Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The first (long) day of chemo

Yesterday was a long day for Joan. Fortunately she sent me home to wait for her phone call.

We arrived at St John's at 8.20am and she finished up at 4.20pm. The infusion goes like this....Oxalplatin and Leucovorin (3 hours) Avastin (1.5 hours) and home with the pump for 46 hours of Flourocil. The Avastin prevents the growth of tumour blood vessels so they can't grow or spread. We go back to the hospital on Thursday to remove the pump and change the PICC dressing and see the Oncologist. A week later Joan has to have the PICC line flushed and then a few days off until it starts again.

Our son Martin gives a lot of thought to selecting presents. This Christmas even though he is rather depressed, he gave us great presents. To me, he gave this lovely book of reminiscences of growing up in Fremantle. Most of the characters in the book are well known and although they were some 15 years older than me they were still around and legend when I was a young fellow. Fremantle doesn't seem to have character it had back then. I doubt if any of the characters of the last 20 years will be remembered like Sand-shoe Willy or Shiner Ryan etc etc.

In pre-war times Fremantle was a bit rough and it was said that to mention that you lived in Fremantle wasn't the thing to do in polite society. During the war we lived in Fremantle in several rental properties, but in 1947 Dad finished building our house in Bicton and we shifted out there around 6 Kilometres from Freo. During the war years, accommodation in Fremantle was scarce and 'key money' was a way landlords cashed in on the shortage.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

This TV program screened today on ABC1 was not made for the peasants.

Giving without expectations and altruism real or not was the theme (I think?).

It was set post-tsunami and looked at some individuals who volunteered to help the victims. Their work was the backdrop to a discussion by some very smart individuals on altruism and the place of altruism in evolution.

One argument was that altruism would not fit true evolution where survival of the fittest would be the norm.

I normally feel good about refurbishing computers and giving them to needy people, but it was suggested that that feeling of being altruistic might well be aimed at getting a ticket to heaven. Indeed one of the volunteers is a Hungarian(?) fellow who said that when he was engaged in these works his heart felt good. He also mentioned Angels!

It made me do a little rethink of the direction I should be heading with my project. 'Giving without expectations' will be my motto from now on.

It was a complex and most interesting program covering many aspects of giving. I will watch the re-run on ABC1 this coming Tuesday 30th at 12.30pm Western Australian time and try and learn more.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day at the Locks

Xmas Day went very well. 15 guests including rellies and partners.

Brother Graham has just quit his job at a seafood wholesaler and his bonus included lots of fresh seafood for Chrissie day. Joan baked a turkey and made a wonderful Frozen Christmas Pudding using a pudding with ice cream mixed through with cherries, almond slivers and choc bits. Re-frozen it was a great finish to the meal. Others brought salads, fresh fruit and a lovely ham. Just the stuff for 35c temperature. And everyone seemed pretty happy with their pressies.

Joan starts Chemo on Tuesday morning. An early start to get the PICC inserted and then an anti- nausea drug and two hours of chemo and we bring another 46 hours of chemo home in a pump, then back to the hospital the day after to return the pump and have the PICC flushed out. The PICC also needs a weekly flush out in the 11 days leading up to the next round. I can see lots of waiting in treatment rooms over the next six months.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Yesterday Joan received a call from the oncologist saying that he has received a waiver to allow her onto the the SIRT trial. The SIRT trial is a random trial of injecting small radioactive particles into the bloodstream of the liver at the same time as the initial chemotherapy....sort of a double whammy!

Of the selected group half will get the dual treatment and half just the chemo. We leapt through all the hoops this morning and we agreed to participate in the test. Unfortunately later this afternoon we were advised that Joan was 'randomised' and she will not get the dual treatment, just the FOLFOX6m Chemotherapy. I guess they pull names out of a hat?

We are not too concerned because she will get the SIRT as a last resort in the treatment regime.

The oncologist has put forward the start of Chemo to Tuesday morning. It involves waiting, a blood test and then 30 minutes of an anti-nausea drug, then two hours chemo infusion and off home with a pump which slowly feeds in the rest of the dose over 46 hours and then back to the hospital to remove the pump and flush out the PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter). This is repeated every two weeks for six months. Evaluation is made through scans and blood markers.

Another bit of bad news today was the discovery of blood clots in her lungs. I have been shown the correct method of injecting a drug into the fatty tissue of the stomach and will be doing it daily for ever.

We have family coming for Christmas and we are having friends around for New Year. Lately we don't last long enough to see the new year in and fade by about 10.30pm.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Waiting, waiting and more waiting

We spent nearly 8 hours at the hospital today, but it was eventually productive.

