Friday, March 18, 2016

Fuzzy Wuzzy

rch 18, 2016

fuzzy wuzzy

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy was he?

I admit it. 

I'm vain. 

One of the hardest things for me about chemo was being bald. Harder than feeling so weak that walking across the room was a challenge. 

Granted I have two lovely wigs which are prettier than my own hair. 

Not having to blow dry my hair did have its advantages, and I tried to think of it as a silver lining, albeit a tarnished silver one.

People tell me my hair will grow back better than before, but still the image of one friend whose hair did not grow back haunted my 3 a.m. nightmares.

Now I have fuzz on my head. Not a lot, but fuzz nevertheless. Rick can call me Fuzzy even if it is too early to worry about an increased household budget item for shampoo.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Radiation and humor

The radiation treatment I am undergoing involves special heat lamps trained on my chest which is alleged to lure any microscopic cancer cells to my chest then once they are there they will be attacked with short shots of radiation.

For 45 minutes I lie there, delightfully warm listening to the machine click off whenever my skin reaches 41°C and on again when it is drops below.

The doctor is in the room with me. I was so worried he would be a stuffy Swiss German who spoke n English, no French. He is fluent in both along with five other languages and two more where he is functional.

He's anything but stuffy. We chat off and on about the treatment, languages, books, art and music. He has a delightful giggle.

Last treatment he told me a joke after I asked him if he understood the expression "piece of cake" which is how I think of the treatments especially compared to chemo. We tested each other on different expressions...then he told me a joke.

A Brit, a Frenchman and a Czech went hunting in Canada during the winter even though the RCMP had warned them how dangerous it was.

The hunters didn't return and the Mounties started a hunt. They came across footprints in the snow leading to a cave where they saw a female bear with an extended stomach far too big to be just carrying baby bears. They killed the bear and cut her open and found the Brit and the Frenchman.

"Let's keep looking. There may be another bear that got the Czech," Mountie 1 said to the other.

"I'm not so sure," said Mountie 2.

They kept searching and found more footprints, another cave and another fat bear only this was a male. They killed that bear too.

When they cut him open they found the remains of the Czech.

"I told you the Czech was in the male," Mountie 1 said to Mountie 2.

Who says radiation can't be fun?

Radioactive dates

Throughout the entire treatment for cancer, I have tried to make the best of whatever.  Sometimes it is easier than other times.

Now at the end of the process, it is getting easier and easier.

I have had to go from Geneva to Bern six times: One consultation, five radiation treatments. It is about 1.5 hours away on the highway, but the train is far nicer because we can read, snooze, relax. We catch the 9:12.

The scenery is beautiful.

Rick calls them our radioactive dates because we get a chance to explore the city as if we were on a date before I'm nuked.

When we arrived on Tuesday a good band was playing Ave Maria and then the William Tell

And we visited a museum, had a nice lunch before heading to the hospital.

As always we were on photo safari wherever we go.

Back at the train station we had only a few minutes to catch the train or wait an hour so we couldn't buy one of the great pretzels that are nothing like the kind the supermarkets sell. Next week hopefully on our next radioactive date.

Good bye Dr.M

I said good bye to my surgeon, the woman who operated on my
right breast twice.

She is a beautiful woman, not in the Hollywood glamour sense. Her blond hair, blue eyes and balanced features might make movie town status if she bothered with make up but even without it there is a still a beauty.

What makes her truly beautiful is when she walks into a room she brings with her a sense of calm. The same calm is shown whether bringing good or bad news.

This appointment is one of good news. All my signs, my scar are good.  I won't need to see her again even if I have one breast that still could be chopped off. Neither of us wants that. Better to greet in the street or over a cup of coffee.

I am also saying good bye, because she is leaving HUG and La Maternié where I have received such wonderful care, physically and emotionally and will still have follow up check ups.

She is going to start a new breast cancer clinic in a private hospital, a challenge and change is looking forward to after ten years with HUG.

She explains that she could only do that because of Swiss law. Now the obligatory insurance can be used at public or private hospitals rather than just the public. The public ones like HUG are world class teaching hospitals and many of the private hospitals are also good but before the legal change the required insurance was much more expensive.

"I didn't want to only treat the rich," she said. She wanted to be available to anyone who would need her. "Money isn't that important to me."

I thank her for her care, for her patience when I didn't like what she told me and for everything.

We hug at HUG.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


It has been six weeks since my last chemo and I had hoped to see more fuzz on my head. 

I do worry about hair regrowth and although people tell me it will be better than before, I do have one friend whose hair never regrew.

Now I have liked having a couple of wigs where I can change my hair length instantly, and it is ever so easy in the morning to towel dry my head instead of blow drying my hair but I STILL WANT HAIR.

Rick called attention to the photo above.


If my hair doesn't grow back would that be a solution?

"We could get Pauline to do it. Or Miloud." He was referring to two beloved Argelès artists.

"Or Marco."

Maybe not Marco. Lovely man when sober. Not sure what he would do when he wasn't sober.

Then I realised, although I love the henna design, I don't have to be limited. I could have scenics, portraits, geometric designs.

I did look at the internet for products but I still hope my real hair regrows. At least I have plan B.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Haikus and radiation

Because of earlier radiation, the 25 nukings were not an option.  Instead they proposed the following.

Go to Bern, about two hours from Geneva. I was a bit worried. My German is bad and my Swiss German worse, but the charming doctor spoke seven languages with English and French being two of them. He was anything but stuffy.

He heats my skin with lamps for 45 mins. Then I get nuked for 28, 35 and 3 seconds. The concept is that if there is a microscopic cancer cell it will move to the heat and a lesser radiation will zap it. In place of the five times a week for five weeks it is one time a week for five weeks.

A piece of cake.

What do I do when I spend 45 mins with my eyes covered and heat lamps aimed at my chest warming my chest for the radiation?

I write haikus in my head. I don't claim they are poetic but they fit the form.

Rain batters the roof
Creating a melody
During my treatment

he machine clicks on
The machine clicks off
Warming my bare chest

The doctor and I
Talk of typewriters and more
It passes the time

Crayon colors my chest
In swirls and other designs
Target radio.

Miro and Calder
That is how my chest looks now
Radiation marks