Friday, August 28, 2015

Up in he sky

It's a bird, it's a plane it's Superman!

Today I had my sixth physio in two weeks, although I only had a prescription for three more, but the man made my arm feel so wonderful, I was willing to pay for the extra ones myself.

Imagine my shock to discover each session was only 16 Euros. Now, I'm thinking to use the rest of the prescription in Geneva where I still have three unreported to the insurance company. Of course, I can get a new prescription as needed. Physio is considered part of the healing process for as long as needed. Since my lymph nodes won't grow back, this is reassuring.

I think of the new therapist as Superman.

Having worked with three physiotherapists since my operations and all three use totally different methods, I give new credence to the saying more than one way to skin a cat.

Besides massage and exercise he used a strange machine that was a cross between a robot in some SF movie and vacuum cleaner. I wasn't sure whether to greet it or not.

I now that therapists undergo extensive training in France and regular courses to maintain their status. He knew all about the lymph nodes.

I'm glad he's here so when I finally get back to normal and spend time in Argelès, he will be there to help. I might even bring him some Swiss chocolate...but I'm not sure if my robot vacuum would like a Swiss gift or not.

Heart OK

The cardiologist was young, slim and dressed in khaki pants. It was her job to give me a electrocardiogram. We chatted briefly.

She told me she'd chosen her profession because her father was a cardiologist and he was a peaceful man and she sought peace. Montpelier was where she'd studied medicine. When she talked about her work, her face glowed.

My heart and arteries are in great shape which means I can begin my 36 hours of chemo on the 1st. Although those 36 hours will take about 15 weeks to do, 36 sounds smaller than 15.

I wonder why Rick thinks I'm bad at numbers?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Another way to look at it

No matter how I try and pretend otherwise, I've been dreading the next four months with 12 rounds of chemo. Half of it is the chemo, half is not being able to go to Argelès. Granted I love Geneva but the childish part of me wants to throw a tantrum because I can't have what I want when I want.

The other half is fear even though the wonderful staff at HUG has prepared me for it, the anti-vomitting medicine is in my suitcase.

Then today I realized that each session will average three hours more or less. That is a total of a day and a half. A day and a half is a blip.

I can do this. A day and a half is diddly squat.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


I don't claim to be psychic.

Three years ago when J and I were off on an adventure our goal was Dijon but we never got further than Arbois and had a wonderful time. We arrived home to discover I had breast cancer.
This year coming back from Andorra with Rick, we were headed for Foix but a Prehistoric park caught our attention. We had a wonderful time. I felt that bad news awaited me despite being lump free. We arrived home to discover I had breast cancer.
At the time I thought that the heading-in-one-direction-and-ending-up-in-another-place was similar.

And I felt that maybe the cancer might have come back. I told myself there was no cause and effect. Cancer and changing plans are not correlated events.

Any time after the first cancer when I have an exam, I always feared the worse.

I told myself I was being silly.
I don’t think planning to do one thing and doing another causes cancer. I don’t think exploring new and interesting places causes cancer.

Part of me also thought if I clicked to give free mammograms I would protect myself from cancer.

What I do understand is how people can be superstitious even when it unreasonable.

However, I do know I’m lucky where I can get the best medical treatment possible at affordable prices. Not all women are that lucky.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Next step

Two hours seemed like it would be a long time to arrange for my chemo. It flew by as the staff walked me thru every step of the chemo process.

There will be three treatments three weeks apart with a doctor's appointment and blood tests after a week to make sure my white count is where it should be. At some point a nurse will come to the house (yes you read that right, COME TO THE HOUSE) to give me shots to boost my immune system.

Then for the next nine weeks I have weekly sessions with different medication.

I've been given pills to control vomiting, the prescription for the week, a list of support groups for both myself and Rick.

I've been told the possible negatives: fatigue, mouth sores, hair loss, numbness, increased risk of infections. Bring 'em on.

As they explained...since there was cancer in my lymph nodes the goal is to kill any cell that might have snuck out beyond the ones they destroyed so they won't set up home anywhere else. I'm for that.

The sessions will take about half a day...less than I thought.

