Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Salad Nicoise

Joan has lost almost all the appetite she had before this last round of chemo. We are worried that she will lose even more weight and become dangerously weak. How would Nigella cope with such a loss of appetite?

At lunchtime she tried a favourite recipe with the hope that she could eat it. The meal is a salad...Salad Nicoise. As with most of these meals, by the time she has prepared it she has lost all desire to eat. She did have some and I enjoyed my portion. This is a lovely snack meal.

Here is a pic of the leftovers and below the recipe.

Ingredients: 3 small potatoes, 2 eggs, parsley, 3-4 cherry tomatoes, anchovies and olives, approx. 12 green beans and a small can of Tuna in oil.

Method: Boil the potatoes and eggs; peel.
Cook the green beans.
Cut the eggs and potatoes into bite size pieces.
Cut tomatoes into halves
Combine all ingredients and chill.
Serve on lettuce leaves.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Xmas and the New Year

Christmas was hot and without snow. We drove up north of the city to Joan’s sister’s place. Katherine, our niece, Dorothy and Mike’s daughter was over from the U.S. along with her fiance Rick. It was a most pleasant day , but we left early at around 4pm as Joan was feeling poorly. Katherine and Rick changed their itinerary to attend Helen and James’ wedding.

It is over one week since Joan’s infusion of Irinotecan and it has been most debilitating. Once again she has lost her appetite and is sleeping about 15 or more hours a day. We usually host a New Year’s get together with a few of our friends, but unfortunately Joan is not able to manage an evening even if everyone brings a ‘plate’*. I will call the usual guests tomorrow to let them know.

Each new year’s show seems to finish earlier...I doubt if any of our friends have actually seen in the New Year for years.

Years ago I had a local studio put some of our 1960s/70s Super8 movie film onto DVD. A few days ago I decided to try and extract some scenes of our kids when they were quite young living in Papua New Guinea. It has been a bit of a learning curve for Kev, but I think I have been able to save the bits I needed using the Demo version of a program called Screenium. The demo allows 30 second grabs which seems to be about the size of the scenes I want to extract. A couple these grabs will appear in future blogs.

* a ‘plate’ is old fashioned Australian for a plate with food on it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Assange mimicry

Well, that creepy guy Julian Assange certainly is well known around the world. He has been very influentual and has a big following of ‘friends’ who are defending his right to expose stuff about the U.S.. Seems like the only way we are to get leaks about other nations, including Australia, is through U.S. diplomatic cables mentioning our Pollies.

He has influenced a young football groupy who is posting compromising photos of some of the much loved sports heroes on Facebook. Just like Julian, she promises more exposes in the form of photos, regularly. She has achieved Australia-wide notoriety and has done dozens of interviews and been reported on by just about every newspaper in Aus. This gal is just 17; claims to have had a stillborn baby to a footy player, had sex with a couple of other players and now wants to punish footy blokes, especially those in the Saints Football Club. Julian is also out to punish the U.S. for its reaction to his leaks.

A Russian billionaire (aren’t there lots of them!?) publisher is cooperating with Assange to expose corruption in Russia. Watch out mate; people who blow the whistle in Russia don’t usually last too long.

Here is a link to that young 'lady’s' story.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

compromised immune system

Monday afternoon we visited the oncologist and he ordered the makeup of the Irinotecan. It is a lesser dose than she will get in the future if this infusion does not have extreme side effects.

A big worry is what Irinotecan does to the white blood cells and the immune system (neutropenia). I have suggested that Joan make up a badge which tells people that her immune system is compromised. She doesn’t need any infections from well-meaning huggers.

The infusion is administered by nurses in the Ivy Suite just down the hall from his office. The ‘Ivy’ Suite is so named, not for some floral tribute, but because all the chemo is administered by IV infusion. I guess it could also get its name from Poison Ivy. It was 8pm when Joan phoned me to collect her.

The oncologist’s waiting room is seldom a place of joy. There are sometimes ‘newbies’ with the look of hope. There are others who are near their end and look resigned to their fate. We are still with hope at this stage....there is the hope of extended time if not a remission. Joan hopes for a few years yet.

Oncology must be a very stressful facet of medicine, but it must be very rewarding when there is a success story.

So far Joan has not had any side effects from ‘Angry Irene’ but most of the nasties present after a few days. She still has a reasonable appetite, but cannot eat red meat. No curries for her these days.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Helen and James- 18th December 2010

The wedding of our daughter Helen to James went off very well. Earlier in the morning it was overcast which is good for photographs, but as we arrived at Minim Cove, the sun came out in all its eye torturing brilliance.

The bridal party did the photos at a nearby park and then it was off to the Red Herring for the reception. The food, drinks and service was excellent and we fronted up to pay,it didn't break the bank.

Some Pics....

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An anniversary

Today is the anniversary of Joan's diagnosis of bowel, liver and lung cancer. She went to the GP to hear what the scan had to say about a minor pain and some nausea. I was at home and had a phone call to come straight in to the explanation...just come now. I guessed what it might be but I wasn't prepared for the number and spread of the tumours and the advanced stage of the disease. Many tears that day 12 months ago.

The treatment has been harsh...probably worse than the cancer. Joan has lost 30 kilograms and is quite weak, but still driving and enjoying the company of friends. Next Monday she recommences chemo with a new (to her) drug named, Irinotecan and it promises to be very debilitating with all the side effects of the worst of them.

It has been a bastard of a year! So no anniversary presents please.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Zillund

New Zealand is quite close to Australia and both countries speak the same language; English....well sort of.

The New Zealanders have an accent which is a bit grating, something like the Africaans accent. We in Australia of course have perfect diction and nobody can take the micky out of us about how we speak English.

You too can learn the image to enlarge

A few years ago we were touring in NZ and took the ferry from Wellington in the North Island to Picton in the South Island. Mid way the weather got a bit nasty and a loudspeaker announcement suggested that....’All those pissengers on the top dick should now come inside’. I couldn’t help laughing and other local passengers looked at me as though I was two steaks short of a barbie.

New Zealand does have a lot to offer the tourist and it is all within reasonable driving distance. Australia is at the moment trying to boost the tourist trade by putting Oz on the world scene by having Oprah gush about us. Trouble is that Aus is a big place and the distance between touristy sites is mostly too far to drive and too expensive to fly. One can drive North in Western Australia for a thousand kilometres before seeing anything really spectacular. Even a week at Rottnest Island , 12 miles off the coast at Fremantle, costs more than a flight to Bali including hotel accommodation.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Helen and James should be getting excited at the prospect of their wedding this coming Saturday. We have borrowed a wheelchair for Joan in case the effort of walking down to the gardens for the ceremony will make her too tired to enjoy the reception. She is not too thrilled at giving in and being wheeled down by me, but realises that it must be so just for that part of the day.

Computers given to me are reloaded with an appropriate operating system and software; tested thoroughly before giving them to needy folks. A recent donation was from a young IT specialist at a large Australia-wide publishing company. The 11 machines are Mac G5 towers; solid workhorses beautifully made with solid aluminium cases. He told me that two of them don't work and that another top notch machine was experiencing a Kernel Panic. It is such a nice machine I made a huge effort and got it running and was pretty proud of myself. As a precaution it has been in use for a few weeks, but yesterday it fell down with the black screen and instructions in different languages.
It's not going to recycling like the other stuff in my trailer....too good for the tip!
A few pics of that G5.....
there are two sets of fans which just slide out of the box.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Big Julie

Julian Assange has been arrested and it looks like his fame has spread worldwide. I reckon he is up for Time Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ cover. Time’s Man of the Year cover doesn’t always show the nice guys.

Some things should be exposed to the world, but some things shouldn’t and I believe he has been a bit naughty in exposing diplomatic cables. U.S. consular staff assessments of world leaders look bad when there are no similar assessment of the U.S. leaders by foreign governments. That is most probably because those foreign governments haven’t (yet) had an insider sell the documents. Can you imagine what foreign governments would have said about George Bush? Is it just me, or does Jules look more than a bit creepy?

