Saturday, November 12, 2011

The waiting room at la materinité

This is the waiting room at HUG, La Maternité where my oncologist is. She said I was doing well, gave me nine PT treatments, and said she'd see me in February. I then saw Dr. L. my radiologist who said I didn't need to see him again unless I needed him. I then went off to Zurich and my belly dancing lesson.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Breast brushings and other parts of my day

“Es it haf you eated or eaten?” The woman about to draw my blood wanted an English lesion along with the blood. She gave the best needle I’ve ever had… “Regardez-vous les montains. Take a breath, let it out.” I never felt the needle go in. When I told her how good she was, she pumped her arms and said “Oui.” Her brother-in-law is from “Breeten.” We both loved each others accents.

Back to the waiting room, where an elderly Greek woman, raised in Alexandria and now living in Geneva and I chatted.S he’d worked at the hospital for 36 years and was there to check her markers for ovarian cancer. We both agreed how lucky we were to be treated there.
Then Dr. Klug appeared. He was the one who had shocked me with and without my left hand in ice water for a pain test. He had a follow up survey and needed to do a brief exam which involved running first a tiny paint brush and the point of a safety pin over my cancer scar. Sounds kinda perverted doesn’t it. He was surprised I remembered his Van Gogh (and I made sure I said it Gawk no Go) poster and mouse pad.

I asked him how the study was going and he said the data was way off all the literature. The patients were experiencing very little pain and now they needed to know why.
Finally I got to see De El H, for the last time because she’s returning to Morocco. All was normal in all tests and the anti cancer pill has caused no side effects.

I’m doctor free inshallah until Nov. 7 for a control.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I've started

It has been a week that I've been taking the anti-hormone medication prescribed for the next five years to discourage any cells that might think a hormone is yummy and want to become a renegade.

I wasn't happy about taking another medication. I don't trust any pharmaceutical company, but my doctor did know the studies and did know that other countries has approved it beside the corrupt FDA. My gynie also liked it and he goes natural whenever he can. As he said, try it and see.

I can happily report my arms have not fallen off yet, I'm not hiding under my bed with depression. So far so good.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Celebration Day

My last nuking and not only did I get a ride, but in a Mercedes wit the top down.

I gave the chocolates to the team, along with a note in French thanking them for making a difficult time less difficult. It was true, there smiles, their short conversations, did make from nice memories. In a way I'll miss them, as one would miss people who come into your life for a short, intense time.

FH said to be sure and stop by when I have my controls.

When I stopped at the bank, I told my favourite teller, the one who has her nails done in exotic designs, that it was a Jour de Celebration and why. She immediately found a present, a black bag, with a silver pocketbook holder to attach to tables.

Then my driver, who was a friend of a friend really, but with a lovely sense of humour to a point we giggle coming and going, had a token gift for me.

It's over...27 nukings, six appointments with the radiologist. I get these precocious hours back to do other things.

The cancer?

Well just in case, I start with the golden globules, the pills I'm to take daily for five years? Why? The cost and once again I'm so grateful for the Swiss system.

Adding up my costs for all the surgeries,t h bills, the tests and the exams, they are so tiny in comparison what I would have been charged in the US.

Truly a celebration day.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Good news

I met with the doctor about the Thermographie IN ENGLISH!

Among other things he gave me a copy of them. All but my right breast is shown in colours resembling the earth shot from space. My right breast adds hot lava to the picture.

"Not to worry," he says. "That is consistent with the radiotherapie. However, it gives us a good baseline when we redo it in the next six months and in the future.

This doctor was probably in his sixties, grey haired with a smile that went all the way from his chin into his hairline. He recommended certain diet and anti-cancer books. Then he said, "I see you are a writer." We talked about my books.

His family is multi-lingual: English, French, Italian.

I'm relieved that things are okay now and we've a plan to make sure they are okay in the future.


1, ein, uno, une, one nuking to go.

But what will I do in place of Needed Nuke Naps?

Adjust, baby adjust.

Monday, July 25, 2011

3 nukings to go

And instrumental music was playing during my treatment today.

Afterwards I met with the radiologist for the last time until November. When I told him about the hotspots on the thermographie, he stated that it was most likely the radiated area. Immediately he picked up his pencil and started drawing cells that have been zapped and giving me a talk on DNA especially when the radiation only hits half the cell and the other lives. As he explained it, the other half is wounded and even if it splits its children aren't able to live long enough to do much damage.

I do not have a problem tearing these cancer families apart.

It was part of the last rendez-vous to explain reconstruction possibilities and once again I pointed out that the scar is a memory much like my wrinkles, part of the experience of my life. If they'd taken my breast I might feel differently--or not.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A bit bizzarre

I saw the doctor today at Hug as she gave me the prescription for the anti-cancer medicine, which I will take.

I did my usual questions and she assured me that it was approved by agencies in France, Switzerland etc. not relying only on the U.S. studies. She may think I'm crazy to have no faith in anything from the FDA.

I told her about the thermographie and she'd never heard of it. I'm not sure if it is a language problem or not. I see the thermographer.

Meanwhile my right breast was zapped concentratedly over the scar. Another five of those.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Artistic doctors/a bit scarey

The titles are not the same.

My radiologist drew a lovely rectangle on my breast for the last six treatments directly over the scar. Today, FH, my favourite technicians painted it even more. He revealed he is indeed a painter and we talked about his work.

Now the scarey part. Having had long conversations with a former boyfriend, now a doctor and not being sold on Tamoxifin to control future growth I went to my regular gynie. He uses both conventional and non conventional medicines. He agreed with some of what my former boyfriend said, but also touted the benefits of using the Tamoxifin just in case, a try it for a while approach.

He also suggested he do a thermograph of my breasts to make sure nothing else much was there. The doctor who does them from Toulouse who knows where I can play golf cheap did it. There was some heat showing, which is not good. It does mean its cancer, but it means it needs to be watched. Shit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A red rectangle

The red wheel barrow by William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

My red haiku
The doctor's red pen
draws a rectangle with care
covering the scar

No, he's not a pervert, it is for a change of location for my last nukings. I can see the end.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Getting As in health

Friday I had several medical tests beginning at 8:15 which meant catching a bus no later than 7:20. Yuck.

The tests, although ordered by the hospital, were at L’Imagerie, the same place that they discovered the cancer.

I have the type A personality that feels I need to get an A in medical tests the same way I did in school.

The first exam was a lung X-Ray. The young woman was friendly as she put me in a position against a white panel. I passed Lung101. An A in clean lungs.

Then came the sonar. Dr. B. was a woman in her 40s, with thick black hair. She greased me and ran her sonar stick telling me to breath deeply.

“Why?” I asked, not that I was going to refuse.

