Tuesday, December 15, 2015

New treatment

Low white blood cells and burning hands helped the doctor decide I needed a week off from chemo.

Two weeks letter my white blood cells were better but my hands still had problems.

"We'll change the treatment."

Her proposal instead of seven more taxols I would get three. Than I would get a mega dose of another drug that equalled the 4 Taxols. Bettter for my hands, but it would leave me more tired and perhaps with muscle pain.

For an earlier finish, I said, yes, yes, yes.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A hard week

Even if I often write about my treatment for cancer in a light vein, it doesn't mean I don't take it seriously.

This was not the best week.

Between my low white blood cell count, my burning hands and bloody noses, I did get a one-week reprieve from my next dose of taxol. And yes, I did miss the time with the wonderful nursing staff. And it will delay the finish and my reward of time in Argelès as well.

I also felt really, really tired all week long.

I had to keep chanting my positive list.
  • Great hospital
  • Excellent affordable medical system
  • Great nurses
  • Great doctors
  • Not metastasized
  • Preventative
  • Loving husband to support me 
  • I have everything I need including food, shelter
  • No one is dropping bombs on me
  • I've come a long way since the lumps were found in early June
  • I can see the end of chemo
  • I've done radiation before
Maybe it helped. By Saturday I was able to do a writing workshop and then go to lunch with my husband to a place that was new to him, not new to me. Chez Cousine has a limited menu but good and profiteroles for dessert.

Seven more treatments.  

I can do this.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Looking out the restaurant window.

"Now you understand," my former colleague and current friend said. We were with our respective spouses in a Nyon, Switzerland restaurant.

The NGO we are retired from had about 100 employees of about 50 nationalities. He and I were the only two natural Americans. Until 9/11 our communications were the usual good-mornings-have-a- nice-day type.g

On 9/11 I had brought up CNN to check out the news just after the second plane hit the WTC. I rushed into his office where we followed events.

We discovered we were of like minds on so much, both activists that regularly contacted congress on issues of importance to us. We marched against the war at Bern demonstration along with my daughter and other friends.

We were also of like minds to become Swiss so we could actively participate in the society where we lived as full citizens.

And then we supported each other thru the horrible, painful experience of renouncing our American nationality when direct and indirect attacks by our government made it impossible for us to have the financial security we needed.

Even after I retired, we would meet from time to time to catch up on news, world affairs, writing and other topics. Yesterday was one of those times and it gave me a chance to introduce my new husband who fit perfectly with my friend and his wife.

After our meal we went back to their flat for ice cream. The word lanky could have been invented for my friend. And he is bald.

I said, "The thing that surprised me about being bald, is how cold my head gets. I sometimes wear a hat to bed."

He laughed. "Now you understand," he said. "And sometimes I wear a hat even in the house."

It is another bond.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fighting Cancer, an allegory

TAXOLA rides her horse Energy in drops of the cancer-fighting drug stopping at the vital organs in search of a bad cancer cell.

So far she has found nothing. She is frustrated.

The she sees a group of white blood cells having a tea party.

She is furious. She and Energy are working so hard. The cells are loafing. Without thinking which type of cells they are (neutrophil, eosinophil or any of the other types), she lashes out.

Her sword destroys many of them, but some escape.

Taxola leaves the scene and she and Energy plod on to the liver, the bones on their quest.

She mustn’t give up. For the next seven weeks she will get new liquid to carry her and Energy around the body, but those white blood cells better begin doing their job too. The woman, her client, is getting tired of being tired.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Roller coaster

I've decided that chemo is a roller coaster and trying to predict and understand it, just isn't going to work.

At one point I was told:
  • One strong dose every three weeks three times. This was the one that turned my pee pretty pink then
  • Three weekly doses of Taxol with a week off in between three times a total of 9 doses for the Taxol and 12 chemos together
The first three left me tired but was much better than I expected with the time off to recover. I had good days and less good days. I was tired. It was up and down and okay.

However, after the first three doses of the Taxol I was looking forward to my week off.

Not so fast.

Seems the team thinks that it would be better to do 12 straight so instead of being half way thru I have eight more weeks.


I don't understand that the day after chemo I feel wonderful, normal, have energy.