This week I have placed a couple of computers with needy folks. One was to an Aboriginal fellow who strangely, out of the blue, asked if I had a sickness. I told him about Joan’s fight with the BigC and he offered me an Aboriginal bush medicine which he assures me will cure her.
I took up his offer and although it doesn’t taste too good, Joan is trying it.
We both know that different cancers; prostate, liver, lung, breast cancers are treated with different chemo regimes and a single tea concoction from tree bark is not going to be a wonder drug. We also know that it can’t really hurt and is worth a try.

Another Mac was installed for a woman who is going through a tough time with a mental condition. She brightened up considerably when she fired the machine up and talked about the world that would be opening up to her when she connects to the WWW.

I loaned another Mac to a young Indian man, who has been employed in Australia for 6 years. He is an IT person who works for the Education Department in Perth. In recent times schools are going back to Mac computers in classrooms and the Education Department doesn’t have any Mac savvy IT people to support them. He hopes to get up to speed on the borrowed Mac and will give it back when he thinks he is familiar with the operating system. He is very bright and shouldn’t take too long to get the hang of it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Angry Irene

Our plasma TV has started to die. It has a vertical red stripe about three inches wide on the RH side. It is about 5 years old and cost around $2,600 when we bought it. It isn’t one of the major brands. In fact, when I mention the name, people smile.

Yesterday we bought a Panasonic 50” Plasma HD TV and thrown in the deal was a Panasonic Blue Ray 3D player priced at $399. Along with a 5 year extended warranty the package cost around $1800.

The TV will be delivered tomorrow and I will have to dispose of the old one. In some suburbs it would go on the verge and be snapped up in minutes, but this suburb with dozens of cul-de-sacs, doesn’t lend itself to ‘GutterMart’ curb-crawlers. Off to landfill?

The technological advances in the new TV over the old one are significant.
It has all sorts of tricks that need to be setup by a 10 year old child. Where will I find one?

Not long until Helen and James wed. Two days later Joan starts the chemotherapy, Irinotecan....colloquially called ‘Angry Irene’. Something to look forward to for Christmas?

Friday, December 3, 2010

A delayed chemotherapy session

Today we went to see the oncologist. We talked about the chemotherapy regime Joan was about to embark on and he told us that, yes indeed, Joan would lose her hair, feel nauseous and suffer badly from diarrhea. Joan was upset with that news as she wanted to be as good as possible for Helen's wedding on December 18th.

He told us he could delay the chemo if she so decided. He reminded us that the radiotherapy is not terribly effective without chemo follow up and gave us the chance to consider her options. Personally, I wanted Joan to have every chance and do the chemo, but she opted for the delay which is her right. The Oncologist did say that he could have started her on a light dose before the wedding and increase the dose after the ceremony. I guess she will be straight into the full hit when she starts Irinotecan on the 20th of December.

I finally got my iPhone working. One of the problems was the $40 hard case we bought which was holding down some of the buttons on the side. It is now working like a charm, but as yet nobody has called me. Tomorrow morning I am going to put my name (Sharon) along with my mobile number at bus stops suggesting people 'ring me for a good time'.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Three Score and Ten+

Today I 'celebrate' a 71st. A friend emailed me to inform me that.... 'You have now gone over your biblically allotted three score years and ten'. We had a small gathering here for our daughter Helen's birthday yesterday and combined it with mine of today. I specifically asked for no pressies, but got lots of nice ones including a wonderful recliner lounge from Helen and her man James. Joan held up for most of the afternoon, but had to go to bed and rest before our guests departed.
And today, Joan bought me an iPhone. We decided to buy it from one of the myriad of phone shops at Garden City shopping centre. We scored a new salesperson and it took around 40 minutes to get the signup done. He asked why I was buying an iPhone. 'Do you have an Apple Mac Computer?' Strange!

During the final stages of setting up the contract, the store manager also asked why I was buying an iPhone, explaining...'because most people don't know the poor things about the iPhone and don't want to be told'.

As I remember, he listed several problems.....miniature SIM card; the battery cannot be removed, when transferring songs from a PC it wipes previous loaded tunes. He also informed us that there are other better phones.

Probably not the best salesperson and strangely working for a phone company that recently merged with a large Apple retailer here in Perth.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Running Hot and Cold

Over the last two days Joan’s body thermometer has been playing up. One minute she is hot and the next she is freezing cold with extreme shakes. Her temperature jumped to 38c so we rang the Oncologist. He told her to come into his rooms today. She had some bloods done and her white cells are good. He then ordered a urine sample and a PICC line blood culture. He suspects an infection and has prescribed a heavy anti-biotic. We will hear from him on Saturday with the results.

These setbacks are frightening and with the BigC in the picture, one thinks the worst when something like this happens. Somewhat of a relief when The Man suggests an infection is probably the cause. The Onco was of two minds as to whether to hospitalise Joan and we are thankful that he decided not to.

Our son Martin has sorted out the problem with the ambulance service and because he had missed a meeting at CentreLink whilst in hospital, had to do a lot of explaining to get back on welfare. I drove down to his unit this afternoon and waved a magic screwdriver over his washing machine and it decided to do the right thing and start working again.

Calm has returned to the Lock household.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No good news here

Nothing good to write about today. Joan is very tired and 'washed out' with severe diarrhea. Our son Martin is still with antibiotic pump and catheter. Yesterday we drove him to Rockingham hospital to get dressings done, more antibiotics for the pump and get the results of a blood test. Bad news is, he now has Kidney problems bordering on failure.

He is a little offside with me at the moment and that makes it difficult to help him. I need to investigate a malfunction in his washing machine, because the retailer tells me that the symptoms seem like the water pump is blocked, and if that is so it wouldn't be covered by the warranty. I need to take the rear panel off and see if something like a sock has lodged in the pump before calling on a warranty repair. I am expecting the cold shoulder when I turn up at his place. Even after all we have done for him a couple of words can sour the relationship.

Some time ago I thought about my relationship with my late father, Arthur Lock.

I miss him when I am working alone

His skills were of a yesteryear.

He’d be interested in today’s

gadgets I know. We were closer

In the latter years and

I yearn for the same for my son and I .

but I fear it is not to be.

I am unsure we will ever be friends

Like I was with my father.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hospital costs

Martin is still in hospital and looks like he will be for some days yet. He is waiting on the result of a blood culture before being allowed home. He had the catheter removed a few days ago, but was unable to urinate, so it was replaced. He has been moved out of the single ward and into a four bed ward because the bed was needed for a post operative patient, Yesterday I did some more work at his unit and in the mailbox was a bill from the St John’s Ambulance Service for $418.

On the evening that Martin was admitted to Rockingham Hospital he called an ambulance. The dispatch person asked him to describe his situation to another person, presumably a nurse, and was told that his case was not an emergency. He then rang us and we drove down to his place and took him to Rockingham Hospital. Whilst waiting outside his unit for us, an ambulance arrived. He told the ambos the story and they drove off. They told Martin that they were returning from another job and would not do any paperwork on his call.

I will give Martin the bill today and he can explain it to the ambulance service. If they are not nice about this, I guess we will help with the payment. Small bickies really when one considers the total cost of his two+ weeks in three hospitals.

The dispatcher’s initial assessment of Martin’s situation was wrong and he is still in hospital in a semi-serious condition.

As Martin is a Public Patient, we will probably not see the total cost of his hospitalisation, scans etc and treatment.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Of hospital and house maintenance

The last few days have been busy ones. Our son Martin is still in ‘Charlies’ receiving treatment for infections in his spine. Today he will get the catheter removed and a Physio is taking him to the Gym to do some exercises to strengthen his legs. He has improved considerably over the last week and may be discharged soon.