“It pushes certain organs down so I can see them,” she replied.

I was able to see my organs on her monitor, but for the life of me all it looked like was a pen and ink drawing of waves. However she gave me an A in clean organs.

My bones were then scanned. Only a B+ or A-…Two little spots of osteoporosis one on my hip and one in the lumbar area just like two years ago.

Finally they did another scan and I have no idea what for. They strapped me to the table and I imagined waterboarding. Instead for 40 minutes this machine examined something. I fell asleep. Afterwards the doctor said, I had no problems. Another A.

Having to kill time before getting nuked it seemed only sensible to go to the Laughing Tea pot in the Vieille Ville, drink a pot of the tea of the month that contained sunflower petals and eat a scone. I can get an A in scone eating too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

to Tamoxifin or not to tamoxifin

The accent was thick and then he switched to English. Then I recognized that it was my gynie, who had just received my dossier from HUG. I had gone through my internist not him, not for any other reason than I want 90 percent of my records with my internist.

My gynie had a couple of concerns…that he had upset me and that he couldn’t have helped me though this.

I was about to make an appointment with him any way because he practices both regular medicine but he also considers nutrition and other issues and I’ve lots of questions on Tamoxifin, which I am supposed to take for the next five years.

Having been anti HRT I’m not sure I want to mess up my body with another medication. This was emphasized when I was Skyping with an old boyfriend, now a doctor in Florida who is anti this type of treatment. Although he has not seen my files he does know no lymph nodes were involved.

I admit I have no faith in any medicine approved by the FDA in the last 15 years. There have been too many fudged tests. And then the pharmaceutical companies pay for those studies. An employee at ISO once said they would give ISO 9000 approval to led life jackets if the jackets met the criteria set by the manufacturer.

Long gone are the days when thalomide was kept out of the American marketplace by the FDA. And I know of all those young women who developed cervical cancer because their mothers when they were in danger of having a miscarriage had been given a certain medicine.

If Dr. J thinks this is the best treatment, I will go with it. If not, I won’t.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The nuking procedure

The entrance to be nuked.It is a bit apart from the main hospital.

There's always water and bread in the waiting room.

I can't always get the dressing room with the penguin on the door. The cardinal is pretty too.

The table has numbers on it which correspond to numbers on your body for alignment. My arms are over my head in the red thingies The big machine in the back moves around to one side, buzzes for between 14-17 seconds. When you look at it from the table is is like a donut with red blinking light. I do think of donuts then of blueberry muffins and finally bagels. They lower the table and I'm done. As I've said the whole procedure lasts about one song, bud sadly the last few "nukings" the music has been off or too low to hear.

Monday, July 11, 2011

11 to go

I took the bus today, but tomorrow I have my personal transport assistant as one of my friends calls herself. It is so much quicker and easier to be driven and I really appreciate the lovely people who have volunteered.

I don't ask, but I don't say no either.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

14 nukings to go

Two more down, 14 to go.

The team has changed, because the first team is on a three week holiday. They will be back before I’m finished. I miss the cute chubby grey-haired man who sneaks out for a smoke and the young kid with the crew cut who can’t stop smiling.

The first day the song is Bob Marley. The second day the music is too low to identify.
I see the doctor for the weekly measurement. I’ve lost a half centimetre in both arms. He is pleased and surprised that there is no “bronzage” reddening of the skin. He asks if my feather earrings are real feathers. I tell him I didn’t ask the provenance. He is extra smiley. I wonder if it is because I thank him in English, French, German and Arabic. Or maybe because he sees so many cases more serious than mine. I do still have the same sensation that I did in school. I have to pass the test.

After I leave the clinic on Monday I’m famished and energetic. I had planned an apple or yoghurt supper, but instead get off the bus near our favourite Japanese restaurant named after my long-gone dog Mikado. At 5 17:00 the place is almost empty, but there is still a good selection. I had planned to have only maki, but the tempora shrimp just hops onto my plate.

An old, old woman, stick-thin and a walker comes in. She is wearing nicely creased baby blue trousers and a perfectly ironed white blouse. A younger woman is with her—her daughter? The younger woman explains what each thing is and the older woman is excited about trying different things. “They are all good,” I tell her as I leave.

F. drives me on Tuesday and it is a good thing. The round trip, including a stop at the post takes less than an hour. Fatigue settled in. I got into my pjs and get into bed at 6 supposedly to read. I woke 15 hours later.

The only way I knew that the cat slept me was she left enough fur to prove her presence.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Three non nuke days in a row

I have three no nukes days ahead of me. I decided this would be a good time to get my hair cut and act like a human being that wasn't being nuked four times a week. Normalcy is getting my hair cut. My hairdresser also uses his salon as a gallery. This is the exhibition after a vernisage by an art school that were doing collages based on Klimt's work.

Changing Flags on the Quai Mont Blanc. All kinds of flags fly depending on events, but I never thought about how they were changed. Two men come along with a basket with the new flags, pull up the flagpoles straight, switch the flags, then bend the poles back over the water.

Who says the Swiss don't have a sense of humour? Just look at their new disposal units for plastic bottles?

And as a final treat I decided to eat at Little India, the best Indian restaurant I've found in Geneva if I don't include home cooked meals at my Indian friends. However half way through the meal, exhaustion hit. I did finish every bite made it home, staggered into bed where I slept as if my eyes were closed with super glue.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

No to 5:55

I don’t care how cute the grey-haired technician is, he couldn’t talk me into changing my 13:30 nuking for 7 a.m. As I explained to him I would have had to be in the bus stop at 5:55. However, I did show up an hour early for my 11th nuking, so they took me then.

He had a good reason. Five Wednesdays in a row they adjust and service the machine, which explains the nuking schedule of Mon-Tues, Thur-Fri. On the sixth week they give a grand service to the machine starting Thur. afternoon and all day Fri.

Thank goodness, yesterday Fiorella had given me a ride. Exhaustion hit big time and I slept from 23:00 to close to 11:00 this morning. I made it through, happy that I now have three nuke-free days ahead. I even treated myself to pasta pesto at Pasta Primo before coming home for a nice long nap.

The weather is perfect, low 20s with a light bise that produced whitecaps on the lake.
The only downer was that the song played today was too low to really hear. I wasn’t sure of the language or the singer.

16 to go.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Teen Angel

was the song for the 18th nuking.

17 to go.

A puddle

35° and I'm a puddle. Although I tend to be always cold, I can put on sweaters. When it gets hot like this I can only take off so much clothing to go out in public and it has nothing to do with the scar over my nipple but a lot to do with not wanting to gross people out with my aging body or being arrested for indecent exposure.

The cool of the treatment salon is more than welcome. It could have been a better day to have a longer appointment 2.1 songs (Cat Stevens (finishing as I entered), How Deep is Your Love and Cohen's Wild Rose). I wasn't nuked any longer, but they took a little longer in set up.

