Friday, 30 November 2012

The end of the Cancer Club

OD went to see the oncologist today prior to the start of the next cycle of chemo. He had an encounter with what sounded like a very incompetent registrar, before Dr P rescued him. He's ditching the rubbish anti-emetic ( domperidone) and moving on to the good stuff ( ondansetron).

On a sombre note, OD also went to a funeral. One of his colleagues had been having radiotheray for melanoma. They had joked about setting a cancer club. The man, who is about the same age as OD and with similarly aged kids had been back at work, and then very suddenly had complications and died.

OD started talking about the funeral over dinner, and I had to walk out to stop myself bursting into tears in front of him. It all just seems a little too real.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


We had a nice day today. Free Rent Freddy moved out, and I have claimed his bedroom as my sanctuary. It's amazingly quiet- I can even hear the rain dripping on the eaves!

I'm sure it's all psychological, but having a bit of my own space in the house has made a huge amount of difference. I have actually done some work too- which justifies the "study space" argument.

The day was filled with domestic bliss. OD is shattered from the chemo, but with some persuasion made a Sunday roast. It was nice pretending to be normal, and doing the weekend shop. The roast chicken was amazing. My only contribution was the gravy- but they do say the gravy holds the meal together.

Previously, the OD gravy was Bisto stuff. Not my idea of yumminess. But I convinced him to let me try his brother in law's recipe. It was DEAD SIMPLE, but DELICIOUS!

Essentially, all I did was throw in an onion, a carrot and tiny bit of parsnip to roast with the bird. Remove bird,  drain off the fat. Blend the juices, and the veg ( fancy name trivet) together with about 200mls of chicken stock. Nom..nom..nom. No pics, because we ate it all. Every LAST BIT. your heart out.

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Joy of Science

Everyday I'm surrounded by cancer. It's rather messed up really, that every week when I sit in the multidisciplinary team, I'm disappointed that there is no suitable patient for my clinical trial. I'm disappointed that some poor woman hasn't got the right sort of cancer. Okay, well..the sort of cancer I'm interested in (endometriod ) usually has a good outcome...but still!

I feel like a right old meanie!

I was trying to explain over dinner to SD3 what I do on a daily basis. I decided to talk about the lab stuff... basically, I grow some cancer cells, and then I try and kill them with a drug....
SD3:...that's so weird!

It is rather! I spent all week trying my first "real experiment". Without too many specific, I put tiny numbers of cancer cells in a 96 well plate, dosed them up with varying drug concentrations and over the last few days, have been checking to see if they stopped growing.

We haven't crunched the numbers yet, but even looking at the well with the highest drug dose, those cancer cells are still too happy for my liking! I don't think the experiment has worked. Apparently, they never really do! One of the other PhD students is at the end of his 2nd year, and he doesn't have any results!

The Joy of Science eh?

Happy weekend everyone!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Private Hell

Weekends are meant to be a time for re-energising and revitalising. So far, this one hasn't quite got to that stage. OD was knackered. His sleep has been worse than ever, and dashing up and down to B'rum and work probably wasn't helping.

He's fluctuating between taking on the deviants at work and getting them in line and saying.."F**k the lot of you, I'm leaving". His mood has  not been great.

We were having a reasonably good day, until 9pm when THAT woman called. Essentially to pick a fight. First, they were discussing Christmas plans with the kids, and she announced that the kids didn't want to spend time with him on Christmas day. Then, she started trying to get him to put the holiday chalet back on the market. Despite the fact that it's the worst sellers' market and they would end up losing hundreds of thousands of pounds, and because of his cancer, he's unlikely to get another mortgage. And after he tried to reason with her, she started up on the.... "It's all your fault, you ruined my ruined your children's lives...etc".

Needless to say, his mood was then awful. Unfortunately, that then translated to "I really want a cigar..I'm going to have a cigar...". He's been off them for 5 weeks.

His argument was that there was no direct link. That was like a red flag to me. I knew that he was well aware of the risks associated with smoking. But it was difficult to have a diplomatic discussion. Particularly after he said, "I'm going to die anyway and the chemotherapy is poisoning me".

