan in place that helped immediately. After that meeting things were definitely looking up....until...

The fourth through eighth chemo treatments are with Docetaxel and Trastuzumab. They're the ones with the side effects. The doctor cautiously started me on a seventy-five percent dose. They seemed to be expecting the worst because they had adrenaline, etc. loaded and ready to go when they started the I.V. I was fine - none of the reactions they were looking for. Seven days later, though, I obediently phoned the on-call emergency oncologist, as instructed, because my temperature had spiked. My white blood count was "dangerously low" - down from a normal 4.0 , below an acceptable 1.0, to .02. They admitted me to hospital and put me on intravenous antibiotics every eight hours (to combat any possible infections) combined with daily Neupogen injections to stimulate the bone marrow to produce white blood cells. It wasn't a horrible experience, but it wasn't pure joy either. A hospital's no place for sick people. And the food is disgusting!

I recovered nicely from all that. And I'm pretty good right now. My dear little neighbour, Rose, is a nurse and she volunteered to come over after chemo treatments six, seven, and eight to give me Neupogen injections on post-chemo days four through ten. It sounds gruesome (in the stomach), but actually it's not bad at all. It seems tummy flesh is nearly senseless. At least mine is!! The Neupogen causes some aches and pains (so far easily handled with Ibuprofen). The pain to the pocket-book is something else, but I'm lucky there too with our excellent medical coverage.

There's more scary stuff to come. I'm nervous about radiation. There'll be twenty-five treatments I think, five-days a week for five weeks. I'm warned that my phosphorescent Irish skin makes blistering a distinct possibility. Then radical surgery. And a lung biopsy via my throat.... Doesn't sound like a lot of fun, but "Yard by yard, life is hard...inch by inch, it's a cinch". I'll probably get through this o.k. I have wonderful support.

I'll tell you some nice stories soon, but tonight I'll just show you my arm! It doesn't really look so bad in the picture, does it? The larger bruise is from the latest chemo i.v. The big scratch is from rose pruning (I'm not to go near roses anymore, warned that I could get blood poisoning at this stage.). The mark near the elbow crease is the remains of an improperly sterilised hospital i.v. and the small red spot in the middle is a piece of flesh removed by the clothes dryer (I have no idea how that happened!)