I'm one-third through. 17 more treatments to go.

The temperature is supposed to drop to the mid twenties on Wednesday. No predictions on the songs that will be played. I wonder if I could bring my own CD. Nuked to Garou???? possibly.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I have no reason to complain

Waiting to be nuked today was a young woman with a long black wig. I suspect she was not thirty. Her breasts were decidedly uneven. I have absolutely no reason to complain.

19 to go

It didn't seem fair to have a dentist appointment and to be nuked in the same day but that is how it worked out. I stopped at the post, and everywhere I looked on the walk down the hill were flowers. Now there are 19 sessions to go. The song that was playing I wish I could tell my stepmom, because she fell in love with Claude François when she visited, but I'm not sure she'd remember, and I haven't tried to break through the fog about the cancer.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Number 21 finished to the song "Personality." I wonder if I'll ever hear a French song. Treatment was a song long...which is a variation of the slang, "It was a song," for something simple.

This time the three technicians were men, and they noticed my miniature book earnings with real paper pages. I explained I was given them because I'm a writer. They wanted to know if my books were in French, and I said no. I'd given a copy of Running to the Puppet Master to my physiotherapist but she reads in English (also in French and Swedish)

My lovely housemate drove me this time, and a stop at a tearoom was necessary afterward.

20 to go. Unfortunately next week they are Mon-Fri.

My housemate is pushing me to call the coupe de feu, the healer by telephone as is the physio, and the nurses. There is a Swiss book of them, but my physiotherapist swears by her.

I will do it Monday. With the four straight appointments, maybe the burning they've warned about will start...or not and it will help. I am curious.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Big wheels keep on rolling

That song did not have time to finish during my nuking yeserday. Today House of the Rising Sun didn't have time to finish.

21 to go.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


They warned me I would feel tired with the radiation, but I didn't expect it to hit like it did.

I had my usual energy and then as if some threw a switch I was exhausted, barely able to stay awake. I obeyed and gave into it.

This morning I had to go to Nyon, so I dragged myself up the hill to the bus. Half way through my appointment, the switch was thrown and I was back to my usual energy level, but after getting home the switch was once again shut off. I needed a nap and woke normal (no comments please).

Will this be what it is like for the next five and a half weeks?

Mumble mumble mumble

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Overly imaginative

Whenever my daughter Llara was late and hadn't called, I always imagined the worse. She'd been raped on the Fenway, hit by a car. I planned funerals and scholarship funds only to have her appear within a few minutes. The few times she was gone longer was usually due to a misunderstanding, for she was extremely responsible knowing the dangers of an American city and her over-imaginative mom. (I also had to follow the house rule of calling if I were to be late, not always easy in those pre-cell phone days.

Thus when the doctor said I had a swelling over my clavicle, I imagined it was a new tumour. No matter that the area had been thoroughly examined before my surgery.

"Swollen gland from the radio," my physical therapist said, "Normal."

Monday, June 20, 2011

23 to go

This was my only morning radio and I was on the bus with all the school kids at 8:03. The kids fortunately vacated the bus at Bois Caran leaving the rest of the trip quiet and a seat for me. I have mixed feeling about being offered ornot offered a seat--do I look that old, thank you, and why don't you get up and give an old lady a place....

This time they had a little tube that they pasted to me for measurement.

And it was my weekly visit with the doctor who found a slight swelling over my clavicle. My arms were still normal.

He said he'd see me next week: Merci, Danke, Shukran, thank you...


Saturday, June 18, 2011

My breast really hurt today

I blamed the radiation...

I blamed the weight of the salt lamp I was carrying form the shop I bought it to COnfederation Centre where I watched Midnight In Paris.

Only later did I realise that the stay in my bra had worked its way out of the fabric and was poking me where the gland is.

Friday, June 17, 2011

24 to go

This time I got the Cardinal room, but more importantly I got them to exchange the one radio treatment scheduled for 7 a.m., which would be mean I would have to be out of the house at 6:45 to catch the bus to make it on time. One other is at nine and the rest around 4.

This time they pinned a little plastic tube to me.

It seems like everyday when I leave the heavens open up.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The penguin on the door

25 to go...

Each dressing room has a bird on the door. I have a penguin collection. Therefore the penguin door was my choice.

I arrived early, they could take me right away thus I was finished 25 minutes before my appointment, sorta like a time machine.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

26 radios to go

Julia drove me. Parked in Front. Stopped at coffee machine.

I checked in.

Took of my shirt.

Laid down on table.

Machine buzzed a few minutes

Put on my shirt

Gave me my schedule for the next 26 visits. I end on the 29th of July.

Talked with nurse who wanted to make sure I wasn't stressed.

Also had physio this morning. This is done preventatively... She gave me the number of the local coupe de feu. People you telephone and they heal any discomfort you may have. I know it sounds crazy but there are so many cases that it has worked. This isn't to kill any cancer cells but in case I feel any burning. So far no burning...Like it never happened at all.

I still feel like a fraud because there's so little problem. And there are people waiting for traitement that are really sick

Once again I was told I had a sense of humour. I honestly don't know what I said.

Off for Pizza with S&J.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Swedish connection

I went into my first physio with no pain and left with no pain. I think the idea is preventative. The therapist, who also treats my housemate, like everyone else I've met is truly professional.

She has a Swedish mother, as dos my internist as does the doctor who did the biopsy. I suppose a Swedish father-in-law, whom I only had met once and he more or less growled at me, is a connection. Thank goodness none of the professionals I've met growl. In fact, they are all a pleasure to know, although I would prefer to have met them over a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

IQ and cancer

A friend, who also has had cancer albeit it a different kind, sent a very interesting article on how treatment is changing.

It mentions smart and stupid cancers. They didn't say which breast cancer was. How do you do an IQ test for breast cancer? Can a smart breast cancer join Mensa?

Monday, June 6, 2011

sixes and sevens

I felt at sixes and sevens today, as my grandmother used to say when there was nothing unidentifiable wrong, just something seemed out of place.

Then I figured it out. I've admitted to being neurotically neat and the object was to get out of the house quickly. My housemate had an appointment with her therapist and I was going to go with her to meet the woman and to set up an appointment for my first physio.

The doctors want me have to nine treatments along with radio to reduce risk of my arm swelling, etc. I'm still sensitive in my upper right arm in the way one would be toward the end of a black and blue that one would be aware of if one pressed on it. I was told this was natural. It also makes sense not to press it.

Then on the walk back to the house I realized why I was at sixes and sevens. The cat had been on my bed as I was throwing on my clothes. The cat is a barometer. Had their been no chance of rain, she would be out making the garden safe from birds, mice and other living creatures.

