Saturday, October 24, 2015

Calin and cancer

Elisabeth has great veggies and cheeses 
and she also gives great hugs.

Calin is French for cuddle or hug.

The French and Catalans in Argelès-sur-mer ordinarily greet people with two cheek kisses. It does take me a couple of days not to go for a third Genevan cheek kiss when I first comedown.

However, since I've been back after my first part of chemo, I have noticed something. I get hugged, hugged and hugged. 

Because I am on FB and because I email, blog or Skype with many friends, there is a village communication chain as efficient as any social media if not more so...thus people kept up with my progress.

My favorite mamie (one of the old women of the village was the first to sweep me into her arms. The second was Elisabeth, my green grocer who declared she was giving me energy. Now that isn't something that would happen in any supermarket chain. And so it goes...

Hugs are good in any language.

It makes cancer a little less sucky. Too bad they can't replace chemo, but c'est la vie it is still wonderful.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fly away Dr. V.

Hopitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG) is a teaching hospital so it is time for Dr. V. who has been my oncologist to rotate after her year at La Maternité working with women who have breast cancer. A beautiful young woman with a smile that makes you feel better when she walks into the room. 

As she entered data into the computer, this little bird hopped up on the window sill. Without a word, I handed Rick my camera and he caught the little fellow before he flew away. It was a good metaphor, for my resident is flying away, although not far.  She will be at the main hospital starting 1 November which is only a few blocks from where she is now..

I feel much better about my treatment since Julia pointed out that the residents get the easy cases. The hard ones go to the professors. Have yet to see a professor.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Come on camera

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

I was heading to give yet another blood sample maintaining my unwanted human pin cushion status. 

It is done at the children's hospital next to the La Maternité where my regular treatments take place.

The elevator doors opened. Out popped two clowns. Nary an enfant was in sight but they started to entertain me.

Puis-je avoir un photo? I asked. 

Immediately they struck poses.

My camera stuck. "Come on camera," I said. It immediately worked.

The male clown wanted to try it and said, "Come on camera." I shut it down.

"C'est un miracle," he said. He expressed his love for voice-activated cameras.

I entered the elevator. My grumbles had disappeared.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Another version of life

My husband blogged about my chemo.

The last two days were hard in the sense that I had no energy. I would read a paragraph, doze, read a paragraph.

Did listen to some BBC documentaries because like a paragraph in a book it was listen, doze and then rewind.

I wouldn't have done this without the chemo. I did enjoy it.

I still would prefer to not have to have the chemo. Not a good reason to enjoy a documentary.

C'est la vie.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The right thing to say

Ours is a fairy tale romance.

I met my husband in the 1970s. It was love at first sight but denied because of our commitments to others.

We remained professional colleagues but when I moved to Europe in 1990 we lost contact, even the little contact we had.

Then in 2012 I received a LinkedIn message "I am in Geneva, want to have coffee?"

It was love at second, third and ongoing sight.

We held a commitment ceremony Aug. 2013 attended by 40 friends from seven countries.

Our combined writing lives, our trips to different countries, our times in France and Switzerland  were as close to paradise as anyone could hope. We married legally in May 2015 in Switzerland, this time with only two family-of-choice members with us.

In June they found a second cancer in my breast and since then we've been on a merry-go-round of hospital and doctors' visits. Although we never pledged the "for worse" in our vows, they fell into place as easily as  the also unpledged "for better" had.

My husband had once said he wished he had been there to help me thru my first cancer. We both laughed when I reminded him as a thoughtful wife I was giving him a chance. And we are doing our best to make the best of it.

Even though I am in my, 70s I am vain. Thus when I came out of the shower the other morning, bald and one breasted and feeling ugly without saying it, he looked at me and said in a way that I knew was meant truly from the heart "You are truly beautiful"

I may not qualify for any beauty contest, unless I was the only contestant and he was the only judge but he does qualify in my eyes as the best husband a woman, with or without cancer could have.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Treatment Safety

"Votre nom et date de naissance."

"Nelson, Donna-Lane 24 juillet 1942" I told the nurse, even though we had met at least 20 times and we knew about each other's families, living situation and some of our hopes, dreams and a disappointment or two.

She had a hand held-device for:
  • My hospital bracelet with my name and birth date
  • The bag with my name and birth date that was about to be pumped into my body
  • The list on the list of the drugs and the quantities with my name and birth date
It all went into the portable computer. A few minutes later it came back that all was correct.

She did that for each bag.

It is called the process dur. Each treatment the nurses apologize for the stupid question of whom I am.

I don't care what they call it. It guarantees I'll get the proper medicine and the dose prescribed by the doctor.

Only after these steps does she turn the tap on and we resume our normal conversation.

All systems in all my medical procedures are filed first under my birth date. It is almost like a mantra
"Nelson, Donna-Lane 24 juillet 1942."

Discrimination is wrong when applied to a minority group and should be stopped. It is equally wrong when applied to a majority.

Discrimination is wrong. Full stop.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Great Chemo

Yes, I know that great chemo sounds like an oxymoron, but it wasn't.

I was in a different room and the view and color tones thru the window were incredible.

The staff is providing a stick pin for all the women who are presently in chemo. There are a lot of us sadly, but the group is considered one of the best in Switzerland and that means every person here has the best chance possible.