Joan is very tired and weak from her SIRT treatment and today, as predicted, the diarrhea has started. She is quite nauseous and this morning, even though I cooked breakfast outside on the BBQ, the smell of cooking almost made her vomit.

Whilst Martin is in hospital I am using the time to do some repairs and maintenance on his (our) unit. At first he was most reluctant to hand over the keys, but when his phone went flat he had to give them to me to get his phone charger. The block of units was probably built in the ‘60s for the State Housing Commission, then later sold to private owners like us. As with most flats like these, the neighbors are a mixed bag. Say no more!

The shower recess has previously had the tiles painted over and it is time for a repaint. Almost finished that job and I found a light switch plate badly cracked. OK, thought Kev, I will go to Bunnings and buy a new one. Easy! I could find one the same size but the holes for the screws were in different places. I went to an electrical wholesaler, but they only had the switch that Bunnings had. This switch is probably 40 years old.
The price at Bunnings was $5.38 and at the electrical warehouse the exact same switch was $17.80. I mentioned the difference in price to the guy behind the counter and he explained that Bunnings sell some things at a loss to get people in the store where all their appliances are much dearer...bulldust!
I have managed to repair the cracked switch and given it a nice coat of auto lacquer. Next is a chlorine mould treatment as Martin doesn’t open windows and steams up the place. He also wants me to investigate what he thinks is a problem with the washing machine we recently purchased for him. Oh, and then, all the tap washers need replacing. Busy, busy!

I am gradually configuring around 18 computers for distribution to needy folks. They are of several levels and I try and give the advanced machines to students doing serious studies. Machines which are a little long in the tooth go to families loaded with educational games as well as open source word processing packages. Rewarding stuff!

Friday, November 12, 2010

SIRT and Irinotecan

We have just arrived home from the Ivy suite where Joan received her 'Push' of Flourocillin after yesterday's SIRT therapy. Earlier this morning she had a Gama Ray Camera investigation to see if any of the SIRT irradiated spheres went where they should not have. The Man told her that they all reached their target(s), the 30 something tumours in her liver. He was pretty satisfied with the procedure. From that hospital we went to see Joans oncologist at St John's at Subiaco. He wasn't terrible demonstrative about SIRT and pointed out that the tumours had progressed. The next CT scan is in two months, but next week's blood test and visit should, we hope, show a significant lowering of the CEA, the tumour blood marker. He has her scheduled to restart a new form of chemo in three weeks to keep the lung tumours at bay. They have grown since Joan finished chemo almost two months ago. The new one is Irinotecan. Hope the side effects don't hit too hard as Helen's wedding is on the 18th of December. The Onco thinks it should be OK.

The Oncologist told us that the SIRT radiation only penetrates about 1.5 millimetres into the tumours. We don't understand what that means as the tumours are not spherical. Where does does the blood vessel enter the it's widest point or the thinnest part?
We have a lot to learn before we start our own medical practice!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another hospital transfer

Overnight our son Martin was transferred from Fremantle Hospital to the Sir Charles Gardiner (Charlies) Hospital. Firstly, Rockingham Hospital thought Fremantle was more able to cope with his problem and Fremantle transferred him to 'Charlies' because of resident specialists there.
Martin rang this morning to tell us that whilst antibiotics are preferred, surgery may be necessary. As we were talking a nurse advised Martin that he could not eat because of a procedure. Not sure if that means surgery.

The pressure of the abscesses on his spinal column has left his right leg almost useless. There are other problems as well. He is a public patient and all the costs involved with hospitals, transfers, scans and any operations is covered by Australia's Medicare system.

Monday, November 8, 2010

It doesn't just rain here

It feels like we neglected to pass on to eight friends one of those chain letters which promises bad luck to non believers like me.

As well as the continuing fight Joan is having with her cancer, last night we had an urgent call from our son who was in extreme pain and needed to go to hospital. We collected him outside his unit and went to Rockingham Hospital where he was admitted. Some time during the night he was transferred by ambulance to Fremantle Hospital where he had a scan, a catheter inserted where it hurts and a saline drip. The diagnosis is that he had a number of infections on his lower spine and he will be in for at least a week whilst they try and kill off the infections. The Doc believes that the infection was introduced through fleshy cracks on his feet.

Martin doesn't like hospitals and last time he was in for a similar complaint, as soon as he felt a bit better he discharged himself. This time the doctor has told him that if he discharges himself before the treatment is complete, there is a chance of permanent paralysis. That should keep him there.

Enough about our 'sick' family.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Our road trip to Denmark was successful and most pleasant. Going down, we took the Albany Highway, ‘down the middle’ to Mt Barker, then across to Denmark. In all about 4.5 hours.

I left Joan to rest at the motel whilst I delivered the laptop and printer to the High School. The young lady to whom I was giving the gear had decided to ‘chuck a sickie’ from school, but when we rang her she immediately raced in to get a run down on the operating system and the niceties of the Mac . She was thrilled with it all and I could see that it was a worthwhile project.

We have been to Denmark a few times before and visited our friends, James and Marilyn, but had not seen their 38 acre farmlet. It is about 5 kilometres out of town in a beautiful valley surrounded by picturesque hills. They have about 5 acres of various berries which is a good sideline for Marilyn. She is/was employed by the Commonwealth Government as a census taker but last year had a major road accident and has permanent damage and acute pain due to her injuries. Even so she tends the thousands of berry plants and has plastic chairs placed at strategic points amongst the rows so that she can rest. Kangaroos share the paddocks with cattle. We are envious of their lifestyle and were we younger and fitter,would seriously consider a country lifestyle change
The farmhouse is of Rammed Earth construction and has great views across several properties.

Denmark town is very pretty with the river right in the middle of town. It is a bit backward in as much as the local kids don’t even know how to do graffiti. We saw none in the town or surrounds. Yesterday morning I got up at about 5.30am and went for a walk. Council workers were already watering garden beds and tidying up. Most civilised!

In the middle of town is a war memorial which looks like it was built by a 'busy bee' group. It has a very chintzy 'eternal flame' which is actually red fabric fluttering in a blast of air. I think that beats the statue of Our Lady of Fatima we saw in Noumea which had a circular fluorescent light tube as a Halo.
The 'eternal flame' is at the left and below is a closeup shot of it.

Denmark is about 60 kilometres from Albany which has much more history than Denmark. We like both places, but Albany is a small city, very much like other cities or large towns. Denmark, with its farming and forest very close to the town limits, has a genuine country feel to it.

Tuesday evening we joined Jim and Marilyn for dinner at the Tavern. Nice sounding meals, but rated just a 4 from me.

Before we left Denmark to drive home we returned to Berry Farm to collect three tubs of their selected berries. At home last night we had some with ice cream. Lovely!

We drove back using a different route taking 6 hours through magnificent state forests. The long drive cured us of any urge to drive interstate or anywhere more that 500 kilometres. Plane and hire car for us.

Today we have a meeting with the radiotherapy specialist. We assume that he is going to go over all the side effects and expectations of the SIRT treatment before Joan has it next Thursday. Joan held up well over the two days away. Six weeks without chemo makes a huge difference.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Denmark, Western Australia

Early tomorrow we are heading down south to Denmark to catch up with friends and to deliver a computer and printer to one of Jim’s students at Denmark Senior High School. Denmark is a lovely town about 60 kilometres west of Albany at the bottom of Western Australia. It is about a four and a half hour trip driving at the speed limit.

Southern towns like Denmark have become very trendy places to live. It is a a nice area with a moderate climate. We have thought about a ‘tree change’ and moving south, but at our age we need to be near a major hospital and Denmark and even Albany cannot provide the oncology facilities that Joan needs. Also we are a bit old in the tooth to start gathering new friends.