I hadn't wanted to disturb her.

She was still asleep on the unmade bed when I came back.

I've beautiful new pillow slips and duvet cover in maroon and pink that match my colour scheme. The set was a gift from my housemate for Christmas. The only problem is the cat sheds white hair on the maroon. The solution was to lay the afghan I'd knitted from scrap yarn in a strip, the way I had seen a friend in Alexandria VA do.

The cat will sleep on that. If there were a hankie on top of the afghan she'd settle on that, and if there were a stamp on top of the hankie that would be where she would select.

I'm sure she's shedding on the afghan too. I just can't see it, leaving me neurotic need for neatness in the if I can't see it, it won't bother me category.

A few dirty feline looks were telegraphed my way as I disturbed to return my room to the order I like. When I finished she returned to the bed and fell asleep on the afghan.

And I have my first physio tomorrow with or without the cat on the bed.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Nice feeling

In arranging an apero with my housemate and mutual friend and family, it was a warm fuzzy feeling to read what my housemate wrote. She said that the 14th would work because she wanted to take me to my first radiation the next day so she knew she would be here.

Unlike my eye surgery when she took me probably because she thought I might run away, there is no danger of me not showing up. I want to start it to finish it.

And it is not that it is hard to get to. The E bus drops me at the 1 bus which drops me right near the radiation centre. And there are two other buses, the 8 and 27 just in case I don't like the 1.

She is just being a good friend.

This woman knows how to give support BIG TIME!!!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Starting the day with a giggle from a friend

Hi DL,
I highly recommend having your target tattoo eventually embellished to become either the Swiss Flag, an oval containing the letters CH, or a French fleur-de-lis. Ooo, maybe a quill and ink pot or a lap top and mouse? The ideas are endless!

Other ideas off the top of my head? Other suggestions welcomed.

A book
A Japanese Chin
A violet (my favorite flower)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A firm date

June 15th I start radio.

Meanwhile I've been scanned on my tummy (the board was a pretty pink) and on my back, have had red lines drawn on me and given four mini tattoos. Now I can't imagine ever getting one. Four points was enough.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Baring the breast

I was skyping with a friend in the states. "Let me see your scar," she said.

I angled my boob to be picked up by the webcam. When I was once again modest, it dawned on me that my door was open and number 2 son was in the house. Glad he didn't come in during my display.

Talking about the tattoo that I will get on my breast, my housemate offered to show me hers. Unfortunately, we couldn't distinguish it from a couple of freckles although she suspected it was the tiniest.

I've spent more time thinking and showing my breasts in the last few weeks than the last few years together.

I wasn't under arrest.

One wall of Dr. L’s small office is the same dusty rose as my bedroom in my Boston Riverway apartment.

He gives me the list of things that MIGHT happen during my 27 sessions of radiology four times each week probably beginning around June 10—yes I will get to Argelès sometime this summer:

Burned skin
Swelling of the right arm
Swelling of the breast (maybe the dent will be filled in)
A rising of the breast
A slight scarring of the lung

He shows me pictures of the machine that will zap any hidden or to-tiny-to-detect cancer cells and explains they might do it while I’m on my back or maybe on my stomach to use gravity. He has no photos of a woman on her stomach, but the one on her back smiles radiantly (okay I’m sorry) at the machine.

“We will give you a tattoo at the exact spot the machine will zap you,” he said.
Nurse Catherine, whose name is surrounded by lady bugs (lady birds for my Brit friends) and also cover her hospital shoes, tells me it is a pin point. I think it would be a great time to get a tiny rose or a book outline partially to shock my daughter. That is not among my choices.

At least it won’t be like the large blue crosses my mother had during her radiation treatments for cancer of the uvula.

Dr. V joins us. He speaks Franglais to me with the emphasis on the lais…

They have a wonderful X-ray picture of me on the computer shot from my head down before the surgery but after I was knocked out. I can see the bones in my arms, the tumour. The can rotate the photo so I have different views. I’m happy the tumour is no longer there.

Dr. L assures me that after I am through with the treatment I can have copies of the mammograms and other stuff. They are mine, but right now they need to keep them. I was not worried.

He asks permission to examine me. At one point he tells me to put my hands on my head.

“Am I under arrest I ask?”

He looks shocked then laughs while nurse Catherine giggles.
Tomorrow I’ve another appointment.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My last visit with Dr. M

My surgeon is going to America, San Fran--I have brought her a San Francisco guide book and she hugs me.

We discuss my recovery and she wants me to have nine sessions of physio.

Looking at her art work, she tells me she can recommend reconstruction. I really don't feel I need it. The scar is minor. The indentation is hidden under a bra. A cockeyed nipple has character. It is a memory, part of my life.

Dressed everything looks normal. I can forgo my annual appearance on the beach topless...or not.

There is a nurse at the appointment who wants to make sure that the information sources that I already have are marked to show which ones speak English. "It is harder to speak a foreign language on the phone," she tells me. I know. No hands or facial expressions to measure meaning. Still 90 percent of this whole thing has been in French. English would have been easier, but I wouldn't trade the language for a different service.

I am a lucky woman.

Drawings encore plus.

Dr. B draws three circles with tiny nipple-like circles inside.

"I only have two breasts," I say.

"Those are cancer cells." He adds a line, a barrier. He adds little x's bouncing off the barrier.

"That is the anti hormone treatment that will prevent any nourishment getting through to any remaining cells that are invisible to us."

He is another kindergartner (despite his baldness), although he was there 13 years ago when my housemate went through the same procedure only with chemo. He is also leaving the service to run another larger service. He gives me the name of his replacement that I will see in July.

He talks about only 2 of all the possible markers in my tumour were aggressive. He says even with that I could stop treatment at this point, but it is NOT his recommendation. It is such a far cry from the past when they took the breast, nodes, gave chemo, radiation and anti-hormone treatments. He say the success rates are about the same.

I will continue with radiation and pills.

He warns me with the pills that I could have hot flashes and become depressed and moody. I told him I would warn my housemate. He also said some of my joints might hurt in the morning. At 68 5/6 I still think it is worth it. He said with severe reactions, there were alternatives.

He will order more tests to get baselines to make sure that no other cells are anywhere in my body.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Yesterday was a wonderful day

I had lunch with Mighty Mom, a former neighbour, a great writer and mom, who now lives an ocean away but lucked out for a quick trip back to Geneva.

At night there was a surprise birthday party for another writer and spending the evening with nine creative, intelligent women is a gift.

One of my friends approached me. She told me of another acquaintance, a doctor doing some kind of research on people who had breast cancer. Would I be willing to talk to her.

Of course I would. I hope she calls.