We arrived at 8am, parked the car in the multistorey carpark, and went for a blood test which was done promptly. We then walked to the radiology clinic (outside the hospital) for a 8.45 appointment. We were early for this so were prepared to wait, but at 8.30 I was ushered into a cubicle, told to put on a gown and left there, sitting on a very hard wooden bench with no reading material. By 9.15 I was a mess. No-one had come near me, I had heard the CT machine operated twice on people who had turned up after me and we had been advised that processing the films and preparing the report would take at least two hours when I had a 10.45 appointment with the oncologist. I was really stressed out.

Finally, they were ready for me and the scan started at 9.40. More problems. I needed to have a dye infusion and they couldn't pump it in - first one arm, then the other and a third attempt on the original arm. Success at the price of an aching arm because I had to hold it up straight while all this was going on. The scan itself took almost no time.

More waiting faced us, but we decided to walk down to Subiaco Square and have a coffee rather than sit in the waiting room. We collected the films at 10.30 and went to the oncologist's rooms. More waiting. At least this time Kevin had something interesting to read - he had spent over an hour waiting for me with only New Idea and Woman's Day available as reading material (he reckons he can now answer any quiz question on Brangelina) - but the oncologist has aviation magazines.

By the time we left his rooms at 11.45 we had received some more bad news (there are some small tumours on my lungs) but had treatment organised for the whole shebang. I am to start chemotherapy on New Year's Eve for the first of 12 fortnightly cycles. We were advised to make an appointment at the chemotherapy suite for an information session. We asked for one today, not wanting to drive all the way back, but could not get one before 2pm. So, yet more waiting. We had lunch at the hospital restaurant - quite nice sushi - then sat outside under shade for an hour and a bit.

When we fronted up we had to wait a bit longer - and fill in another set of forms! The oncologist rang on my mobile - he had got a waiver for me to take part in a clinical trial of a new treatment. This involves radiation as well as chemo. We have another appointment for tomorrow morning at RPH.

The information session took over an hour. A bit of information overload. The really good thing was that they swapped our parking ticket for a fully paid one, so no parking fees today. They would have mounted up, too, at $2 hour.

cancer and chemotherapy

We are back from a consultation with an oncologist. He is a pleasant enough bloke with a good straightforward attitude to the case. I didn't like that much because he didn't soften the blow when it came to possible outcomes. Chemotherapy, he said, gives roughly 40% good results. 30% reasonable results and the rest poor results. Not much joy there!

He wants us back tomorrow very early to have another blood test and a CAT scan of Joan's lungs. I guess by that he is saying that it may have spread to the lungs???

He outlined the treatment which is going to have the best outcome. There are two possibilities. 1. straight Chemotherapy (one day of infusion and two days of carrying a pump to load up with the rest of the dose.) and repeating the whole thing after another 12 days ...for six months, or 2. Getting her on a trial using SIRT + Chemo. This trial is testing an infusion of irradiated material into the liver at the start of the chemo through a catheter in the groin.

Tomorrow early we head up to Wembley for an 8am blood test and then a CAT scan, wait for the results and take them to the oncologist for the final assessment on the treatment options.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Private health cover

Joan's colonoscopy went well and the surgeon told her that the bowel tumour is quite small and not causing any blockage. He is going to leave that tumour so that chemotherapy can start almost immediately. Had he opted for surgery the chemo would have to be delayed for six weeks. Let's get started and the bowel can be done later!

Next is the visit to the oncologist on Monday.

Without private health cover Joan would have had to wait 10 days to see this surgeon. It is a shame that to benefit from years of paying out one has to be seriously sick.

And now something different. A picture of power lines in the street of Ko Samui, Thailand. I reckon there would be a bit of power theft amongst that lot. It looks like my fishing line after a day on the water.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Yesterday Joan reacted badly to the 'Pico Prep' colonoscopy preparation drink and had to go to hospital. We were warned that this might be on the cards. It has never happened to me when I have taken it and I guess that is because I don't (didn't) have a tumor in my bowel.

The specialist had arranged for Joan to go into hospital if she did have a bad reaction to the prep. They hooked her up to a drip and gave her an anti-nausea shot and she was able to keep it down. She rang me earlier this morning feeling comfortable and ready for the colonoscopy at 2.30pm.....very hungry after a diet of 'clear liquids'.

We are getting over the initial shock of the diagnosis. First reaction was that it should have been me with the cancer as my father died of bowel and a secondary liver cancer. That was a long and very traumatic trip over three years. We have been assured that modern chemo is much better that the 1990s stuff. We certainly hope so.

On Monday we talk with the oncologist to plan the chemo strategy.

We have decided to carry on as normal as is possible with life and the blog. I shall report developments as well as, I hope, interesting reading.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Liver Cancer

Yesterday my dear wife Joan was diagnosed with advanced bowel and liver cancer.