It is nesting time here for birds and we haven’t seen our regulars, the magpies, for quite a few weeks. Previous years were the same. As soon as the new babes are able to fly, the parents bring them to our place to learn how to cadge food. I assume that the parents do go food hunting to feed the new offspring...probably insects and worms. Maybe they know something about junk food not being good for newborns?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Question and Answers on ABC

As Willy Wonker said...’Strike that, reverse it!’

My praise for the ABC’s impartiality has been a little tarnished by a couple of observations made yesterday.

Q&A, the popular TV program, had as one of its guests, the former Prime Minister, John Howard. I am unsure as to whether the producers are balanced in their selection of the audience. They generally gave Johnny a hard time.

There was a looney who thought he was an Iraqi journalist and threw his shoes at the ex-PM. The show’s security blokes seemed to take some time to eject him and he had time to stand up, take off his shoes and throw them one at a time at Johnny. Then there was a video link to David Hicks.

Davo, converted to Islam, trained in Afghanistan with an Al-Queda aligned terror organisation and returned to Australia. After 9/11 he returned to Afghanistan to fight the infidel invaders. He like another Australian desert wanderer, "Jihad Jack" Thomas, just happened to meet Osama Bin Laden.

Johnny Howard wasn’t fazed by Davo and did a reasonable job of pointing out that Davo probably wasn’t the innocent he claimed. Little Johnny is on a book promo tour around Aus and is up for any publicity he can get.

I had a phone call from a friend who teaches in Denmark, down south of the state. One of his students has been kicked out of home and James thought I could help with a computer for her studies. We will drive down to Denmark and overnight on Monday, set up the computer, either a desktop or iBook and head back Tuesday afternoon.

Joan has a very heavy schedule of consultations, PICC line dressings and then the chemo boost, SIRT infusion and follow up chemo hit the next day. The Oncologist wants her back on Chemo after a month’s break just six days before Helen’s wedding. We will ask if he could delay it another six days, so that Joan can enjoy the wedding.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Right wingers

Federal Liberal member of Parliament Don Randall spoke out a bit too publicly last week. Being interviewed he was asked to stand near a logo of the ABC, Australia’s national broadcaster. He was told that… ‘It’s Your ABC’ by one of the journos to which he replied…’It’s not my ABC…Gay BC!’

The ABC is often accused by the right wingers of having left wing bias. If, by not following the shockjocks and muckrakers of many commercial radio stations pandering to the immoderate of the citizenry, then I guess it could be said to be left of the right wing.

The ABC costs each taxpayer around 10c per day. Good value for quality, honest, rational, commerce-free broadcasting. ‘Auntie’ is a national treasure!

Today we hope to find out if Joan is suitable for the SIRT treatment. It is going to be a blow if she is unsuitable.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rental properties

Joan had a huge day yesterday. She wrote about it here on her blog.

Because of lack of decent winter rainfall, this state has some new restrictions in place to conserve what water we do have in dams. Once a week garden watering with irrigation systems is OK and even washing your car is OK (strange?). Some people are having a bit of a whinge about their gardens not surviving the summer and others are advising those people to plant and cultivate only native species even if your front garden looks a little like a rental house.

Come to think of it, the rentals may well get the award for the most 'green' gardens. W.A. will have enough water if the desalination plants don't suddenly die.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SIRT court battle

Tomorrow we have an early start. Have to be at the Mount Hospital by 7am for the SIRT trial. It is an all-day event so I will see Joan booked in and await her call for an afternoon pick-up.

The SIRT treatment was invented by Professor Gray who at the time was employed at the University of Western Australia. He patented his work, but the university reckoned that as he was employed by it as a staff member they owned the rights to the therapy. And so a court battle, UWA v Gray ensued. The prof won out and the courts decided that as he was not employed to do any research in his position at the university, he was entitled to do what he liked with his invention. If you are so inclined you can read about it here.

He sold it to a major medical firm and immediately assumed the status of a multi-millionaire. All this happened around 1985-6 and at that time my father was diagnosed with bowel and liver cancer. At the hospital I was advised that he had no more than six months to live. I had read of Prof. Gray's work and sought treatment for my father. I guess at that time (1986) the methods were far from being perfect. Never-the-less Dad lasted another three years. In the closing months he told me that he would have rather have not gone through all the treatment and just lived out his time as best he could.

Last evening I went out the front to water my newly planted tomato plants and found a new lotto ticket on our driveway. What to do? I went next door to our neighbors, but they had not bought a ticket. Our other neighbors were not home. I will offer them the ticket this morning. Very tempting to check the numbers in the paper.

Update: After checking with the neighbors that the ticket wasn't theirs, I decided it was now my ticket. Unfortunately no luck for Kev & Joan.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bibra Lake starting to dry up

Bibra Lake near our house is starting to dry up as we have not had enough rain to completely fill it. This happens every year and most people think it is due to climate change. I also could not remember it drying up every year when I was a ‘young-un’.

Bibra Lake has in fact been drying up for many years. One of the first European settlers was Benedict Von Bibra, a carpenter who ‘selected’ 320 acres acres of fertile land fringing the lake in 1843. He had selected his land near a large depression which he figured would fill with water when the winter rains came. The aborigines called the lake Walliabup and I guess they didn’t jump for joy when their land was ‘selected’ by whitey. The Lake was commonly called Bibra’s Lake and later gazetted as Bibra Lake.

Around 1897 Bibra Lake hosted the largest community of Chinese market gardeners in Western Australia.

So there, no need to panic about the local effects of global warming just yet.

The results of a bank of tests I had were mostly good, but the Ultrasound scan had an unknown mark on either my liver or part of the bowel which was overlapping the liver. The report suggested that I needed a CT Scan to determine exactly what it was. My GP (he isn’t exclusively my GP) gave me a casual ‘don’t worry, we will talk about it in another couple of weeks’. ‘It is probably just some wind’. I hope so, but I can’t see how waiting a couple of weeks and talking about it is going to determine what it is/was?

I think I will go for the CT or another ultrasound to see if was wind and has passed. My GP said that looking at an ultrasound was a bit like reading tea leaves.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Visitors in the night

I have just read a story from the Northern Territory. It seems that a bloke was so drunk that he wandered into the wrong house, took a shower and sat down on the front verandah where the cops took him away to sober up. Read about it here.

We experienced a similar event about 20 years ago when we lived in our grand colonial house in Bicton. Our daughter, Helen, had her boyfriend James visit. Joan and I went to bed leaving them watch TV, or whatever young couples do.

Around 2am there was a loud knocking on the front door, I got up and couldn’t find my glasses, but opened the door where ‘James’ pushed past me exclaiming that ‘it’s bloody cold out there’. He went down the hallway and entered Helen’s room. I was a bit offside with his attitude and decided to talk to Helen in the morning. Back in bed, Joan suggested they may have had an argument and James had stormed off and after chilling down couldn’t get back in.

In the morning I put on my annoyed face and talked to Helen about James’ attitude. “James went home at about 9pm’ said Helen.

Four of us; Kev, Joan, Helen and Martin started looking in all the rooms and found a young man asleep on a lounge, his shoes and socks neatly arranged next to him on the floor. No one recognised him.

I gave him a bit of a poke with my foot and he jumped up asking ‘what time is it…I’ve got to be at work by 8.30’. ‘Could you give me a lift into Fremantle?’ ‘Sorry mate, no lift for you’, and he put his shoes on and waited at the front door to be let out. We all watched in amazement as he careered across the busy highway to the nearest bus stop.

As we sat down to breakfast the talk turned to axe murderers, rapists and just plain thieves.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Helicobacter pylori

Yesterday I had a test for the stomach bug Helicobacter pylori which can live quite happily in the stomach causing stomach ulcers. I have been having some pains just below the sternum and the GP ordered a blood test and a Hp breath test. The breath test is quite simple, but interesting. I got to swallow an irradiated capsule and drank one mouthful of water to get it down. Exactly one minute later another mouthful of water and another minute to take a deep breath and fill a special balloon with my garlic breath. Results on Thursday.