For the last couple of weeks I could easily pretend there had been no cancer. Now on Monday I have two appointments and on Wednesday a third. They'll setup the radiation schedule. Pretend time is over. Back to reality.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Getting my hair trimmed

or not taking things for granted.

My hairdresser sometimes uses his salon as an art gallery. And his art gallery as a hair salon. Her gives great cuts and even better head massages.

My daughter never comes to Geneva without going to him.

My hairdresser and I is a great movie and theatre critic to keep my updated on what I must see, what I can give a miss to.

When I thought I needed chemo, I didn't book for a shaping because why pay the money if the hair was going to fall out.

he he he

No chemo. Jean-Pierre had a space for me today. My hair is shaped and it will rest attached to me.

Just one more reason to feel lucky.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sometimes my roots come through

I'm talking about the gray ones under my red hair.

I got a bill from HUG today, a thick envelope.

All I could think of was American insurance. I know I only pay 10% up to 7000CHF and then I'm fully covered, but the gulp factor was in full force.

I opened it. It was pages and pages of itemized stuff.

The total?

163 CHF

And on each page was stamped. NE PAYEZ PAS

No matter how serious my illness was it could not bankrupt me and I have had first class treatment.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A breast cancer patient role model

Lillian and my mother had been friends from secretarial school.

My mother read the Boston Herald, Lillian the Boston Globe.

Lillian was a Democrat, my mother was a Republican.

Lillian campaigned for the ERA and pro choice. If my mother were alive today, I’m sure she’d be in Sarah Palin’s corner.

Yet for decades their friendship was unshakable.

When my mother was in the hospital with throat cancer, Lillian visited.
“Doo-row-theee, soon we will be at Stage Neck Inn,” I remember her telling my mother in her accented voice during a hospital visit. The inn was a favourite haunt for both of them both for the Maine coastline and the excellent food. The visit was not to be. My mother never went anywhere if it involved bridges or tunnels, limiting destinations. Lillian loved hopping on planes for new adventures.

Lillian travelled to Ireland in her seventies, met a man in a pub, who raved about her hair and asked her to bed. She declined not for moral reasons, but she didn’t want him to discover she was wearing a wig.

In her mid-eighties Lillian developed breast cancer. This was in the nineties when treatment was far less advanced than today. Lillian took it in stride talking about it like she would a bad and annoying cold. I met up with her on a visit to the States during her last year. I would not see this remarkable woman who seized life another time. However, I can try and emulate in honour to her.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My first bra--another recovery step

For the first time today since the surgery I put on a bra.

I love pretty underwear. Even when I wear cotton, it is coloured and/or has gay patterns Other sets are more lacy. It makes me uncomfortable not to have my bra match my panties, but then I'm the woman who needs all her bluebirds lined up on her cups and bowls.

I wear pretty underwear because it makes em feel feminine, not in case I'm in an accident and end up in the hospital.

My grandmother, a very, very proper Victorian lady, asked after months of dating if my future husband ever kissed me and when I said yes without going into details that I knew would shock her, asked "On the mouth?"

She told me I should wear clean underwear in case I ran into Rock Hudson. Fortunately she did not live to find out the truth about him, although I'm not sure she would have understood gay. I always wondered what made her think if Rock Hudson came to our New England Yankee village, how and when he would see my underwear. And since she never went downtown without hat and gloves even in the early sixties, why such an idea popped into her head in the first place will remain one of life's mysteries.

Today I selected one of my softest bras, pink, green, white and yellow striped. It felt totally normal and not binding. The lace edge starts exactly where the scar ends. If I were to show Rock Hudson he would never know I had surgery.

I don't see a reincarnated Rock Hudson showing up in Corsier Port to inspect my underwear. To update it, there's another actor who has been in the Geneva area often... George Clooney. Now if showed up in Corsier Port pretty bra... It would probably keep him out of Switzerland for the rest of his life, his contract to do Nespresso publicity not withstanding.

His loss!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Meetings, rendez-vous

When I worked with Digital we almost had meetings to decide when we would have meetings.

I'm beginning to feel the same way about doctors appointments. The week of the 23rd is full of them: gynie, surgeon, radiologist butcher, baker, candlestick maker. The latest meeting notification came in the mail.

I like the tone of the letter: It says don't hesitate to bring someone close with you if you want. Hospital personnel must all have communication skills training.

When I went into emergency with one of my esophagus attacks, the admitting secretary asked, "Would you like to share your religion with me?" Even though I was in pain, and wasn't 100 percent sure I heard correctly, my supportive (this time physically as well as emotionally since it hurt to walk) verified yes, I did understand it correctly.

Another reason to be grateful for being where I am.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Showering Joy

In the book, Valley of the Dolls, which I read in my twenties, there is a woman character with breast cancer who kills herself rather than have her man see her disfigured because he so worshipped her breasts.

At the time weighing about ninety pounds, none of which were in my breast tissues, I thought it stupid. That if all he cared about were her breasts, than he didn’t care about her. And sadder still was the fact that so much of her identity was in her breasts. The essence of her was only her body, not her intelligence, not her personality, not the things she did. She was only a breast.

A few more decades of living has not changed my mind. My body is something I occupy, the physical form that other people use to recognize me and keep me separate from other people. And although I like to make it as attractive as possible, each year it is a little less so. I’m no longer a cute, adorable 20 year old. I may be holding my own at 68 but for a 98-year old, I look damned good.

Maybe I should like about my age in the other direction. Then people will say, "Isn't she remarkable for 85?"

My surgeon was not totally satisfied with the appearance of my right breast.

When I fully showered for the first time after the surgery, I had the first chance to closely examine the changes (I deliberately will not use the word damage).

Yes, there is a slight indentation. My nipple is tipped at a slightly jaunty angle. I suppose you could think of it as winking or saluting the other one.

I really don’t care. Maybe if I were 20 and man hunting I would.

Maybe not.

It certainly is not worth reliving my traumatic twenties. Once was enough: Been There, Learned the Wisdom, Got the T-shirt.

What I did concentrate on was that indescribably joyous shower. Between the two eye surgeries and the breast surgery, I’ve had a month of not being able to totally indulge in having hot water sooth my entire body at will. I almost danced under the water.


Nah, not a problem.

Friday, April 29, 2011


We find many reasons to celebrate at number 15, but last night was special. Bring out the champagne, foix gras and smoked salmon. With No. 2 son just back from Paris, housemate off to the mountains, and me chemo-safe it was a wonderful night.

I’ve been especially moved by No. 2 son, who not only visited me in the hospital the night before surgery, did a special drawing when I returned home welcoming me back, but told his mother that if she had to be away during the chemo (which I didn’t need--yes, yes, yes) he would have been there. He even knew that the question he would have to answer for any medical intervention would be my birthday and he wanted to make sure he had it right.