The next day less so and until the next chemo I can feel everything from almost energetic to I've-got-to-lie-down NOW. I call it hitting a wall. It happened last night at Thanksgiving dinner, happily after I'd eaten everything I wanted. 

Smack. We left the restaurant and went home

Today I do a bit of this and stop, a bit of that and stop. 

I never wanted to ride a roller coaster. Now I have no choice.

Oh well, eight more treatments. 

I can do this, but I am still never getting on a real roller coaster.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


"Tomorrow," Nurse Cristine said.

She has promised me a recipe from raspberry tiramisu and forgot it last week. During one of my chemos we had spent most of the time discussing food and cooking, leaving me ravishingly hungry by the end of the session.

I was at the hospital for my consultation with my new oncologist, Dr. B. My previous one, Dr. V. had rotated to a new assignment. I am cheered dealing with the equivalent of residents. The bad cases go to the profs.

Dr. B was from Ste. Croix in Canton Vaud. She was surprised that I knew it but when I lived in Môtiers my first three years in Switzerland, it was a short cut from the Geneva airport home. Never mind the winding road up the mountain nor the couple of times in the fog where I drove with the door open to see the center strip.

It also has a mechanical museum that I've been saying for 25 years I want to see.

The new doctor may inspire us to visit as I try and show Rick all the wonderful in Switzerland.

Chemo and tirimaisu

At  my last chemo my doctor said because I was supporting chemo so well that we could eliminate the two weeks off which means I finish sooner. 


Also Christine, the nurse, remembered the tiramisu recipe she'd been promising. Here it is in the original French followed by the English translation)

Maybe when I have the last chemo I will make it and we will celebrate with this and champagne.

Good idea, n'est pas?????


Temps d préparation: 25 mins.

Ingrédients pour six personnes

3 gros oeufs (4 si petits)
100 g + 30 g de sucre roux
1 sachet de sucre vanilléà la cuiller
Un peu de lait
24 biscuits  
500 g de framboises (fraîches ou surgelées)

Dans le fond d'un plat, disposer des biscuits cuillère trempès dans du lait (cette étape n'est pas obligatoire car ils absorberont le jus des framboises)

Dans un saladier, écraser les framboises avec 30 g de sucre avec un fourchette ou presse-pure. Les répartir sur le fond de biscuit et mettre au réfrigérateur. En garder quelques-uns entières pour la décoration.

Pendant ce temps, séparer les blancs des jaunes d'oeufs.

Battre les jaunes avec le sucre et le sucre vanillé jusqu'à blanchiment du méange. Rajouter le mascarpone au fouet.

Monter les blancs en niege bien ferme et les incorporer délicatement au mélange précédent avec une cullière en bois.

Verser a preparation sur les framboise.

Mette au réfrigéraeur 24 heures avant de servir.


25 mins. preparation time, but 24 hours in the fridge.

3 large eggs (if small 4)
100g + 30g brown sugar 
1 packet of sugar spoon vanillé
Some milk
24 cookies
500 g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
In the bottom of a dish, arrange  biscuits soaked in milk (this step are not mandatory as they absorb raspberry juice)
In a bowl, mash the raspberries with 30 g of sugar with fork or press-pure. Distribute the biscuit base and refrigerate. Keep some whole for décoration.

During this temp, separate the whites from the yolks of eggs.

Beat the yolks with the sugar and vanilla sugar until whitish. 

Add the mascarpone with a whisk.
Beat the egg whites until very firm and gently fold into the above mixture with a wooden cullière.
Pour a preparation on raspberry.
Put in refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Beating Cancer Together

This is a guest blog from my husband, Rick. 

It’s probably a good thing Donna-Lane taught me a few cooking tips when we were first married, because lately I have been doing much of the meal preparation for both of us. I say ‘probably,’ as my cooking repertoire is still rather limited compared to hers, and not only do we like different things we prefer them cooked differently (she leans to rare, I like my meat moyen bien ou bien cuisiné). 

Cooking, clean up, and grocery shopping are perhaps the most time-consuming unanticipated aspects of dealing with D-L’s cancer. Before her diagnosis / operations / chemotherapy, we had established a rhythm in which we shared kitchen duties – one cooked, the other cleaned up, and we alternated days of the week. 