I was shown the chairs in misc. colors. I need to co-ordinate my wardrobe. I was shown the array of snacks, juices, teas and was reassured if I didn't feel like breakfast before I could get some basics there. I could bring a picnic if I wanted.

Rick could be with me if I wanted, if he wanted. I want what makes him feel best.

That it will be nine sessions not six was a bit disturbing, but we'll start right after I get back from France.

The sooner I start, the sooner I finish.

The blessed shower

For me a shower is more than a shower.

I use it to wake up, warm up, think up all kinds of thing be it a blog, lunch plans or the next chapter in a book I'm writing.

I let the hot water pour over me (unless it is summer when the water is cooler) washing out all tension.

Thus when I wasn't allowed to take a complete shower for two weeks it felt awful.

That doesn't mean I was dirty. There are bidets and I could shower from the waist down as long as my breast scar didn't get wet.

And I could shampoo my hair my kneeling over the bathtub.

However, today that all ended.

I took a full shower and shampoo and I blessed every drop of water. Didn't use it to write though. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wigs, wigs, wigs

I'll admit it

I'm vain. I'm not cute and adorable as I was when I was a teenager, but I still want to look my best.

I never wanted chemo both because I hate not feeling my best, but also because I don't like not looking my best.

Many of my fears (such as no longer having pretty matching lingerie) have been proven wrong.

Today Rick and I went to the wig shop.

Michel the owner, and his adorable Yorkie (I don't really believe that he uses the dog fur for the hair based on M's smile) showed me "medical" wigs so light that it would feel natural on the hottest day.

He explained that hair begins to fall between the 12 and 15th day after the first treatment. At that point go to see him. He will make the wig for me in the color and style, and also cut off my own hair.
The loss of eyebrows and eyelashes can be compensated for by a makeup course.

The cost? AVS (the Swiss Social Security pays for it).

We saw a number of wigs that I would wear.

Pretty lingerie and hair that will probably look better than my own.

I can do this.

It didn't grow back

My surgeon had warned me last week that she might have to drain the area where the breast had been removed if liquid continued to accumulate.

I did notice it was getting a bit bigger each day. Although I know that it is not a good thing, it was nice to have it closer to the original. Because my breasts were nonexistent into my 40s and underwhelming after that we are not talking anything impressive.

"It won't hurt," she said adding that this was not an abnormal result.

I was a bit apprehensive BUT I have 1000% confidence in her.

"Don't look," she said. I didn't although I think it would be interesting watching the procedure on someone else.

The needle went in and I didn't feel a thing as she withdrew the offending fluid.

We've made an appointment for Sept. 2nd just in case it happens again.

As always the staff were warm and explained everything they were going to do prior to doing it.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Another reason to love him

My husband has a beautiful, beautiful head of hair. He is well on his way to becoming a silver fox.

When I first learned that I had cancer again what I dreaded most was the possibility of chemo, but now that it is real, I'm okay with it.

I've been assured there's medicine to keep away the vomiting, I'm prepared to be tired and even the loss of hair seems not quite so bad since seeing my hospital mate's bald head.

I've pulled my hair back and I can live with hair not hiding my face.

When it grows back, I might even discover its true color. I suspect the front is white, the back is probably a light brown, a reverse skunk pattern.

Still I'm vain. 

Today we looked in the window of the wig shop. It was closed but there are many that look promising.

What has this got to do with adoring my husband?

He offered to shave his head if it would make me feel better.

I said no, I love his hair. I want the pleasure of looking at it, but his offer was just one of a million reminders why I love him.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The moving boob


I can't get my permanent prosthesis, which will be the exact duplicate of my other breast, until next month. In fact the prosthesis will be better than the original.

My temporary, a cotton thingie, is quite comfortable.

I experimented with removing the underwire of my bra on the right side and leaving the left side and right matching...


...I didn't quite put it in correctly so I ended up with one breast on my chest and another hovering between my hip and belly button.

Also have discovered a scarf helps hide any inconsistencies.

Good thing I've a lot of scarves.

Friday, August 7, 2015

S, S, M, P, C

Scheiβ,  Shit, Merde, Poo, Caca...

...And any other languages fecal matter can be called to show my disgust. At some level, I knew from the moment In Argelès when I heard the word "lump" or the French equivalent that chemo was in my future.