The birth date question was asked so often every time I get near the hospital that it has become a long mantra: juillet vingt-quatre, mille neuf cents quarante-deux. Even the handsome Italian taking up to surgery asked. I almost expect to have tell the parking meter where my housemate left the car near the hospital what my birth date is.

I was so excited yesterday about not needing chemo, I forgot to ask for the stitches they pulled out. The string was the most beautiful royal blue. I joked about wanting to colour co-ordinate to my clothes. The nurse and I agreed that it is too bad that the string only comes in one colour. I thought it would be nice to put it with all the drawings of my breast that I have in the folder I've been keeping with all the paper work.

I know I still need to go through the radiation but that is such a minor thing in comparison to what I thought it would be.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Today they took the stitches out and I met with the surgeon.

It was a 2 cm. stage 1 fast going towards stage 2, completely encapsulated tumour. My lymph nodes were pristine.

I will need radiation and a medical person will be coming to the house, yes, you read that right, will be coming to the house to help me set up the program and work through any questions I have.

There will be five years of a pill that will destroy anything that a new cancer might consider good to eat and thus grow.

Mammograms will be annual not bi annual.

This whole nightmare is almost over.

Tonight we celebrate.

Cancer care package

The box came right before I had to leave for a colonoscopie, a cheery way to start a less-than cheery day.The green customs form had a long list but I resisted reading it so I would be surprized. Some of the things inside:

Penguins: a card with a penguin smelling a flower, the DVD for Happy Feet, etc.
Mandalas: My friend could not have known how big a part of the Geneva Writers Group classes they have been.

Crayolas: No European crayons are this good. And I needed some of the names for something I’m writing not to mention doing the colouring of the things she sent.
Moisturizers: Things that make chemo go easier

My friend wrote she wished she could have sent herself. I imagined a tiny version of her that I ran under the faucet and her growing to life size so we could continue on our good times such as cookies and castles in Carcassonne or deer coming up to the car on Long Island.

Ours is unlikely friendship if you consider our political views (does each of us hold a secret desire to convert the other?), but our values are the same and our respect for the differences just makes our conversations all that more interesting.

We are a perfect example of agreeing to disagreeing and laughing about it.

We met for business reasons, had business dinners where we got the work issues out of the way as fast as we could so we could get onto the good stuff to talk about.

Visits back and forth strengthened the friendship.

Of course in the beginning as we set at Mortimer’s eating chocolate cake maybe a decade ago, we had no idea that her talents included putting a great cancer care package together.

The colonoscopie went fine. It was over, but what continued was the pleasure not just for the gifts for the thoughtfulness.

I've no idea how people can get through life without friends, it is a lesson I never want to learn.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My life is white

Before my diagnoses for breast cancer, I scheduled a colonoscopy. After four wonderful days with friends from all over the world in Argelès, I'm back in Geneva on the pre exam diet which is no fiber and mainly white foods: potatoes, pasta, non grain anything, chicken, white fish.

Maybe because I feel deprived of beautiful fruits and veggies, which interest me far more than meat ever did, I notice that my right arm is painful, although still no more than a 1.5 or 2 on a scale of 10. Until now it.s been .5.

Maybe, the people doing the pain study will be glad to see it. They might have wondered if I have nerves.

I think I'll go up the street where there are pink trees in bloom and around the corner where fields of rapeseed make sunglasses a necessity.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A great card

After four wonderful days in Argelès visiting with old and not so old friends, I came back to a card from my oldest friend. The card said
"Tina was so tough her poodle skirt had a bulldog on it." We go back over half a century of laughing through our problems.

Now that's a good pill.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I love hot showers with water pouring down on my head. Between my two eye surgeries and the breast cancer surgery the affected areas have to be kept dry. I am bitching that I've been limited in this activity.

My new fantasy is to take a normal shower, lathering my hair with shampoo and baking in the hot water until my bones are warm.

In one way I am lucky because of the hand-held European shower heads that I can wash around my eyes on breast. It is small consolation that I don't have to avoid both my eyes and breast at the same time.

Normal showers will happen again after April 28, but never again will I take showering for granted. Meanwhile I am allowing myself a three minute pity party with each partial shower which is a fraction of the time of my usual shower.

Geneva is experiencing the driest year since 1975 and the hottest April since they started keeping records in 1880 something. I suppose I can say I'm being a good water conservationist.

Nah...I don't want to make the best of bad a shower. I want a long hot shower full stop.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The eyebrow

It is a good thing I don't have a lover.


The scar from the surgery will be like an eyebrow over my nipple. I would be so tempted to draw around both nipples so they looked like the pupils of eyes, add a few lashes and then an eyebrow over the unaffected breast in the same place as the surgery scar.

I doubt if the average lover could take it? But then again if he could, he would be a keeper.

The next steps

1. Removal of stitches
2. Set up chemo
3. Do radiation
4. Forget the whole bloody thing.

The nurses

All the nurses were wonderful. I felt totally cared for as an individual.

Sophie never stopped smiling. She explained whatever she had to do.

Perrine was even sweeter if possible. My last night in the hospital, she came in after her shift and she sat and we talked for a short time as we ate the last wild strawberries my friend had brought in from the Ferney Marché earlier in the day much like girls in a dorm eating chocolates and chatting late at night.

I will not see her again because she is off. By the time she is on again, I will be home.

But like all the nurses, they have made my stay pleasant.

The second trauma

Throughout the whole thing there were two real traumas.

The first was the letter from the breast foundation saying I needed follow up.

The second was when I was unwrapped and I saw the tube attached to the plastic flask that was draining whatever it was they wanted drained. I had worn it for 48 hours at that point.

The tube was inserted through my nipple.

It didn’t hurt.

It just felt gross.

I wanted to rip it out.

Now when I didn’t know where it was, it hadn’t bothered me. Still, when the nurse took it out Monday just before I came home, I was relieved. I was equally surprised to see the tube had been about four inches long.


The surgery is over. Dr. M. tells me my lymph nodes are clean. The little suckers are gone from my body. They stayed at home and didn't travel to my lymph nodes.

Thank you to the Breast Fondation of Genéve for the free mammogram that caught this early.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you.

Wires and liquid inside

I see the lovely Claire, who was so nice when I did the prep work earlier in the week. Her son wants to be a writer. She tells me they are running a bit late because one of the nurses is off with a bad back. I am there all day, it is not a problem.

I also tell her hug in English is calin in French. She didn’t know that. Even my Anglophone housemate hadn’t thought of that, but the locals call it Youge with a hard G but she was using mainly French when she came into contact with the hospital many years ago and more times than she would have liked.

Pascal from Parma finally is free to insert the wire into my breast.

I think it will hurt.

It doesn’t.

