Monday, January 31, 2011

Tears in the keyboard

Tomorrow Joan has a blood test prior to seeing the Oncologist on Wednesday. He will have the results of the CT scan and we hope that it shows at least a slowing of the tumour growth. The recent SIRT treatment which was aimed solely at the 30- something liver tumours may give us hope for more time together.

This morning there were tears as we both thought, without words, that The Man will be giving us bad news. I think Joan is ready to forgo further treatment if the oncologist decides that it will not help. In that case, we will ask about a time span and try and do a couple of things on Joan’s bucket list.

Tears in the keyboard.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day when the redneck patriots fly Australian flags on their cars. It wouldn’t be so bad if they lowered the flag(s) at sunset, but many of them remain on the cars until they eventually disintegrate.

I reckon the Sydney Lebanese gang boys will be having a day at home today. No sense in showing your face and your bogan car to drunken Aussie patriots.

Too much like a Nuremburg rally for me.

Joan slept for 10 hours straight and looks like she will have another nap this afternoon. Tomorrow she has her PICC line dressing; Friday is a Bowen massage and a CT scan and we visit the oncologist next Wednesday.

The PICC line dressing is done at St John’s Subiaco where we usually go for chemo. When Joan was there in hospital recently, someone said that an Occupational Therapist would drop by to see her. She did and had a bit of a chat about possible aids for the house. Joan told her that we didn’t think it was necessary at this stage and she left. Yesterday we received a bill for a consultation. In public hospitals, such services are free including the installation of grab rails, ramps etc. Private hospitals outsource such services and neglect to tell patients of the potentially heavy charges. The state government is going to outsource these services when the new Fiona Stanley hospital is commissioned in 2014.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Old Timers' Disease

This morning I was involved in a comedy of errors which was not at all funny.

Joan was very tired and went to bed to rest. I drove to a shopping centre about five kilometres away and did a ‘small shop’. When I returned to the car I opened the boot and loaded everything in and closed it. Unfortunately I also shut in my iPhone, the car keys and my wallet. Shoot!

If you have ever done something like this you will remember the solution....walk rapidly in any direction with no definite purpose; change direction several times and return to the vehicle.

I went into a computer store I am familiar with and the owner offered his phone. I rang home but.....I had previously told Joan that she should ignore the phone ringing as it would go to message and she doesn’t need to run to the phone and perhaps fall. I left a message asking her to get the spare set of keys from the safe and drive down to where I was. After some time I returned to the Good Samaritan and made a few more calls. I then had the idea to call a cab to get home, but had second thoughts about that as I didn’t have a key to get into the house and if Joan had already left on the rescue mission I would have to taxi back, still with no cash to pay the taxi. Another plan was to ring the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) to get a service man to open the car.

Just as I was about to return to my GS (Good Samaritan), Joan turned up.....whew! She just smiled.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cuda button

We are home together again. Joan is still very weak and sometimes using a walker to get around. Last night she suggested we go to the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour and have some seafood. It was very pleasant and a few thousand others thought that would be a good thing to do as well. The fishing boat harbour is a very popular tourist destination with a number of seafood restaurants and a very nice brewery pub overlooking the harbour.

We opted for Cicerellos because we had parked in a Disabled Bay in their parking lot. We had a single seafood platter between the two of us. It was excellent with more than enough for both of us. Joan is following the advice of the dietitian and eating as much calorie-laden food as possible and drinking full-sugar soft drinks.
She needs to get more protein down to build too!

Also yesterday I attempted to start the computer I exchanged for a friend’s disabled son. It presented with a glowing start button, but wouldn’t get up. Something I have known and used over the years is the MacIntosh cuda button. I opened the case, pressed the tiny button for a few seconds and it was up and running like a Buick.
I will recycle the recycled Mac to another needy person. At the moment I have 18 Mac computers fully loaded with appropriate software ready to go to needy folks. Since Joan was diagnosed with advanced cancer I have not actively sought out recipients for these machines. I must start to do so again or I will lose interest in this project. I may wait for the start of the academic year and contact a couple of university student- services people. In the past that has been a good avenue for distribution.
The wee Cuda button...a sometimes quick fix to some problems.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Joan is still in hospital....maybe Friday she can come home. The large warning label has been removed from her wall chart. It said 'Cytotoxic Precautions' because it was still under one week since her last infusion of Irinotecan. This stuff is so toxic that nurses and other staff have to be warned about possible contamination. They didn't caution me about getting poisoned over the last week!

Since her ‘fall’ (young people fall over/down, but oldies ‘have a fall’) she has been mostly in bed. Yesterday she had a visit from a dietitian who gave us some advice we already knew. She told us to ignore all the healthy diet stuff at this stage and tuck into the food which is going to give plenty of carbs and protein. Sugar laden soft drinks are now the go.

