Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lost Bloggage

My friend and I have a short code for me to text:


It means Still Around. Not Dead Yet. Natty, eh?

Thankfully that's the current case, although I've been away for some time, hence no posts for, ooh, ages. Above is a pic of my holiday destination. No sunkissed beaches or pure white sand, just sweaty palms and a ghostly pallor. Not recommended, even as a last resort. The locals call it Entre la espada y la pared, which translates as
Between a Rock and a Hard Place

But things are looking up. Stay posted and I'll stay posting.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Midnight Train to Morphia

OK, strictly speaking, it should be 1.15 am taxi to hospital to plead for pain relief, but you know how writers like to riff and tinker. Such pain, oy! That darned loose liver again. Describe how it feels, they said. Is it shooting? Stabbing? Sharp? I nodded madly like a toy dog in the back of a newly-crashed car. Yes, all those and more. Does it hurt when you breathe in? Yes, which is why I'm communicating by nods - I can only speak on the outbreaths. But somehow they got the gist and soon I was being morphined into compliance and a feeling that I might possibly return to humanity. You need to move up to the next rung of the analgesic ladder, they said, giving me a slug of something else.

The Analgesic Ladder. Sounds like something angels use for a spot of heavenly DIY. I remember reading about it being invented by the Who. That can't be right, surely? Although with all that crashing and trashing kit at the end of a gig, who knows? Oh, that WHO ... The World Health Organisation. Makes slightly more morphine sense.

So mostly pain-free and with a prescription for stronger tablets, I headed back bedwards. A scary moment, nonetheless.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hang fire on the birthday cards

I am, since you ask, doing splendidly at the moment. My beleaguered body must be almost free of chemo drugs by now, and the good doctor’s news about my legs has had an astonishing effect. I still use a walking stick (a new metallic purple one, the silver bling model having been left in Newcastle), but I feel I could walk unaided once I regain my confidence, which is – forgive the pun – a real step forward.

The weather is a letdown though. There are lots of pluses to living next to the sea, but one major negative is the sea fret, a dense, chilly mist that swirls in from the sea under certain conditions, which I must Google. Anyway, it’s been fretting for three days now, which means that while the rest of the country is sweating and sweltering, we shore-dwellers are subjected to a booming foghorn and can barely make out the trees at the bottom of the garden.

Plenty of time for lady of leezure activities like watching DVDs. My total fave at the moment is Notes on a Scandal, in which Judi Dench plays a blinder as a close-to-retirement teacher who stumbles on a colleague’s indiscretion and emerges as a sinister and vindictive harridan. I loved the novel by Zoe Heller, and with a screenplay by Patrick Marber, and Dame Judi, Cate Blanchett and master of loucheness Bill Nighy acting their socks off, what’s not to like?

I’m determined not to get hooked on Big Brother, as I have in previous series, though from the bits I’ve dipped into, I’m not impressed by that Charley character whose default mode seems to be a permanent state of aggressive finger-jabbing. She’s a perfect example of a BOBFOC: Body Off Baywatch, Face Off Crimewatch, and her self-absorption and lack of empathy mean she’ll never win, but I hope she won’t be evicted early either. But I won’t get hooked, remember? Life’s too short.

Speaking of which, people have reacted to my life-expectancy prognosis in different ways, possibly the most pragmatic being, ‘So let me get this straight. We buy you Christmas cards as usual, but hang fire on the birthday cards?’ As an aide memoire it's hard to beat!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Goodish, bad and middling news

Here are the results of my scan in reverse order (worst first):

a. The tumours in my liver have got worse. My poor old enlarged liver, already peppered with numerous lumps and lesions, has defied the aggressive chemotherapy’s attempts to kill off the cancer cells; instead, they appear to be thriving. Any more nonsense from this cranky organ and I shall serve it up with fried onions and mustard mash and feed it to that annoying twerp Marlon Dingle from Emmerdale.

b. No change in my lymph glands. So no worse, but no better.

c. Something (I forget what) in my pelvis has shrunk slightly, but it’s nothing to get excited about, according to Dr Pedley. Best pack the bunting back in the understairs cupboard then.

d. On the plus side, I mentioned the problems I’m experiencing with mobility, but the dear doctor assured me there was nothing in the scan to indicate impending crippledom, and my legs will probably improve once the chemo and steroids have cleared my system. And it’s true, they do feel stronger already, although I’m not planning to enter any marathons.

See, that’s the good thing about preparing for the worst – anything less seems like a bonus, and Denise and I left the hospital with smiles on our faces and made a beeline for Sainsbury’s all-day breakfast. Discomfort eating.

