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.