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 Argel├Ęs 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.