This morning I had an Ultrasound on my abdomen. The technician doing the US called in a Doctor to take a look at a suspicious mark on the scan. Gulp! He didn't know what it was and is recommending that the GP investigate further. Bugger!

OK last medical story........We visited the Radiotherapy Doc this afternoon and he gave us a detailed description of how the SIRT is done, the risks and the possible outcomes. Next Thursday week, Joan goes into hospital for the trial run to determine is she is suitable for the procedure. The trial dose is monitored closely to see if there is any bleed-off to other organs of the radiated spheres. If there is, the procedure cannot go ahead.

And now for some non-medical good news. Joan's taste is coming back and last night she cooked a lovely fish dish. She still cannot eat much as (I think) her stomach has shrunk over the last three or four months of not being able to eat. Tonight it is a meal of 'Spag Bog'.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Progress in the fight against the beast

Yesterday we both attended the oncologist's rooms feeling positive that he would he would take a different approach to the fight against her cancer. He weighed up her progress since he last saw her a week ago and decided to seek a radiotherapist to start Joan on the SIRT intervention. SIRT is the infusion of irradiated particles into the liver with the aim of destroying the small blood vessels feeding the tumours. Sounds easy?....check it out here. The radiation is accompanied by a partner dose of chemotherapy.

It should get started in about three weeks. There is a trial infusion of a small amount of radiated particles to see if there is any bleed-off to other organs such as the lungs. Such a bleed-off would halt the programme. Meantime she has a further break from the nasty chemo. Each day she is getting stronger.

This new found energy has seen Joan working in her sewing room and going out to meetings of the various clubs she belongs to. She does tire easily and we both need to recognise that we are oldies and need a nap in the afternoon.

Because Joan's tumours have progressed, she is no longer on the trial and we will soon find the exact costs of her treatment. We are covered by private health cover and Australia's Medicare. The gap will be minimal.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Some good news

Some good news at last. Joan has been eating reasonably well and has gained weight to the tune of 500grams (.5 kilos for the metric impaired). Not much, but at least we can show the oncologist that she has arrested the weight loss and should be strong enough for whatever treatment he recommends. Hope it is not the previous debilitating chemo regime.

Things are moving well after my car accident. The other driver’s insurance company rang me asking whether I was at fault. Of course I told them that I was unsure. They told me that I was and that they would be pursuing me for the cost of the damage to their client’s vehicle. That,of course, (I hope) means my insurance company. This morning I received a phone call from my insurance company informing me that my vehicle was a write-off and it was going to auction. In a couple of days I am to receive another call outlining payout options.

Then yesterday I received a letter from the Insurance Commission Of W.A. which insures all (legal) drivers for third party insurance. The letter stated that I was involved in an accident in which there were injuries. I rang them and told them that there were no injuries to any party, but it seems that the nice man who ran into me went immediately with his daughter to his GP to affirm back and whiplash injuries. At the time I asked him if they were injured. He checked his daughter and told me that there were no injuries. Nice!

The lady who held my file told me to not worry as they get loads of that sort of claim and in any case they are my insurer and they will look after my interests. Whew!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Confusing English

Three days to go to see the oncologist. Joan has been trying hard to eat and regain strength. Her weight loss has stabilised and she has maintained her current weight since last Friday.

Yesterday we went shopping and she saw some seafood crepes in the deli section of Woolworths. We bought a couple, but she was unable to have more than a small mouthful. She did however have a good breakfast and for lunch I made Eggs Florentine and she was able to enjoy a full serving. Have to think of something appealing for dinner.

When I filled up with fuel today I noticed something on the pump which I hope Woolworths Caltex hasn't stuck on every pump throughout the state. See the pic.
Click the image to enlarge it.

Joan's new car is in for its first 3,000 kilometre service tomorrow. It is a Ford Fiesta which was designed in Britain, but built in Germany. For a company which has been making cars for well over 100 years it has a few design faults. It doesn't have anywhere to store CDs even though there is a CD player in the dash. The window controls are in the armrest, but are too far back towards the rear of the door to comfortably operate with ease. The brakes make too much noise. The Ford designers need to look at a Hyundai or just about any Asian designed car to get up to speed. OK.... enough whinging!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Plastic versus steel

The visit to the oncologist's rooms was not at all hopeful. Although the CEA (blood tumour marker) had not risen, he told us that Joan was far too weak for any more treatment at this stage. He gave her a script for some super antibiotics and an appointment to see him in one week to see if there is any improvement in her general well being. The antibiotics are for what appears to be a skin infection on one shin.

I asked about the SIRT which is the infused radiation into the liver and was told that she is far too weak for a massive hit like that.

It is very difficult for me and indeed most people to understand why Joan cannot eat properly. Faced with what she is going through, logic would tell me that she could force feed herself, but alas that is not so. I will continue to 'force feed' her in a gentle way by mixing Sustagen drinks during the day time and buying some energy bars etc. All the food that she once loved has no more appeal.

Now a couple of photos showing how plastic is not as strong as steel. My car is the silver Mazda and the Honda is the other person's car. The reason there is so much damage to the Honda is because modern cars have 'crash zones' which soften the impact. The airbags didn't even deploy.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I broke my own golden rule

Yesterday was not good. I drove Joan to the pathology department at the hospital to give her blood sample. We both know that that will not be good news when the oncologist looks at the results today. She was extremely weak and tired and when we returned home, went straight to bed.

I drove my Mazda to Kardinya shopping centre to fill it up with cheap(?) fuel. When driving out of the carpark I had to cross the flow of traffic to turn up the hill on the opposite side of a traffic island. The traffic was stationary at some lights further down the flow and drivers in the first two lanes left a gap and waved me know what is about to happen here. Kev broke one of his golden rules and drove across and was struck by a nice shiny black Honda sedan whizzing down the third lane along side the traffic island. No one was hurt, but it looks like both cars may be written off. My Mazda was only insured for $2,000 so I probably wont see much of that after the whole thing is sorted out. I only paid $2,800 for my car about a year ago, but it is the other party I am sorry for. His was almost new.

After the tow trucks arrived, we were advised what to do and both cars were taken away, including my full tank of fuel.

Because I had neglected to take my mobile phone I couldn't ring a cab and I decided to leg it the 3 or 4 kilometres home. Good exercise.

I woke Joan and she was feeling better, so we went to a gathering of friends at Margaret's house. A most pleasant show in the sun, the first such gathering since Haddon passed away.

I am required to make an accident report within 24 hours. I attempted to do it on line, but the format doesn't suit drivers who cross through traffic to an island. So I went to a police station to get the official form which allows a sketch to be drawn of the situation.

Today we find out what the oncologist has in store for Joan.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A wedding

Our daughter Helen is to marry James in December. James rang me last week and asked for my permission. Isn’t that very traditional? Of course I gave him ‘permission’. A few minutes later he confessed that he would have married her anyway, even if I objected. I like his style!
The wedding is going to be very small...around 20 guests with a celebrant in a park and lunch at a riverside restaurant ‘The Red Herring’. The Red Herring is a quite old restaurant starting out as oyster beds in the early part of the last century. Great spot with much to see as the rich folks cruise past in their ships.

On Sunday James and Helen came down and we went for a drive around a few sites we thought would be a nice setting for the short ceremony. Along the Swan River there are many lovely small picturesque venues suitable for a wedding ceremony....some of them below the monstrous houses of the wealthy..very wealthy! As my mum would say... ‘Where do they get the money?’

The site we all liked most were the gardens at Minim Cove. The ponds are fed by an artesian bore across the river. I previously briefly wrote about the gardens here. It is a great spot and those who know about it aren’t spilling the beans to all and sundry. When we were there on a nice sunny day on Sunday (is that coincidental?) there was not a single person enjoying the place. Even if there are other people about on the day, the gardens have many places suitable for the ceremony and river views for later photographs.