It followed a series of tests to find what was causing the ongoing nausea, dizziness and diarrhea. Her GP ordered a CAT scan because a few of the markers for cancer were present and early yesterday morning we had a phone call from the GP for Joan to attend her rooms. I was called soon after to share the bad news.

She had made a plan of attack and had booked us in to see a Colorectal surgeon. Wow, some heavy news with lots of tears! That afternoon we met with the surgeon, who explained the whole thing including the fight would be a chemotherapy one as there was too much of a spread of the liver cancer for surgery. He arranged for Joan to have a colonoscopy on Friday afternoon to determine if the bowel was being blocked by the tumour. If it is, then he would do a resection of the bowel almost immediately.

We are booked in to see an oncologist on Monday to set out the plan of attack. We have been warned that cure is not on the cards, but there is every chance that the modern medicines will give us a few more years together.

Two hard days!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Then and now

Click on the Pics to enlarge them.
This is the house we owned for almost 30 years on Canning Highway, Bicton. It was built in 1897 and we were the second owners.
This is our house circa 1900 with Canning Highway as a dirt road and kids dangerously playing amongst the horse poo on the highway. The hotel in the valley is the Leopold Hotel before it was 'modernised'.
And here it is today. The house is still there in excellent condition behind all the greenery on the right. The Leopold is still trading as a pub and it is one of the reasons we decided to sell up and shift. The kids are long gone.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Diarrhoea or Diarrhea take your pick

Yesterday I rang my contact for the Noongar Aboriginal Centre in Albany. We had previously installed some computers there in the hope of keeping aboriginal youth in touch with the world.

In Albany, there is a lot of absenteeism by aboriginal students at both primary and secondary schools and an alarming number of youth suicides. We asked that the community centre people report back to inform us as to whether the computers are being used and if it is thought that more machines would be useful. I was pleased to hear that they are being used and that they do need plenty more. I arranged to take a trip to Albany in late January with another ten iMacs.

The iMacs I am setting up are not speed machines, but are still working well and screen resolution and sound system is great. Being all-in-one machines they take up a lot less room than 'tower' computers. They were all manufactured in 2000, installed at the University of W.A., then Murdoch University and lastly at the CYO Institute where I collected them for further distribution. All they need is a PRAM battery of which I have ordered 50 from HK.
The only real problem with them is the size of the hard drive. They all have a 6+GB hard drive. The latest iMacs have a 2 Terrabyte disk. It isn't a great problem as I don't think there will be a lot of storage space taken up with documents...more likely is storage of photos.

To ensure that no private data is left on any machine I am doing a 'clean install' of the operating system which wipes all previous data. Games and word processor packages are also loaded.

Joan is again showing the symptoms of Campylobacter jejuni....nausea, dizziness and Diarrhoea.

The GP has ordered more blood and poo tests and the results will be available on Monday. Hope it is nothing serious.

I had a call from 'my' renal specialist saying that the latest urine test showed an increase of protein in the sample. Previously he suggested that my slightly high blood pressure may be causing this extra protein. He prescribed a beta blocker to lower my blood worked! He now thinks that my low blood pressure is doing the same and has taken me off the beta blocker. Can't figure that one out. Another test late next week should shed some light.

Ah, getting's great!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nigerian scams

After searching on the WWW for the cheapest batteries for the collection of iMacs I am working on I finally decided to buy a 50 Pack of Half AA 3.6v Lithium batteries from China on eBay. Instead of the best Australian price of $10. each these were $2.62 which includes postage from Hong Kong. I have bought quite a bit of stuff from China, both Hong Kong and Mainland China and never had anything but good service and products.

Our daughter has given up selling her iPod Touch on eBay after a scammer spent a fair bit of time working up to a con job. In the end the person who had offered to buy her iTouch told Helen that she had a lot of cash she needed to get out of the country and that Helen was the only person she could trust to help her...for which she thanked God. Typical Nigerian scam! Helen reported it to eBay security and they are investigating what must be one of hundreds of these scams.

And now a bit of science wonder... This page is worth signing up for an email's free.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Many Macs

Just when I thought I would take a break from refurbishing computers I have been given another two lots of Macs. Yesterday Martin, our son, helped me collect 19 iMacs and some PCs along with boxes of cables...remember when they were hard to get?, and lots of bits and pieces most of which are unknown to me. The place we collected them from was the CYO'Connor ERADE Village Foundation. At this stage I am unsure what the Foundation does apart from research. It is associated with Murdoch University. I am to get a copy of their annual report soon so should then know exactly what they research. The 'village' has three two story admin blocks and the computers and other gear, had to be taken one at a time down steep stairs. Good exercise for me.