Joan’s taste has changed considerably. For most of our 45 years together we have not eaten sweets on a regular basis. Now Joan can eat sweet things and has trouble with the smell and taste of savoury foods. While she is in hospital I am cooking stuff that usually makes her gag. Last night I cooked a curry and have leftovers for a few days.

A couple of years ago I set up a Mac for a friend’s disabled son. It seems that it has died and I will give him a newer, faster machine. I will test his Hard Drive in one of the Macs I have here and if it is OK, drop it into the newer machine to save all the settings and data from the dead machine. Simple job. I don’t like going through the setup process of a new machine each time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Another hospital transfer

Joan was not allowed home from Fremantle Hospital yesterday, instead the doctor who was looking after her talked to her Oncologist and they agreed that she should be transferred to St John’s for ‘observation’. We don’t know what they are going to observe, but while I was with her in the evening a nurse made a note about one of Joan’s eyes not reacting to light as well as the other did??

I am making another visit today with all the stuff I neglected to take in yesterday....toothpaste and brush, shampoo, face cream, medications, clothes and reading glasses. We hope that she can be discharged today or tomorrow, but the last time she got so weak, she had to spend 10 days in hospital.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Joan 'has a fall'

My dear Joan had a nasty fall this morning. Fortunately I was in the house and heard her yelling for help. She somehow lost the strength in her legs and fell backwards hitting the back of her head on the tiled bathroom floor. I was not able to get her up again and rang the St John’s Ambulance service. The two ambos did a great job of getting her onto a stretcher and checking her out thoroughly before taking her to Fremantle Hospital for scans and sutures to the large gash on her head.
When I arrived at the hospital she had had two X-Rays and was awaiting a CT Scan of her head. Then the stitching up. I took her mobile phone so that she can call me when they have finished mending her. An event like this is quite a shock and knocks the confidence around.

Yesterday we had a new gas hot water system installed by a couple of our friend Paul’s boys. The previous unit had lasted 15 years which is pretty good. Paul’s lads did a good professional job and we paid them in $50 bills. One of them pointed out that there were a few fake notes in the stash, showing me that on those ‘fake’ notes the portrait of Edith Cowan did not have her name below the image. Eeek! I told the guys that we had just got the notes from a bank ATM and they should be OK and said I would look into it with Mr Google. They were happy to keep the notes and I found no reference to the missing name as proof of fake notes. I talked to Paul about it and he did further research and found that the $50 notes printed before 2002 did not have the name and those after carried the name. The usual email about fake notes circulated and the myth was started. Glad it was only a myth though.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Willy Wonka

Strike that; reverse it’ as Willy Wonka would say. I reported that Joan had few side effects from her latest round of Chemo. The steroids which are part of the infusion wore off and yesterday the nasties kicked in and she was in pain with stomach cramps, severe nausea and overwhelming tiredness. As another little kick in the guts, handfuls of her hair are falling out. Just what she needs to keep her spirits up!

Our daughter and her hubby are thinking of selling their (her) unit and buying a house with a yard so that their dog can wreck the yard instead of the furniture. We are going to help with a large (for us) sum of money when they eventually decide to buy. We have been looking at adverts for housing in this area and yesterday drove past some houses in different socio-economic areas. I rang Helen to tell her that we had seen a nice house in a good area, Beeliar, at an asking price of $500,000. As you will see, housing is expensive in Western Australia.

‘Beeliar? We don’t want to live there. It’s miles from anywhere!’ That made me sit back and I thought about it a bit and of course they are still young and want to be near entertainment, restaurants, friends and the city. We have in fact been house hunting for 60-70 year-olds, so we will leave it to them to choose where to buy.

The financial help we will give them will come from Joan’s superannuation and will be a tax free gift if it is given before her death.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Round 2 of Irinotecan

Yesterday we met with the oncologist. He was a locum sitting in for the man who is on hols. We hit him with a few questions and got satisfactory answers...probably more than we would have received from the regular Doc.

The CEA (blood tumour marker) had increased since the last test three weeks ago. It is now 10,000; more than when Joan was first diagnosed. He assured us that that ‘was nothing to be too concerned about’ and ordered a CT scan before we next see the regular onco in three weeks. Her bloods and liver function tests were OK.

I left her in the IVY suite to get her infusion of Irinotecan. Irinotecan has many possible side effects, but fortunately Joan has, apart from extreme tiredness, lack of appetite and now major hair loss, few of the real nasties. She thinks that she will be bald within a couple of weeks. No wigs for Joan as they are extremely hot in the middle of our summer. A hat or scarf will be the fashion du jour for a few months at least.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Crazy murderer

Another crazy has murdered innocents in the U.S.

The blame has been laid at the feet of ‘shockjocks’ with their vitriolic tirades against the government of the land.