Dr. Colo from Cameroon (Pascal from Parma, Colo from Cameroon—how much alliteration will there be in my stay?) inserts dye into my breast in three places. Again there is no pain, just slight discomfort.

“When you get back to your room massage it for 15 minutes then swing your arm for 15 minutes. It disperses the liquid.

I’m obedient.

Donuts and tongues

I’m taken into a room with huge green/grey and white machine with a bed in front of it that looks like a tongue sticking out of the donut's mouth if donuts had mouths.

I’m to lie down on the tongue, and nurse straps my hands over my head and tells me not to move for 20 minutes.

A Coke bottle green square moves down very close to me. I shut my eyes and think of the Reiki treatment my friend Ro gave me in Long Island last fall. It works. I’m relaxed. Relatively.

The plate moves and I travel into the donut. A window has a metal something that looks like one of those rulers that folds up. It clicks away.

This time I think of myself filling up with colour dusty rose starting at my toes. Then I imagine the colour draining away. By the time the colour disappears.

They hand me two A4 contact sheets each with photos of my lymph nodes. It is called a Lymphoscintgrahie. The nodes look like white stepping stones.

“If there’s a cancer cell in any of you, send it back to the tumour,” I tell them.

A baby is God's wish that life goes on

As I wait to go into the operating room, before I’m put out I hear a cry. In the next area is baby just born by Cesarean. I can peak and see it is waving its arms and legs as the doctor looks it over.

I tear up.

Pain test

Dr. K from Köln (Is there anyone Swiss in this hospital) arrives hoping I’ll agree to the pain test. The object is to identify women more susceptible to pain so they can reduce their suffering. He walks me to his office in the old part of the building. He has a Vincent van Gogh poster and mouse pad. He is happier to talk in English than in French, although we exchange a few words in German. I think he is in early thirties but he is in his mid-forties. All day I’ve been wondering when these kindergarteners have joined the medical profession.
Because I’m in jeans and stockings he gets me scrubs. I pretend I’m on Grey’s Anatomy. The test involves attaching three electrodes to my right leg while I relax on a black Barcalounger. He gives me very mild shocks at increasing intensity reassuring that I’m in control to stop anytime I want. I get to level 6. I probably could go one more level, but my dedication to science has early limits.
I then plunge my left hand in hot water and he repeats the series of shocks which bother me less.
I ask him if its distraction, but he doesn’t know, although he too would like too.
I see him the day after the surgery and will meet with him again when the stitches come out.

HUG is Huge

For different tests I need to travel to different parts of the hospital.
Mario (not of game boy fame)from Italy is my first driver and he leads me to what look likes an open cattle car with a metal floor, drawbridge and burgundy red metal bars.

“Like Reine Elizabeth,” he says, and I start imitating the queen’s wave.

There’s a seat at the rear and Luis perches behind that to zoom me through the building’s bowels. Pipes wide enough to crawl through are on one side of the corridor, and walls painted both for children and with medical information in the style of Australian Aboriginal art is on the other. We pass other cattle cars and people in white coats riding bicycles.

We pass the delivery entrance and I peek into the commissary. It is larger than any grocery store I’ve seen.

The ride lasts seven minutes.

Olivier is my next driver. I ask his name and he is surprised.

“Transporters usually don’t have names,” he said. “That’s for doctors and nurses.”

“But you are human,” I tell him.

He gives me a smooth ride.

Luis is from Portugal when he brings me back to my room through the same warren of tunnels. He takes the cattle car from its parking space. Another driver is backing out a second cattle car.

“Do you want to drag?” he asks the driver. They are going in different directions.

We talk about the cost of gaining Swiss nationality.

I don’t take the cattle car to the operating theatre. Vincenze is my porter and he uses my bed. He’s from Sicily with rainy day gray eyes and lashes that women usually glue on. His black hair falls over one eye and curls over the collar of his hospital coat.

No woman heading for breast surgery should have such lascivious thoughts for a man a third of her age, but then again, maybe she should. George Clooney, you’ve been replaced.

He stays and chats with me until the anesthesiologist arrives. Before going he pats my arm and tells me not to worry. “You’re in good hands.”

I am and have been.


Who says hospital food isn’t any good? Not at HUG. Except for the day of the operation, I had wonderful things to eat. Here's a sample.

1. Lentils with slivers of onions and carrots, plus the local sausage. Mango sherbet.
Rabbit Provencal, fennel, potatoes, carrots, banana

2. Vegetable galette in a red pepper sauce, julienne assorted veggies, cheese, pear

3. Beef Stroganoff, assortment of squashes, potatoes with sage, vanilla ice cream

4. Poached eggs in a béchamel sauce lightly seasoned with nutmeg, rice with finely chopped veggies, apple/pear sauce.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I am okay

This was the most fascinatingexperiencing and I will blog next week when I get home.

The lymph nodes were NOT involved so even though I will still have chemo and radiation in case one of those little suckers escaped the surgeon's murder, the rest of them are in the trash where they belong.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A good use for cancer

My housemate is hard to give gifts to. Because I knew she was upset at having broken her electric pepper mill, I decided to replace it. But I needed a story to make her accept it. Here it is…

“I was in Manora today and they were holding two drawings. One was only for women with cancer of the left breast and the prize was an electric salt mill. The other was only for women with cancer of the right breast, and the prize was a pepper mill. What do you know? I won!”

She accepted it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The question don't fit

I filled out the questionnaire for the pain study that I will participate in to see how women react to pain during breast cancer surgery.

It was easy to rate the level of pain for such things as hitting your funny bone and biting your tongue.

Where I ran into problem were the mood questions all of which were leaning toward the negative such as I did not feel too badly this week.

There was nothing to describe that I had moments of sheer joy this week and great pleasure. I don't expect questions such as did the Film Festival make you happy, sad, etc. but the mood of spending time watching six films, talking to two lovely friends while eating Italian food on a sunlit terrace, listening to the directors, feeling the buzz of the festival brought me a great moment of happiness.

Maybe I'm unrealistic to be undergoing so much pleasure at a time that is traumatic and frightening. Negative what ifs do enter my head usually in the middle of the night when I wake up because my bladder refuses to let me sleep. I think I'm recognizing those moments and rolling with them. At the same time, I'll be damned if I will let them stop me from flipping the emotional coin to the other side.

Small world

I'm slowly getting caught up on telling people about my cancer. Short of taking ads out in L'Independent, Tribune de Genève, Boston Globe it is both a slow and fast process. I do not want to put it on facebook, but I've no problems referring this site on my other expatwriter blog.

My housemate points out the alternative way to deal with it would have been to tell no one, but then again if I had friends with breast cancer I would want to know if only to give them a hug and hopefully anything else I could do, although their wishes in that case would supersede mine. In any case it is a lousy way to get attention from your friends, but then again, my friends and I've shared much over the years.

