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.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Moving along

Five down seven to go.

What I don't understand is after chemo and the next couple of days I feel wonderful but then as the week goes on, I seem to downgrade into tired and my asthma seem to get worse. 

Chemo has helped my pimples.  

I  don't recommend this as a beauty treatment, but if I have the disadvantages, I might as well take the good stuff.

Nurse C. forgot the raspberry tiramisu recipe but she says next week.

Another nurse asked me to change my 10:30 next week appointment to 8:30...switch with a woman whose has a seriously ill husband and has a temporary caretaker problem.

Of course, not that I like to get up that early and at 10:30 we miss commuter traffic, but I can just imagine how hard this must be for her plus caring for a sick mate.

I look at Rick, writing across the table for me, and am so grateful for his good health. 

We will set two alarms next week. We will finish closer to an early lunch at the restaurant across the street from the hospital where we go each week. Our first fidelity card is almost filled which means one free meal.

More important the food is good and the owner now greet us friends.

I mean it 100% when I say, life is good.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Winning Kudos

Boy, did my husband win kudos by bringing flowers to the nursing team during my chemo treatment. He didn't do it get better treatment for me from the staff. I can't get much better treatment unless they have a magic wand to make it all go away. It was a thank you and recognition of their general wonderfulness.

I kept hearing, "C'est de marie de Madame Nelson. Il est gentil," which I kept hearing from the room where they gather. And yes, he is gentil.When I was in a ward with six beds and five had flowers and one woman did not, he brought her a small bouquet.

As for the rest of the new protocol, it was the usual wonderful chatter and tea with the nurses, explanations, etc. 

It is always wonderful to see Pascale's smile. Marie-Odile had a good vacances and her back is better. I learned about Cristine's children and that my birthday is her saint's day.

This is the first of nine treatments over the next 11 weeks and are supposed to be less intrusive.

One advantage is that it makes me sleepy, so I napped thru at least half of it making the time go faster. Sorta like when on a drive with someone else at the wheel.

Still sleepy for the rest of the day, but no nausea, I hope this energy level continues and all my white blood cells decide to stay home.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Rick and I were eating at a restaurant in Grenoble. I noticed all the youngish women (anyone under 50) and said, "They all have two breasts and their hair." 

I wasn't jealous. I just knew that they didn't appreciate breasts and hair, any more than I had before they lopped off the breast and chemo decided bald was beautiful. It was more an observation.

He didn't say much. Then as we were walking back to the car to complete our trip to Geneva, he pointed out this poster. "You may not have your hair and only one breast, but she has only one eye."

I giggled the rest of the way to the parking lot.