So what, if any, are my options? I’ll have to weigh up quality of a shorter life against quantity of stringing it out for a few more weeks (possibly) with more chemo. There’s six weeks before I see Dr Pedley again, in which time my body should be completely drug-free and I’ll have decided whether to try a different chemotherapy regimen.

How long do I have left? Impossible to forecast with any degree of accuracy as it’s such as imprecise science, but the best estimate would be 9 – 12 months (which is longer than I expected, in all honesty).

Courage, mon brave. Now is no time to lapse into self-pity. Keep cheerful, which is what I’ve been doing by selecting the music for my funeral (amazingly therapeutic, strangely enough). Oh, and I’m back in Scarborough for a few days, or weeks, or however long the fancy takes me. 'Do what thou wilt,' said someone famous. Eek, I think it was Aleister Crowley!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Clueless with Wireless - and CT sickness

‘It’s simple,’ said a friend. ‘All you need is a wireless router and ten, maybe twenty minutes tops, and you’re hot to trot.’ (‘Hot to trot’ is a phrase that’s been excised from my vocabulary. ‘Tepid to totter’ might be more appropriate.)

Ten minutes. That’s what the instructions said too. Who are they kidding? After several hours (including a nap) I was still struggling with jargon and thumping my forehead with a clenched fist. If I couldn’t even locate the ADSL configuration information or place the USB Adapter Cradle, how on earth was I going to connect the Ethernet cable?

I admitted defeat - why hadn’t I done that five hours ago? – and called in an expert who had everything up and running in half an hour. Still more than ten minutes, but no quibble. So here we are, wireless-enabled, with excellent signal strength, and feeling mighty damn smug and state-of-the-art.

If only the CT scan had gone as smoothly. I drank the horrid orangey stuff with the bitter aftertaste for an hour beforehand, undressed and donned a hospital issue dressing gown (not a good look, believe me), and lay on the couch while it moved within the scanner. At half-time I was injected with a contrast medium, a dye that shows up against the orange juice. It gave me a horrid metallic taste in the back of my throat and a warm feeling spreading beneath me, a bit like wetting the bed, only without the mess.

Then I disgraced myself by vomiting loudly, messily and copiously. Huh, typical!

Still, the scan is over. Just the results to look forward to next Wednesday. Send me good vibes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Maiming of the Shrew

Since arriving back in Newcastle (cats perfectly behaved on journey, hardly a peep from either of them!), Lucy has reverted to her feral ways. Last night she brought a tiny shrew through the catflap, disgorging it in the kitchen, where she chased it in that sadistic way that cats do. Meanwhile, I climbed on a chair (in that silly girly way we learn from cartoons), shaking a tea towel and hissing, 'Out! Out, damned cat!', to no effect whatsoever. This morning I found it - deceased, naturally - encased in tuna, having been gobbled and regurgitated by Lucy in the night.

Cats, don'cha love 'em?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cats, collapses and Friday Sundaes

Mmm, a super comfy apartment
Scarborough's fabulous Harbour Bar

I cheated chemotherapy again last Wednesday - hoorah! – because I have to have a CT scan next week to see how the monster is doing, whether it’s progressing or shrinking. Then the following week I get the results from dear Dr Pedley. I’m guessing, but I think the options could be: 1) the chemo hasn’t worked so we’ll try again with different drugs; 2) the chemo hasn’t worked, we’re very sorry but we have nothing else to offer. In other words, enjoy being chemo-free but best get your affairs in order. Of course, this could be unduly pessimistic on my part. Time will tell.

So I’m here in Scarborough, in my niece’s lovely spacious flat on the Esplanade, sinking in sumptuous sofas, surrounded by sea views. Oh, and I brought the cats with me which could have been disastrous, but has in fact remained incident-free. They love the sheer bigness of the place, perfect for paw-thundering chasey-chasey games, and the comfy windowsills where they sprawl like queens of Sheba, following the sun.

The weather is gorgeous, bright sunshine and just enough of a nano-breeze to tempt me into the outside world where I totter with the aid of my silver bling stick like a frail octogenarian, pausing occasionally to rest on the benches with sprightly pensioners. Yesterday I overdid the walking and my legs turned to marshmallow. I hobbled back to the flat and collapsed in the hall like a badly assembled deckchair. I think I’ll restrict my al fresco moments to the garden in future.

Today my nephew Simon and his girlfriend Nikki turned up to whisk me off for lunch followed by my absolute favourite treat, chocolate Horlicks at the famous Harbour Bar, which is a definite must-see if you’re in Scarborough. Could life be any sweeter?