A telephone call from my best friend since high school brought real joy. We had shared so much negativity at one period that when things were going well for both of us, and we hadn't talked, she called to remind me we were more than FOUL weather friends.

The way the word is spreading could make for a communication dissertation. Today I got an email from one of my online writing friends, a woman I've never met but talked to on the phone. In the group are people from the UK, US, Germany, Israel, Switzerland, France.

How had she heard? She had been at a workshop in the States led by the founder and spirit of the Geneva Writers Group. I had told her she would be inspired and she was so the message was two about me and one about the wonderful workshop.

And in the emails I've been getting, the phone conversations concerning Cammy Beck which is the name given to those little suckers by my housemate and I after a discussion that some year we will have a moratorium on the words cancer and oncologist not just for me but for all our friends and family who've shared the same experience.

The realization that in the four houses in my immediate neighbourhood with eight adults, there have been six cases of cancer is a bit daunting. I don't think it is like the W.R. Grace in Woburn years ago for there is no factory dumping chemicals. It is just a reminder that what I'm going through is shared by more people than it should be.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I've got a date

Unfortunately it is not with George Clooney...

I report to the hospital HUG 8 a.m. April 14th.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Maybe some day I’ll learn that what I plan doesn’t happen and what I don’t plan for does.

For example: after helping a partner with his kids going through all the things that adolescents go through I was prepared for my daughter’s teenage years. She did none of the things the others did but picked her own little specialty. Overall, I got off real easy.

Likewise, I always thought the illnesses that would attack were heart, glaucoma, dementia. I never ever thought cancer would be, not that I was immortal but that there were only two cases in the entire family.

I have been really touched by my fellow writers who have sent so many lovely messages. All but one suggested a blog. It is true as writers when we writers go through anything negative or positive, it is almost impossible not to write about it, be it fiction, non-fiction, journal, blog or just the words running around in our head.

I’m still feeling lucky (with the exception of missing that one-on-one interview with Gordon Brown) that I am where I am. Even finding a managing editor for the newsletter right before I needed it was a stroke of luck. Amazing how much pressure that takes off me.

As the old line goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I'm through planning. Let the universe decide.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Art school or hospital?

When I was in fifth grade my mother approached Miss Graham, the principle, and chided her over my bad spelling.
“Donna-Lane won’t need to spell. She’ll have a secretary,” Miss Graham said.
“And how will she know if the secretary is spelling correctly?” my mother countered.
Fast forward. I’m sixteen and working as a reporter on the same daily newspaper as my mother. Some of the reporters think my mother is writing my articles.
The editor, Fred Cole, who could be played by a grumpy Spencer Tracey, growled, “Donna-Lane writes her own stuff. Kid can’t spell. Mother can spell.”
There should be a shrine erected for the inventor of spell check.
Two words I always spell wrong are anethsiologist and ocnologist (anesthesiologist and oncologist thank you spell check). Both words have been far too frequent in my vocabulary.
Today I spent a couple of hours at the hospital meeting with those unspellable titles along with a Nurse C whose son has written his first novel. Almost each person I meet with draws my breast as they explain what they are about to do to me. I’m not sure if I’m in a hospital or an art school.
They are more concerned than I am about possible removal and/or scarring. I try and explain how they are knew for me and also I’m not looking for a new lover, so although I would like beautiful breasts, I’ve never had them. I can cope. I don’t want to hurt their feelings.
They also want me to take part in a study on how women deal with pain. I’ll be happy to do that. It makes this whole situation at least productive.
I don’t have a date yet, the only downside, but I am still so impressed with the system, the time they take, the questions they are willing to answer (they are almost disappointed if I don’t have more, but then I have my wonderful housemate who has been there, done that, and doesn’t wear the T-shirt)
The hospital is called HUG. Now any hospital with that name has to have a lot going for it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Getting used to the idea

Seeing the letter that I needed to do follow up on my free mammogram was a shock. The follow up brought even worse news. There were nasty little cells that if they had a birthday cake would have no more than two candles thanks to the free biannual mammograms which is part of the advantages of living in Geneva.

I do not wish to minimize the seriousness of having those little bastards in my body. On the other hand I am 68 and three quarters. I’ve lived a life beyond blessed and it is only greediness that makes me want more, more, more…more writing, more travelling, more learning. More time with my daughter, my friends. However, if a truck were to hit me tomorrow, I have no regrets no I-wish-I’d-dones (maybe a few I-wish-I-hadn'ts).

Of course I could have chosen to ignore the little bastards, which would be stupid, or I can make sure they never see a birthday cake with three candles and in the process of getting rid of them and any of their friends they may have, I can make this a fun and interesting experience.

No, I’m not in denial. In my passion to live life to the fullest, I need to live the negatives to the fullest too.

Already the doctor who did the biopsy and I had a wonderful conversation. He wanted to practice his English and told me his daughter was at BU on Comm Ave. when he learned I was from Boston. The BU and Comm Ave. were dead giveaways that he knew the area. That I went to the same School of Communication at Boston University on Commonwealth Avenue as she was doing forged a bond.

He showed me two mini-mini rice grains that he pulled out of my right breast for the biopsy. That’s two less I need to get rid off.

Having a housemate who had been through it years ago, having her having been a godmother to Anglophone breast cancer patients is a great plus.

The team I’ve met with at the Hospital makes me so grateful I am here. The young doctor in charge will go to the same hospital for two years next year that my housemate’s sister was treated at. How much more small world can it get?

There is no rush to throw you out the door after surgery. A nurse is assigned to you throughout.

The doctor told me that the treatment is to remove the cells, check the lymph nodes and then if they are clean, leave the rest of the lymph nodes. If they are not clean, they pull them out too.

She tried to reassure me about keeping my breast. I had to explain to her that up until ten years ago, I didn’t even need a bra. It had nothing to do with being a feminist. There was nothing to need it for.

The doctor explains that surgery might raise the breast a bit, but it is the lower of the two. She also explains that if the breast were to be removed it is considered necessary to reconstruct not cosmetic so insurance covers it.

How lucky am I that I am in the Swiss medical system?

The hard part so far was telling my daughter. I want to make sure she doesn’t hear prior to a major interview, but when that was over, I shared the information with her.

A friend and I go for a walk along the lake. “I tell her how it seems every doctor I see tells me “Vous êtes drole.”

“You are funny,” she tells me. “You should write this. She comes up with the title.
My writing mate in Vienna tells me I should blog the experience. We writers have verbal diarrhea of the fingers whenever we sit at the key board.

Am I happy about this?


Will I make the best of it?

As they used to say in the long distant past--you bet your sweet bippy!