Yesterday I took the ‘Instructional’ flight in a Royal Aero Club Cessna 152. A beaut little plane, and I mean little. The pilot was a young guy and a bit bigger than me. If we were slightly larger it would have been a very comfy situation. Joan and Helen gifted me the flight for my 70th birthday and I had to take it now as the year is almost up since then.

I didn’t take my Nikon DSLR camera and foolishly took a $88 digital compact camera. The photos show why a good camera cost much more. We flew south for about 30 minutes and the view was great. As we flew over our neighbor Dave's business site I had the pilot do a go around and I took a couple of pics to give Dave. Sadly the quality is too poor to enlarge.
Doing a 'touch and go' on a regional airstrip.
Shoalwater bay and Penguin Island.

As for the ‘Instructional’ part of the flight I gave it a miss. I have done that before a few times in Papua New Guinea and I really did want to observe what we were flying over. When we are flying on a commercial flight and we don’t get a window seat I get really angry when I see some ‘seasoned traveller’ who never looks out the window.

Joan is getting stronger daily and we hope she will be ‘running on all cylinders’ for the wedding. She has done quite a lot of walking over the last few days and whilst she has found it very tiring, she is getting better only using her walker over longer distances.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The goodness of strangers, friends, neighbours and family.

Years ago in the last century..probably in the 1950s there was a singer named Donald Peers and one of his numbers was ‘Friends and Neighbours’.

It’s a shmaltzy number which appealed to the masses at the time. Your friends and neighbours were just ‘peachy’ and could be relied on to step in and help out in a crisis. I can’t remember him singing about family? Donald was a Brit and I suppose the masses just after WW2 lived in close contact with their neighbours and probably relied on them in times of need.

Don has long gone now but yesterday I was thinking about the goodness of strangers and family and friends and I was reminded of Donald’s song and the sentiments therein.

A couple of days ago when Joan fell, strangers immediately rushed to help. Our family, neighbours and friends are all poised to help if necessary. So there...Donald was right on the ball!

On YouTube there are a number of songs by Donald, but I have not been able to access ‘Friends and Neighbours’.

I was never a fan of his, but I do remember the song, so it had some sort of impact on me..over 60+ years ago.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A setback

Yesterday was pretty horrible. Joan was home feeling much better and all looked good. She had some difficulty getting up from the toilet and although we know it is because of weakness due to not being able to eat over the last month, we decided to go and buy a commode to sit higher.

After purchasing the commode, Joan decided to use the stairs outside the shop instead of the ramp. She fell down five steps and I couldn't get her up by myself. A couple of good Samaritans helped and after they left she fell again near the car. Again with the help of a couple of beefy GSs I was able to get her into the car. At home, completely exhausted, she rested in a recliner chair. Not good! She couldn't get out of the chair and when I attempted to stand her up she slowly fell down to the floor. Once again the dead weight was too much for me and our neighbors were not yet home from work. I rang brother Graham and he drove the 10k down here to help us. Success due to Graham's athleticism. Today Joan has a very smart wheeled walker, a commode and a shower chair. We hope that a few days of good food will see an improvement and we won't need those aids for some time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Home sweet home

Joan is home after 10 days at St John's hospital. Even though she was pumped full of potassium she has severe oedema in her feet and legs. The oncologist told her that she would be better off at home rather than languishing in a hospital bed.

One small benefit from all this is that she now is taking no medications for her cholesterol and blood pressure. So there. if you don't eat you don't have high cholesterol problems...simple. Joan now has low blood pressure so no need for that medication.

She has regained some of her appetite and is eating small, regular meals. Still very weak and tired though.

We are scheduled to meet with The Man in another ten days and listen to what ideas he has for Joan's treatment. Surgery, radiation, different chemo or a combo of the lot.

The hospital admin is nice and they are going to post the bill. Don't want a heart attack right there in the oncology ward.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Soon to be discharged

Joan is disconnected from the IV machine. No more potassium drip, no more antibiotics etc. She is now on 'soft foods' and able to eat quite well. She should be able to come home on either Monday or Tuesday

The oncologist has visited and suggested a few possibilities......radiation, surgery and a milder chemo. We are scheduled to see him in another week to discuss his suggestions. We will also be asking about a prognosis on each treatment and also one without any more intervention. The surgery would be on the primary bowel tumour. The radiation would be for the liver tumours of approximately 30 in number. I am guessing the chemo would be just to try and keep the tumours dormant...something that the current heavyweight stuff hasn't been doing. Can only hope.

Joan's recovery has been slow, but treatment was methodical. She has many bruises from IV ports, blood sampling and antibiotic injections. She has fluid retention in her feet and legs which should dissipate now that she can walk around. As soon as she comes home I will get her pushing a lawnmower to speed up her recovery. Just joshing!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A non-cancer post

Some other happenings besides the depressing stuff.

A couple of days ago I noticed a very young Raven on the roadway near our house. Yesterday I saw it down on the hot bitumen and decided that I should see if I could save it. This is a time when life seems pretty important.

It was still breathing so I carried it home and forced some water down its beak. After a few minutes it got a bit brighter and opened its eyes. It, or is it he/she? was too weak to stand so I gave it a little beef broth and put it in a cardboard carton, taping the lid slightly open and putting that end over the outdoor table edge to foil any attempt by our moggie to get at it. I watched through a window and sure enough PC Lock had her arm through the small opening trying to hook the poor crow. I had to shift the box into my shed. Today I gave it some more Joan's re hydration, and it was standing by itself and looking around, so I decided to take it to an animal rescue place near our house. A volunteer worker cleaning out a pen told me that he wouldn't be bothered with a 'bloody Crow', but the boss of the place took it off my hands.
Previously I would have euthanased it (cracked it on the head), but just lately I have come to at least admire their resourcefulness when collecting food and decided that it should have a chance. Birds are very cruel when one of theirs gets sick and usually kill it off. If this babe does survive he/she may well be ostracised and killed in the wild.

Driving home from the hospital I was stationary at a major intersection waiting for an ambulance to get through. Everyone except a young blonde lady saw what was happening and she cruised through in a large BMW forcing the ambulance to screech to a stop. He blew his horn and she instinctively blew her own horn and gave the ambos and extended digit high in the air for all the assembled drivers to see. As she passed me, her hand and finger were still extended but she had the bright red face of embarrassment. I reckon she is still cringing about her little act.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A difficult decision

Joan is still losing lots of and then out. The oncologist visited this afternoon before I arrived at the hospital and stated matter of factly that the tumours have indication of how much or which ones. He has a great bedside manner..NOT!

As I left to come home, Joan told me to be prepared for the decision to forgo further chemotherapy. We will try radiotherapy; not external beam radiation, but the irradiated particle infusion type.

Joan is not prepared to spend the time that is left in a chemo hell. We will discuss the options we have left when we next visit him.

The doctors suggest that Joan will not be well enough to be discharged until next week sometime.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

reinserting a PICC line

We have just had a bit of a setback with Joan's recovery in hospital. She has been told that her Potassium levels are dangerously low and that as they are having trouble with veins they have decided to insert a PICC line again. This will be done this afternoon some time and that will allow all the fluids to be administered and later the chemotherapy drugs.

She is, of course, not very chuffed at this, but the alternative is not pretty.

I will visit her around 6pm this evening.

A vast improvement

Joan has had the works at St John's hospital. All her meds and antibiotics went IV and she has avoided the nausea and most of the diarrhea. The potassium drip continues and she been transferred to the oncology ward.