Sometimes (okay, oftentimes) when it was my time to cook and I didn’t think I had the time for shopping & cooking, we’d go out to eat. The restaurant owners knew of our routine and would ask, “Rick’s day to cook?” when we showed up for lunch. 

But since summer, and especially this fall during her chemo treatments, there are many days when D-L simply doesn’t have the energy to stand in the kitchen for an hour, slicing veggies, cleaning and boiling potatoes, monitoring meat or soups. So I’ve taken on much of the food responsibility, except for a few days we spent in Argéles-sur-mer when she was feeling stronger-ish and I was swamped with writing deadlines. 

The other unexpected time factor has been trips to the hospital. Not just the now-weekly chemo treatments, which last 2 ½ - 3 hours, plus the 30-60 minutes driving each way (depending on time of day traffic) but also the prior day trips so she can give a blood sample. Mercifully, for the next three weeks, they’ve scheduled the blood draw and chemo drip the same day of the week. 

For the longer visits, I sometimes take my computer with me, find a place where I can sit and work, and check on D-L’s progress every hour or so. She says I could go home and return to pick her up, but I’d rather be close by. Not that I can do anything, but I want her to know I’m there just in case. I’d say perhaps half the women we see in the waiting room have companions with them; about one-third of the companions are male. I feel sad for the women who are unaccompanied and facing their trauma alone. 

I write this not as a complaint. I don’t care what is required for Donna-Lane to get rid of the cancer and prevent its recurrence; that’s what we’ll do; and I’ll do what I can to ease her through that experience. 

Rather, I write this for those husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, family members, close friends who are going through the crisis of cancer with a loved one – to let you know that

(1) it can take a surprising amount of time you hadn’t planned on
(2) you may end up in temporary, even long-term, roles you didn’t expect, and 
(3) both are irrelevant because the only thing that matters is that your loved one gets better and suffers as little as possible in the process. 

It can be a long process, too. Prepare for much of your ‘normal’ life to be on hold for several months. Again irrelevant. 

I am fortunate that we have our own business and work from home. I cannot imagine how difficult the process would be for a husband who has an office job or who has to travel frequently. Or someone going through cancer who has to fit chemo treatments around job requirements. 

We have the liberty of setting our own hours, aside from the hospital appointments, so I am able to get my work done around the trips downtown, cooking, and, oh yeah, laundry. 

Right now, Donna-Lane is sleeping. It’s late afternoon, and we spent the morning at the hospital. As typical, she still has her glasses on because she’s liable to come awake at any time and resume reading a book. I’m about to start a load of wash. Then I’ll start work. After which I’ll switch the clothes to the dryer. And resume work. Perhaps past midnight (a habit which long predates the cancer). 

From time to time, D-L asks me, or one of our friends asks, “How are you holding up?” 


I’m not going through any of the surgeries, the frequent needles, the toxic cocktails, the anti-nausea meds, dealing with hair loss and itchy wigs. My angst is only that my wife is suffering, and I don’t like that for a second. 

I don’t mind the time- and role-shift that have become a necessary routine. I like doing whatever I can for the woman I love. 

I do mind that Donna-Lane is not 100% her usual vibrant self. She’s still incredibly positive. She’s tuned in to world events and issues. She’s in touch with friends in her very caring way, including women she’s befriended who are going through a similar experience. 

She just can’t fire on all cylinders all day every day in the way that she has for most of her life. I know that frustrates her, and part of my role is to calm that frustration. And not add to it with any petty annoyances that I might have. (Cursing at Microsoft automatic updates is allowed.) 

We both take great pleasure in simple things. A 5-minute walk to the lake to soak in the sun and laugh at two dogs jostling for the same stick. Taking photos of objects that fit the colour scheme of the week of a Facebook group of people as equally silly as we. Watching a current British television mystery or an American drama re-run. Sharing a Ben & Jerry’s strawberry cheesecake ice cream cup. 

For us, for now, this is ‘normal.’ Somewhere around April, hopefully, D-L will be back to consistently higher energy levels and we’ll revert back to our previous ‘normal,’ including some of the travel plans that have been on hold. 

Or maybe a new ‘normal’ that we don’t yet know about. Whatever life has ahead for us, what matters is dealing with it together.

(Note From DL: This is why I adore this man.)