But the nicest part was the wonderful conversation with Daniella. Marie-Odile, the nurse who stayed with me the first two times was on a deserved holiday. The two women are very different and show their caring in different ways. But they ooze caring.

We talked as if we were two women sharing a cup of tea, although I would prefer a normal tea room. As women we have so much in common that has nothing to do with cancer. They changed the dosage and eliminated the one that they think was overkill. I still had the pretty red liquid.

I am now 25% thru or another 27 more hours with the staff. The next process is a lower dose but weekly-nine times in three week segments.

Rick went down the hall to write...thank goodness. I love having him with me but he did have a deadline and I don't want him stressed.

We went to lunch across the street afterwards. The shrimp was delicious and I got to sample his veal and some of his real mashed potatoes, which I consider the ultimate comfort food.

Then home where he wrote and I gave in to mega sleepiness.

Upward and onward.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Restons Femmes

 Watch the whole video  

The wonderful women in the video are those that stick me, tear off bandages, laugh and dance with me thru chemo, bring me tea, take out stitches when they aren't dancing around Geneva to raise awareness of the fight against cancer.

They are an incredible addition to my life. Anyone of them I would like as a friend preferably when they are without needles.

Today they put on a program, Restons Femmes, where in different nooks and crannies of the hospital there were ateliers and information for women with breast cancer. I met up with Michel, my wig supplier, and Amelie who will come to the house to measure me for my prosthesis and provide me with beautiful lingerie.

I had a massage that almost put me to sleep.

I cannot think of one thing that they possibly could have added to make it better.

Everything possible was there to remind us that we remain women with or without breasts.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Thinking positively

If one more person says "I admire your positive attitude," I might positively hit them.


I am a naturally positive person, but I also realise there are unpleasant things that I have to deal with or I am just fooling myself.

Yes, I consider myself lucky for so much. Being in the Swiss medical system, having the loving support of my husband, my housemate, my friends, the HUG cancer team, is beyond a blessing. It would be a miracle for many less fortunate than I am.

I also realise there are family members that are currently facing medical crisises far more serious than mine, but feeling lucky at someone else's expense if not a good thing. I still had a boob and some lymph nodes that wanted to kill me which I consider an unnecessary hostile action on the part of my body.

I can even say I can try to think it is positive that I am learning patience late in life because when I feel so tired. I try, notice the try, to not think of things I would be doing if I weren't tired.

Success rate?

Don't ask.

The positive thought? I feel tired but I don't vomit.

I feel positive that my remaining boob is small enough I still can go braless with a loose top.

I feel positive that there is pretty new underwear in my future. The bra will have a matching boob.

My wig is the hair I always wanted, but being bald bothers me.  Okay at 73 I am still vain. I miss my cute, 30, 40 and even 50 cute self.

I am not my body, I am not my body, I am not body is a mantra.

Still there are moments I'd like to crawl under my bed and suck my thumb wallowing in self pity. I looked under it. The floor is hard, there is a book already read, and dust bunnies.

Maybe the state under the bed is good thing. It reminds me of how comfortable the bed is.

Damn it, that I can't do negative that a positive?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cute Cardiologist

He could see me the next morning, but at 7:50. I learned that late the afternoon before.

His office was in one of those wonderful old Geneva apartment buildings with huge rooms and high ceilings. I could almost imagine moving around with long dress and bustle.

He put his hand out and I responded in French but we decided to use franglais. His family uses danfran. His wife is Danish and his small children kept him up last night. All in all he was adorable.

As I age, it seems like many doctors are somewhere in kindergarten, but I suspected he was at least half way thru first grade.

He allowed me to see my heart in all its glory and it was glorious that it is working just fine in all aspects, very, very much so.

And he thanked me for being willing to come in so early. To get an appointment in less than 12 hours that put my mind at rest and allows for ongoing treatment????? No, I thanked him.

As I went into the waiting room where Rick sat, I noticed he has issues of Courrier International.

Another reason to like him.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

New friends

I don't recommend breast cancer as a social tool, but it is working for me on that level.

There's Alexandra who was my roommate during our breast surgeries. We've met up once. We already have memories of sneaking out of room and by the nurses station. Hope we can build some more.

Than today, Vanessa and I, who have been seeing each other in the waiting room and opposite chairs in chemo had a chance to talk and promised to spend some time together during the makeup and beauty session that the hospital is holding next week.

If I have to put up with the disadvantages of trying to destroy any cancer cell in a five mile radius, I am sure going to capture all the good parts.

Friday, October 2, 2015


I was becoming a slug barely able to move. The second chemo had created a tsunami of fatigue. Normally I don't cry at the effort of opening a beet vacpac or have to rest half way up the stairs.

At the consultation Dr. V. took it seriously and thought that the chemo was too strong for me. My white blood cell reading had been okay...or least it was in the report she'd been given. Unfortunately, it wasn't the one done an hour before. It was way, way down.

She also ordered a consultation with a cardiologist. That was about 15:30. The consultation was slated 7:50 the next morning. She faxed the one that said I had a strong heart done in Argelès in August to him.

Two days later my heart is fine, my blood cells are looking better, my chemo will be reevaluated to a lesser but still potent dose and I am returning to feeling human but still not perfect.

Clues: I took everything off my desk and I made my bed. I set down at the computer instead of using the iPad as I lay in bed. I put on earrings.

I was complaining to Rick how I hated being a slug. He suggested a career change. "You can be a sloth instead."