The oncologist scheduled a CT scan aimed at diagnosing the cause of this major gastric attack. The report seemed, to this non-medic, inconclusive, however the onco said that it suggested that the tumours had progressed. We could see no reference to tumours or cancer in the report and assume that there must have been a second report describing the tumours. The onco told Joan not to worry because he couldn't see how they could make such an assessment as previous scans had been done at a government hospital, Royal Perth. He is to get back to her today after he looks at both this scan and the last one from Royal Perth. Hope he is right.

The nurses we have been dealing with at St John's are excellent. The doctor assigned to Joan's case seems a little lost and his English language skills are lacking.

She has been sitting up and reading, and that is a good sign, and there is a chance of being discharged before the weekend

Our son, Martin visited Joan with me and Helen also dropped in after work.
Helen, stayed over last night and we cooked a nice roast pork with baked vegetables. Lovely!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Time for a specialist?

Please don't read this if you get a bit queasy.

Joan is suffering badly with diarrhoea and vomiting. The fluid she is getting can barely keep up with the losses. She is on a strict no food diet and cannot take even water by mouth because it causes her to immediately vomit. To top all that, she has a urinary tract infection and the doctor in her ward feels that she also has a stomach infection, but they cannot get solid samples for analysis.

I have brought home her underwear and clothes and washed and dried them to take back today. Serious treatment must be determined today as she is getting extremely weak and the current treatment is not working.

I have cancelled an appointment she had for today and will do the same for a couple more she has tomorrow. She is not in any condition to be discharged from hospital.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Joan is still venting from both ends. She cannot even sip water without vomiting.

The oncologist visited whilst I was at the hospital and he ordered two X-Rays be taken; of her abdomen and chest. When the results came back, he told her that she had inflammation of the small intestine and stopped all food for two days.

She had her gall bladder removed some 15 years ago and without food she is getting painful gas and very loud stomach gurgling. My guess is that the liver is still producing acid and it is attacking Joan rather than doing its job on food. A different duty oncologist will see her today.

They are continually infusing fluid and at this time she has had about 3 litres and still more to come. More blood tests today.

She has had a very bad night and I will visit her with our son around 10am. Daughter Helen visited yesterday afternoon and a nurse told her she shouldn't come again until her cold was better.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hospital for my Joan

Joan slept for 12.5 hours and when she got up this morning she immediately vomited the small glass full of water and her anti-nausea tablet. After that effort she returned to bed with the spins and almost no strength to walk.

I decided to ring the oncologist and after explaining what was happening he told me to bring her into the hospital to be admitted to do a full blood, urine and stool analysis and give her some intravenous fluids. When we arrived the onco's secretary had already made a booking of a single room in the general wing of the hospital and Joan is to be transferred to the oncology wing when a room becomes available.

A very efficient Asian nurse did all the necessary paperwork and called a doctor to start things. He introduced himself as Mohammad and in a heavy accent asked lots of questions about medications and treatment and previous illnesses. He then looked at Joan and said 'Why are you here?' I am guessing that it was 'lost in the translation' because it didn't sound good. Never-the-less things are starting to move, albeit slowly. When a nurse took the blood samples she asked if she was to mark them urgent. He said 'No'. Today being Friday I guess we may not get a result until Monday. He did however tell us that he was changing her anti nausea and anti gastro medications. Let's hope that does some good.

I left Joan and drove home. Coincidentally, as I was driving, a small white car raced up behind me and when I looked in the rear vision mirror I saw it was a delivery vehicle for a well-know auto parts company. The driver was a woman wearing a Hijab. Usually these delivery vehicles are driven by young blonde gals. Strange, but not bad at all.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Clutching at straws

Joan is sleeping more during the day which is not a good sign. Her inability to eat, or keep down what she can eat, is making her very weak.

Our neighbors are medicos...he is head of emergency surgery at a large private hospital and is she is a nurse. They have urged us to try acupuncture with a colleague of theirs who is also a GP. After last night’s sudden vomit attack where Joan lost her food as well as her chemotherapy tablets I am going to urge her to make an appointment with the acupuncturist today. Can’t hurt!

A friend who visited recently is sending us a bag of leaves of a native shrub from the desert areas of Australia which is claimed to cure cancer....once again we will give it a try, but once you get some knowledge about fighting cancer, you realise that each different form of cancer is fought using different chemo and it seems unlikely that one specific ‘herb’ is a cure all for cancer. The people who are selling the small bags of this ‘remarkable herb’ think that it is good so they are charging lots for it. Scaevola spinescens can be found here. Like acupuncture, it can’t hurt.

Joan is having another visit with the hypnotherapist she visited last week. This time he is bulk billing her...probably because we felt that he did no more than give her a pep talk. We want him to put her ‘under’ and suggest that the aversion to the smell, taste and texture of food is no longer present. Worth a try!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ravens or Crows?

After the good news that Joan's chemo treatment seems to be working, she had a horror night and day with a constricted throat almost choking her when she attempted to drink in the morning. She will probably take another few days before she is able to eat and drink her meagre ration properly and ready herself for the next assault in three weeks. Too many other side effects to list. All of this is just to keep the tumours at bay!
A couple of days ago I was standing out the front of our house farewelling a friend and we observed a Raven land on our Pencil Pine tree (Cupressus sempervirens var. Sricta) right alongside us. The Raven had a tasty morsel in its beak and it pulled aside a branch and 'squirreled' the morsel into the tree, breaking off a small branch to cover up its cache. As I feed the various birds in our backyard I notice that Magpies take one piece of the offering and worry it as though killing an insect and then tossing it down the hatch, before looking around for more. The Crows (Ravens actually) go around collecting as much food as they can get in the beak and then fly up and hide their stash in a gutter and come back for more. Smart or greedy?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

At last some good news

I am home waiting for a phone call from Joan to collect her at the Oncology ward at St John's Hospital in Subiaco. We had a meeting with a partner of her regular oncologist as The Man was overseas on a conference. Wish we could change over to this young doctor who was much more conversational and gave clear and detailed answers to our questions. The regular man should have my name on Joan's file, but every time we enter his office he greets Joan and ignores me. Not hard really....he could look to see what my name is or even say something general like 'Welcome folks'. I guess he may feel that the partner doesn't need as much attention as the patient.

Going in for the three weekly verdict is difficult. Has the CEA (blood tumour marker) continued to rise? etc etc. Today's visit was good in as much as the CEA had fallen from 4.400 to 3,500. Hooray! Getting back on Oxaliplatin did the job. It is difficult to describe the relief when getting good news.

I left Joan there for her 3 hour top-up of rat poison and will collect her around 3pm. The fill-in onco suggested that one of the drugs Joan started a week ago should kick in in about another week and it could help her appetite.

So it looks like Joan is back to a stable disease situation rather than one of a progressing disease. We hope that the next CT scan will show more tumour reductions.

We will celebrate with a nice bottle of Champagne.

PS. I collected Joan and we are now home. The infusion of Oxaliplatin really knocked her around this time. Swollen face, tingling mouth, throat and eyes and the Champagne will have to wait a couple of days until things settle down.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Backyard panel shop

Our daughter Helen is in Queensland for a wedding. While she is away I have done some backyard panel and paint jobs on her car. I am not great at panel/paint jobs, but this one turned out OK. It should have, as it cost a couple of hundred bucks for paint etc.
I was washing the car on the front lawn when Dave our neighbor took a look. He reckons his father would say...’It would look good to a blind man galloping past on a horse’. He was only joking, but any close inspection would show ‘orange peel’ paintwork, paint runs and overspray onto clean areas of panels. There are other sayings that suit this job...’close enough is good enough’ or ‘any job is worth doing badly’.

I did make one major blue when preparing the spray gun with the final clear lacquer over one door panel. The paint tub fell off the spraygun hitting the ground and splashing lacquer over the garage floor, the car door, the windscreen and me. That took a lot of lacquer thinner and clean rags to remove the entire repaint job and I had to start all over with the paint and several coats of clear top coat.

