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.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back on the heavy stuff

This morning we had a 10am appointment with the oncologist. There were a few sad stories in the waiting room. One woman was in the last stages of whatever cancer was consuming her being. It was not good for Joan to observe.

When we got in he reviewed the last week and the blood tests showed that the Blood Tumour Marker, the CEA, had doubled. Oh shit!

He assured us that the disease was still termed a stable disease, but the CEA indicated that the current chemo regime is not doing its job. He decided to revert to a different combo of Avastin, Xeloda plus the nasty Oxaliplatin. We will just have to put up with the side effects if we are to see any improvement. The infusion was to take three hours and I decided to go away and wait for Joan's phone call to come and collect her.

On the way home I decided to buy some casserole steak and make a curry which we haven't had since Joan's diagnosis due to her lack of appetite. It will be ready when she gets back home, but I fear she will not be able to eat any of it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vehicle repairs

Helen’s car is back on the road and running well. The repairer also runs a wrecking yard and the replacement engine was from a car in his yard. All up it cost $1250....$500 for the engine and $750 for fitting including all the extras that go with an exchange. I was impressed and went back yesterday to buy an electric window winder for my Mazda 929. The man showed me where it goes in the door but refused to fit it himself. ‘Too difficult’ he intoned with his Arabic accent. His business is a cash business and they seem to have mislaid the receipt book.

I spent the best part of a day removing the door panel, the old motor and the window glass and then fitting the new regulator. It fitted well and is just like a new one. There were a few curses muttered, but I am pleased all went in as it should.

Tomorrow we are starting the medical round again. Joan has a blood test in the morning and we see the Oncologist Friday morning. Joan is on a trial and we are wondering whether the trial restricts our options as far as treatment goes. There may be some other treatment available outside the trial...we can only hope. We recently saw a news item about ground breaking external beam radiotherapy being done in a hospital in Sydney. The treatment was for brain tumours, but I will ask the man whether it can be used for lung and liver tumours. I suspect he will give me the look and brush the question aside. If it can help we would travel to Sydney for treatment.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shopping and lunch

Yesterday we were still a little shell-shocked with the latest results of Joan's CT scan. We went and did a shop, looking for something that Joan may be able to eat. Bought some fillet steak and she will prepare it with some Portabello mushrooms we have growing in the shed. We know she can eat the mushrooms. I bought some Blue Swimmer Crabs locally known as 'Blue Mannas'. Maybe a fresh bread and crab meat sandwich will appeal to certainly will appeal to me.

The young part-time checkout girl
perfunctorily inquires "How are you?'
Not really expecting a negative reply
and not really even caring how the customer is
managing in this fight with the monster

The customer replies 'good thankyou',
conditioned to the niceties of convention
when what is really needed
is a raging protest about the unfairness of it all.

For lunch we went to Cockburn Central about 10 kilometres from here. The food was OK and Joan was able to select her small meal from a Chinese self serve stall. I went for Indian and although it looked good, was just! On the way out Joan bought Peter Carey's latest blockbuster, Parrot and Olivier in America knocked down from $49.95 to $19.95.

I am re-reading for the third time, Jack Finney's Time and Again, a wonderfully plausible time travel adventure returning to New York in the 1880s. We have had two copies of this book lost or swiped and don't want to lose this one. Some time in the 1980s I made that fact clearly on a label I pasted inside the cover.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bad results from CT scan

This afternoon we attended the oncologist. It was not a good result. The lung 'tumours' which previously had been described as possibly not tumours had grown. The liver tumours were still as before in static mode. The tumour blood marker has risen and the Oncologist was a bit puzzled as to what to do next. Joan has another week without chemo and just a one week dose of Avastin which is supposed to stop new tumour blood vessels developing.

We were both devastated with this result...especially with the oncologist's seemingly lack of direction.

We have another week of no chemo and the onco will look at the scans rather than relying on the report faxed to him. Don't think that will change anything.

Heavy times.

Monday, August 2, 2010

North American holiday

Cousin Ted and I went to collect our daughter's car and aimed at at least reducing the bill for a wrongly diagnosed fault. The repairer was having nothing of it and after some argument, I paid the $1400+ for a job that didn't cure the problem. 'Not our fault that what we thought was the problem was not!' As we left he said 'see you later'....not bloody likely.

The car had been sitting for almost a week and the cylinders were pretty well full of oil when I drove off. It was about 10 kilometres before the oil and dense blue/white smoke had dissipated. I was extremely embarrassed driving in traffic looking like an oil refinery on fire.

Tomorrow I will drive to Malaga to talk with another wrecker/repairer who has come up with a much better price for an engine replacement. The exact model of car and engine has to be determined as this vehicle was privately imported from Britain to Australia and the european designation is not the same as vehicles destined for Australia.

This afternoon we had a visit from friends Marg and Brian who have just returned from an extended holiday in North America. Good to hear from them about their adventures in the U.S. and Canada. We have travelled to quite a few places around the world, but North America is, for us, probably the easiest country to navigate in...apart from driving on the wrong side of the road.

Joan's CT scan tomorrow morning and the Onco on Friday. Hoping for some encouraging results to make the burden of chemotherapy worthwhile.