And it was the thing that I dreaded the most.

Yesterday we went to La Maternité. Dr. M was a bit late, but I expected what she told me. Had it been good news she would have telephoned me.

She took 17 nodes, the first 10 had cancer cells. She was surprised that I didn't have cancer in the gall bladder, and surprised it was in the nodes.

They think they got it all-- but to prevent a recurrence I will have 6 chemos starting in Sept. every third week. Then I get a month off and have 20 radios four times a week followed by an endocrine tablet regime.

Well this will be interesting. If there are no cells in my body we are going to make it a very inhospitable place for them should they or their friends decide to move in. The No Vacancy sign will be out.

Pascale, my favorite nurse, said she will be doing a stage in chemo so she will be there to hold my hand. I hope she is. What a ray of sunlight she is.

Onto finding wigs.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My green towel

Entrance to my physio's

I've had two appointments of the first nine with my physio. This is part of the regular protocol and I'm not limited to nine should I need more. The goal is to make sure those little lymph nodes that were taken have a substitute route and that nothing in the system gets backed up.

My roommate which has been thru it all at least has briefed me enough that there are no surprises.

My normal physio is on holiday and this woman has slightly different techniques. Elisabeth used to use a different towel. 

My new physio taped my name to a sea green towel and put it in the closet with other client's different colored towels.

She also used a laser. I was glad the cats, Babette and Cléa weren't there to try and catch the red light.

Still it felt wonderful. I've four more appointments before I go back to Argelès, and there's another physio that I will see on the 20th.

In the past Rick was always willing to carry stuff for me. I hated to think of him as my pack mule but right now I turn stuff over to him without a whimper.

He just smiles at my giving up so easily. I won't tell him it will not last forever. He is too precious to take advantage of.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

I'm even

I was given a temporary prosthesis to make sure I didn't look lopsided until I'm ready for the permanent one which will be an exact duplicate of my surviving boob.

Now I was never impressive in the breast department and didn't even wear a bra for years until in my 50s for some reason my chest decided to expand from a 32AAAA to a 34A.

Thus even the smallest prosthesis in stock was bigger and by sticking it in the bra, I was lopsided but with the fake taking top position.

However, by removing much of the filling, I was able to leave the hospital looking even.

Home again home again

As the Little Piggies nursery rhyme goes "home again, home again, jiggerty jig."

The words, we'll detach the drain early this morning was exciting.

I was drained. I suspect it feels the same as a dog or cat who lost a tail feels.

Rick came while Julia waited in the car.

The jiggerty jig part was the problem. Not only is it the Fête de Genève which blocks the quai toward home, it was the one day in the year where bikes, skates anything but cars are allowed on many roads so each route was blockade by a young policeman or official saying we couldn't use this or that road.

We did make it home, but as Rick said it seemed to be via Italy.

Tomorrow I start physio and I've two follow up appointments, one of which I hope I hear the words, "no chemo" but I'm less afraid of the idea now.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


My roommate and I scuttled down the hall in our hospital gowns, fortunately buttoned at the back. The nurses did not see us. They were occupied with paperwork.

We wanted to find an empty room that looked out toward the lake to watch the fireworks for the Swiss national day.

All were occupied.

Back in our room we still had a view of smaller displays from three villages.

We sat in our chairs and made the appropriate ooos and aaahhhs.

damned drainage

One more day, they say.

I want them to say, "Your drainage is fine, get dressed and get out of here."

Unlike in the US one does not need to leave by a wheelchair. I'm debating skipping.

However, being there the extra day had an advantage. The woman who makes my future prosthesis stopped by with a catalog. The lingerie is fantastic. The model has had a mastectomy also but from the photos is impossible to tell.

There are several places to buy lingerie and a prosthesis here in Geneva, but this young woman is more than a sales person. She is passionate about helping us adjust and regain confidence. Just because losing a breast doesn't bother me, doesn't mean others aren't terribly upset and listening her talk to my roommate was heart warming.

And speaking of my roommate, we are having a really good time.

There is only one almost grouchy nurse and it is our goal to make her smile. She did when my roommate and I were prowling the corridor and joked we were working on a marathon but the triathlon would have to wait.

As much as I want to be home this day will pass with many small pleasures.