Helen will probably be pleased with the overall look..I hope.

On aphorisms (sayings), a recent letter to editor in The West Australian, a writer had a bit of a whinge about Americanisms creeping into Aus English. He suggested we stick to Australianisms to describe things and events. He gave the example of the cricket based saying ‘Let that one slip through to the keeper’ is more appropriate than a baseball based one...’A curved ball’. You can work out how to apply either of those.

Here are some Aussie sayings explained.

Four more days before we front up to Joan’s oncologist. Hope there is some good news.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Insurance claim

Yesterday Joan decided that she was not going to stay home and had me drive her to the regular meeting of a small group she has been a member of for over 20 years.

She got a lift home and was very tired when she came inside. The situation she is in, plus the horrible side effects of the chemo hit her for six when she opened a letter from a man she had been in a minor traffic accident with in a shopping centre car park on the 12th of June.

He is insured with the same insurance company as us (RAC) and although both cars have been repaired, RAC had neglected to send a paper for Joan to sign acknowledging that a $350.00 excess was to be paid to the other party. As it happens the letter from the RAC was also in the mail, posted 2 days ago.

He originally wrote a mealy-mouthed letter soon after the event, and now in this letter he suggests that we are 'not people of integrity' and threatens legal action to recoup the $350.00.

Joan rang the RAC and after talking the operator through the situation, was satisfied that they would contact him and suggest that his letter was rude, the implications ill conceived and any delays were caused by the RAC tardiness in contacting us about the matter. Joan is normally quite adept at handling such situations, but this one caused her considerable grief.

We don’t expect to hear from him, but I feel like finding out where he lives and doing a ‘Round Up’ job on his front lawn. Bastard!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Damn this disease

Yesterday we went to see a Psychologist/Hypnotherapist in the hope that he may be able to trick Joan’s brain into thinking that food does actually smell nice, taste nice and not have the texture of wet cotton wool.

He was located at a an upmarket commercial centre named Chelsea Village and the large carpark looked like a saleyard for BMWs, Mercedes, Jags etc. I waited outside for the hour session and when we were back in the car asked Joan if she had been successfully hypnotised. She was not sure as he had not done any of the regular hypno moves.

Later I was concerned that he had just given her a one-hour counselling session, so emailed him to see if he had actually hypnotised her.

He replied...

Kevin: Yes, however Joan was not sure she was able to respond fully. I think when I send her the personalized recording she will "experience more" with practice and get the benefit she needs.

Joan: here is the link for some helpful hypnotic recordings to start now doing daily. I will send you your personalized recording within 48hours.

Seems like the stage show hypnotists are either all BS or they are better at getting instant results.

We will download Joan’s ‘personal’ recording and load it on her iPod. Worth a try!

This morning she is very sick...even so, she is doing some washing and paying bills online. She has just decided that bed is best for her today.

Damn this disease.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

5 Days to go on Xeloda

Nothing good to say about Joan's condition today..same as yesterday... morning bile vomit etc etc. She has struggled to get enough food down to take her chemo tablets. 5 days to go on Xeloda, then six days free before we see the oncologist again.

Some random photos to pad out this post.

Brother Graham couldn't resist buying a bowling shirt ala Charlie Harper. He isn't actually going to wear it out in public; more like wearing ugg boots around the house.

Our cat does the usual cat things and here are a few snaps.

A few days ago I thought I recognised a fellow serving me at the local liquor store. Tim was in one of my classes in my first year at Willetton SHS in 1984. We chatted for a while and yesterday I scanned a class photo and gave him a copy. Willetton SHS is the largest government Senior High School in Western Australia and was a great place to spend 13 years as a teacher.

Sunday morning and the Australian Federal Election is far from over. The Greens, will it seems, have the balance of power once the independent winners have decided which party they will align themselves with. The Greens are a bit of a worry as it seems that although they all run under the Greens' banner there are a few factions within the party which may not be as moderate as their leader Bob Brown.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Joan is having another bad day. She started the day with a green bile vomit and couldn't eat much breakfast. We talked about consulting a hypnotherapist with the aim of trying to trick her brain into believing that the bad tastes, foul smell and nasty texture of anything she tries to eat is all gone. Sounds reasonable!

I rang a few hypnotherapists and decided on a well-known one who is also a psychologist. Joan is to see him on Tuesday morning. We don't know what we can do if that doesn't help.

Another method of getting nutrition into the body is by PEG...a duct into the stomach. Read about it here. Last resort stuff!

Our Prime Minister (for the moment) is scooting around all over Aus getting in a last minute warning about the Liberal Party and the leader Tony Abbott. She reckons that if he wins the election and is confirmed as the new Australian Prime Minister on Sunday he will bring back work choices on Monday. That's ridiculous...he would wait until Thursday at least.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Federal Election

The election is only a few days away and I still haven't made up my mind about who is going to get my vote. It would be easier if I knew what the local candidates could offer rather than the BS of the leaders of the three main parties. Of course that cannot happen as elected members of a party must toe the party line whatever they think.

A couple of nights ago I was flipping channels and came upon the Sports Channel. I'm not big on sports but I watched a bit of a baseball game between the Texas Rangers(?) and the Boston somethings...Texas won the match, but it was a draw on which team won the spitting contest. Do they still chew baccy? It was certainly something that enables a quarter inch diameter squirt from just about all the main players. Incredible!

Time for a confession. Monday evening I took the two bins curbside, one of them loaded up with a couple of cartons of wine bottles....unfortunately one of them included 4 full bottles of bubbly. I didn't realise my disastrous error until the next evening when I went to put a couple of bottles in the fridge. Old timer's disease creeps up on you!

My dear Joan is very unwell today. She is sleeping in a lounge chair with a heater keeping her warm. We are worried that she may have to come off the Xeloda after only five days out of 13. She is going to try and sleep and get over this setback rather than ringing the oncologist as he will immediately stop Xeloda and we will probably be back to square one. Nausea, diarrhea, tiredness and a host of physical side effects are taking their toll on her. She still cannot eat and it is showing in her rapid weight loss and lack of energy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Permanent Residents of Paradise

We have been reading a blog written by a long-term expatriate in Papua New Guinea. The blog is called Madang-ples bilong Mi, which translated means Madang-my place. Jan, the author of the blog lives with his wife on the edge of Madang Harbour. He has a dive boat and dives every weekend. His job is to maintain the computer network for the Pioneer Bible Translators who as the name suggests, translate the Bible into local languages. They both consider themselves to be Permanent Residents of Paradise and intend to spend the rest of their lives there. Jan's blog is here.

Madang is certainly a wonderful place...I taught there in 1964. Madang along with almost every other major centre in Papua New Guinea, unfortunately does not have the hospital facilities that the average country town in Australia has. Expatriates with serious medical problems usually fly south to Cairns or Brisbane to get treatment and Cairns is where Jan and Eunie are now seeking answers to what could be a major problem. Eunie's biopsies are not back yet and if the results are bad they may have to leave 'paradise' to seek proper treatment unavailable in PNG.

Over the last ten years or so we have thought of making a Sea Change or even a Tree Change and spending our 'golden years' down the south of our state. It is well that we didn't make that change as Joan needs to be close to major medical facilities and specialists for her ongoing battle with advanced cancer.

Yesterday we sold one of our cars, the Daewoo Nubira. We accepted $4,500 from a chap who I believe was born in the country formerly known as Yugoslavia. He was a pleasant big man. The car was for daughter No. 3 and man, did he give it a going over. He eventually decided to buy and pulled out a cheque book, but got quite insulted when I said I would accept a Bank Cheque or cash only. Being Saturday he couldn't get a Bank Cheque so had to go borrow cash from friends or family. So with a bone-crushing type handshake our Slobodan Molosevic lookalike put daughter behind the wheel and they drove away leaving us with just one more car to dispose of.