These machines are working well, but all of them need a new PRAM battery which costs $10. each. The PRAM battery maintains date and time and printer selection. It is not that important, but things do run more smoothly with a good battery. Batteries and fuel are the only costs to me in this project. On Sunday next I am collecting 8 eMacs from a print firm in Perth. Their National IT Manager is a young chap who will have given my project a total of 18 eMacs when I collect them on the weekend.

This eMac was amongst all the iMacs...all it needed was a replacement DVD drive. eMacs are a beautiful piece of design. I tend to open them up for the silliest of reasons..... just to admire the way they are built.
Yesterday I went to a specialist as a follow-up to what was thought to be a kidney problem. The first visit cost around $240 of which Medicare gave us back $127.55. Yesterday's visit cost $160 and Medicare is giving us $149.25 because we have reached a threshold and the benefit was increased to 80%. The specialist is a young Chinese Australian who is going to end up very wealthy. Makes me wonder why a medico would remain a GP rather than specialise. Anyway, the man now thinks that my kidneys are not causing the pain and will have me do a bone scan in the new year. He did ask quite a few questions about the results of my Radical Prostatectomy.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nigeria scam variant

I will hold off posting more random images for today to tell an interesting eBay story.

Our daughter Helen was given an 8GB iTouch. She wanted a 32GB model and decided to see if she could sell it on eBay. It originally cost A$246 and she advertised it at a 'Buy Now' price of the same amount. She received am offer to buy from a woman in the US, who supplied an email and postal address. Once Helen was to advise her of her PayPal details she would transfer the funds Helen would post the iTouch and deal done.

This morning she received an email from this 'woman' saying that for an extra $150, could she post it directly to her brother in Nigeria as a Xmas present?

Nigeria?? The home of all scams! We will follow this one through to see how the 'buyer' contrives to scam Helen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wartime Fremantle photos

I have decided to post what I consider interesting photographs instead of lots of text for a while.
Should you wish to add photos to my blog, please feel free to email them to me at

These first three photos were taken just after WW2 hostilities finished in 1945. They were taken by a Fremantle photographer Saxon Fogarty and are part of a wonderful collection of glass-plate negatives I had the privilege to scan some years ago. All three are taken in Fremantle harbour. First is a British mother ship HMS Adamant and her submarines, a Dutch submarine, the Tjigerhaai (Tigershark) with crew on deck and U.S. navy subs. Fremantle was a very large submarine base during the war.
(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

70 years and starting on the 71st

My 70th Birthday bash went off very well. Plenty of food and drink and good company. Daughter Helen and her man James did a great job heating and serving food. Another friend Margaret took it upon herself to help out with the food serving. Thanks Marg.
We specifically asked that people didn't bring presents, but I was pleasantly surprised at some of the gifts. Joy gave me a biography by Frank McCourt, 'Teacher Man'. McCourt gained world acclaim with his first book 'Angela's Ashes'. Joy wrote a note saying that I would enjoy Teacher Man because I was a similar teacher to McCourt. It wasn't until I was about a third of the way through the book that I realised that I had had many similar experiences to McCourt.

I taught at a few tough high schools....Kwinana, Rockingham, Cecil Andrews and a short time after my retirement at a doozy...Nth Lake Senior Campus. My 13 years at Willetton Senior High was the highlight of my Australian teaching.....wonderful tone, great kids and staff.

Frank McCourt taught at several New York high schools which sound like they were similar to some of my postings.

When I retired I was urged to do two terms at North Lake Senior College teaching English to Year11 trade boys, all of which were for some reason or other rejects from regular high schools.
Reading Frank McCourt's book reminded me of the earlier encounters with those lads. On the first day, the boys acted up something bad to impress the new teacher.....I finished the day telling the boss that I didn't need the money and certainly didn't need the grief. He talked me into staying on and over a few weeks things improved as I modified my teaching methods to try and get to these lads. We were analyzing the movie, Sureshank Redemption and they had viewed the video about six times already and couldn't think past creating their own words for the gang rape of the main character. I asked them to give me an adjective describing that act. Most didn't know what an adjective was, but when I explained what one was they rattled off dozens of them, lots of which couldn't be written on the blackboard. After looking at the movie again with adjectives in mind we assembled a blackboard of adjectives describing every scene of the movie. Yes you can have too many adjectives, but they did enjoy using plenty of them. They actually liked using adjectives in their speech and ventured into adverbs etc. I imaging some of them did a bit of big timing to their younger siblings and parents.

They also learned a few words which they didn't really know the meaning of, such as institutionalised, describing one of the characters who couldn't live on the outside after spending so many years in prison. Necessity is the mother of invention and teachers have to change their methods to suit the situation or go down in a heap.

I never made close friends with those young blokes, but at the end of the school year I got all of them a pass in English...with a little judicious modification of some results and we parted on good terms.