It would seem that although Americans love their country with hand on heart, many show mistrust of their own government.

More than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East, according to a new Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll.

Suspicions that the 9/11 attacks were "an inside job" _ the common phrase used by conspiracy theorists on the Internet _ quickly have become nearly as popular as decades-old conspiracy theories that the federal government was responsible for President John F. Kennedy's assassination,that it has covered up proof of space aliens and faked the moon landing etc etc.

Guns and the so called ‘right to bear arms’ are a worry. Australia’s population is small compared to the U.S., but any anger directed at government or individual politicians rarely results in threats of violence. Prime Minister John Howard took regular morning walks without being threatened. In the U.S. there have been four Presidents assassinated and another two dozen attempts.

Also in Arizona is the Westboro Baptist Church whose members are going to picket the funerals of the murdered. Google that mob if you want to be a little concerned about radical groups.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

45 years together

Yesterday we celebrated 45 years of married life and hope we can make it to 50 years. We went out with brother Graham to a Vietnamese restaurant in East Fremantle. Great food!
Curried prawns, braised pork and seafood and vegetables....yum!

Earlier in the day I read about Fannie Farmer's book.....The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook and Googled it and there it was online, the 1918 edition containing 1,849 recipes. It is a fantastic reference book especially for the time. The first edition was published 1896, but the online edition is the last fully edited by Fannie. Well worth bookmarking and using as a reference book.

On leaving the Boston Cooking School she established her own venture which she called Miss Farmer's School of Cookery. She became an expert in the preparation of food for the ill and infirm even being invited to lecture at the Harvard Medical School on the topic.

She was also one of the pioneers of writing recipes in terms of standard measurements - a practice not well known at the time.

Here it is...The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook.

I wonder why the name Fannie is no longer in common use?

BTW if you see an advert on the right hand side giving you the chance to win something by shearing a young pop star's hair, ignore it, it's a scam.

Friday, January 7, 2011

On-line buying

The Australian Federal Government is being pressured to apply a GST to purchases of goods over the internet. Big Australian retailers are saying that they have to levy a 10% GST for the government on all goods sold and yet purchases made overseas via the internet do not attract a GST if they are valued less than $1,000.00.

We have bought quite a bit of stuff over the net and have been very satisfied with quality, delivery and especially price. Many people are saying that the big retailers are price gouging.

We will continue to buy stuff on line where it is obviously a fraction of the price in retail stores here, however, I understand why Australian retailers are a bit cranky.

I am pretty confident that the rent on a warehouse in China is just a (very small) fraction of the rent a big retailer is paying for rent in a shopping centre. Many retailers have spent millions building large shops, employing staff at award rates and paying superannuation, overtime rates, sick leave, holiday leave loading and now maternity leave. Can you imagine the daily running costs of running a Myer store with a couple of hundred staff, power bills etc?

From what I have read about factory workers in China it would seem that a lot of those costs and benefits don’t seem to apply.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A funeral

Yesterday we attended the funeral of Joan’s Uncle John. John, or ‘Boy’ as he was called was 84 and died from complications associated with prostate cancer. Having so many children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and friends it was a big funeral.
'Boy’ was for many years Deputy Principal at the West Australian Deaf School, a lovely old building overlooking Mosman Park and the Indian Ocean. At the funeral was a large group of his ex-students looking like they were in their 70s. Lots of rapid hand movement and loud voices were heard as the cortege moved up towards the crematorium. Once everyone was settled inside, a priest commenced the service in a thick Filipino accent. One of Boy’s grandsons, who is also deaf, stood near the lectern to translate the service. It was obvious that he was having trouble understanding what was being said and with a rapid hand movement let people know that he was giving up on that task.

There was an earlier Mass for Boy, but we gave that a miss because Joan was very tired even before we left for the cemetery.

Funerals often present an opportunity for people to ‘catch up’ with relatives and acquaintances with whom one would not usually do so. I saw plenty of that on Wednesday.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Some photos

Not a lot of good news here, so I thought I would 'pad out' this post with old photos....some much older than others. All pictures will enlarge if clicked on.

A 1946 publicity photo for Metro Buses, Fremantle. I guess a conductress was a pretty glam job then?
Manolas boat Builders Fremantle, 1946. No electric tools then!

WW2 salvage. Fred Evans' speed boat with a dangerous looking head chopper propulsion unit.
Here's Fred in action on the Swan River near Fremantle.
Post war Disposals Commission of wartime Fairmile air sea rescue boats. Bought as ferries and whale chasers.
Joan's uncle John (foreground) in 1945 on Borneo. Japanese gun knocked out. John passed away this last week.
My 1942 Ford Jeep, built from bits and pieces found in Papua New Guinea, some from wartime airstrips.
Our daughter Helen with a couple of her friends.