I don't know if he smoked that damn cigar. If he didn't, was it worth the fight and seeing him actually break down? He's on an absolute low right now, and is very fatalistic.While, I feel so strongly that he needs to make those lifestyle changes and fight and LIVE.

Because right now, to keep going and to stay here..I need to be positive and hang on to the belief that this is a blip, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.


Thursday, 15 November 2012


OD started chemo this week. It was a long day.
0635: Train to B'rum
0800: Bus to hospital
0845: Arrival on ward and wait for nurse.
1100: 2nd attempt at cannula.
1140: Chemo starts.
1350: Chemo finishes. Nice oncologist comes in for a chat.
1500: "We cocked up, and haven't got your oral chemotherapy ready yet. We have ABSOLUTELY no idea when it's going to be here. Why don't you go home and pick it up later..?" " Emm...because we live RATHER far away."
1600: Arrive in  B'rum City to try and get some edible food.
1605: Phonecall from ward:  Your oral chemo is ready.
1610: Bus back to hospital.
1700: Back to city for food and train.
2100: Arrive back home.
You can get the man into a "sick-bed", but you can't get him out of his suit.

It was only the first time, so perhaps things will be a little more streamlined in the future. I was knackered, so I can't imagine how he must feel. Luckily, the intravenous chemo is only once every three weeks, but the side effects started almost immediately. We'd both read the helpful Macmillan sheets, and some of the side effects just sounded weird. ...Pins and needles, funny taste in your mouth...

They didn't sound horrendous. But actually, painful pins and needles in all your extremities, made worse by the cold ( it's November...!), everything tasting slightly metallic, fatigue.... Perhaps, if you just had one symptom, it would be bearable, but the combination of all the little insults add up.

I feel bad for him. The whole situation is crap. And yet, I'm finding it difficult to be the all understanding, all forgiving girlfriend. I'm trying to not react when he's snappy or irritable or morbid, but it's not easy.

I also had an unpleasant suprise last night. In a fit of domesticity, I went up to the loft to tidy away some books. One of the kids must have been going through the boxes because there was a huge pile of photos on the floor. I made the mistake of glancing through them as the top few were of OD and his siblings in their youth. And then I found the cheesy photos from his wedding day to THAT woman.

It's not as if I didn't know he'd been married before. After all, the four kids are a constant reminder. But I still had a completely visceral reaction to those pictures. I tried to do the right thing and not let the reaction affect my interaction with him. That didn't really work. There's only one thing to say.

It's all a big, god-awful, soap-opera-worthy,  freaking, mess.

 I could ask "Why me?"

“To the dumb question "Why me?" the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: why not?”
Christopher Hitchens, Mortality


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Waving a white flag

Free-rent Freddy aka the ex-au pair is moving out soon. I don't know whether I will miss him. OD's kids have had au pairs around for as long as they can remember. Thus, by and large, they don't tidy up after themselves. Who can blame them... they actually did have a magic "cleaning up after, laundry doing, picking up" fairy.

Freddy used to keep the place tidy, but wasn't very good at getting the kids to participate. I guess it was easier just to do the work, then to encourage audience participation. Since he started his full-time job though, he hasn't been doing as much. His interaction with family life has been minimal, and he spends most of his time cocooned up in his room. His contract with OD  finished in July, and the agreement was free board and lodge in return for continuing to do his bit of cleaning etc.

That hasn't really happened.

Over the last three months, I have been trying to adjust to life with four teenagers and one adult, whose standards of cleanliness are very different from mine. I don't think I have OCD, but I'm not a fan of crumbs, cups and saucers on every surface, etc. It must be the a "growing up in the tropics" kind of thing. If you left crumbs on a surface in Malaysia, you'd have an infestation of ants within hours.

I initially tried to tidy up after everyone. That didn't work.

Then, I tried the gentle encouragement to get them to tidy after themselves. That worked a little, ( some more than others), but wasn't a huge success.

More recently, the mess and feeling that the kids are not pulling their weight with regards to chores has been a source of conflict between OD and I. I floated the idea of a weekly task list past him, which he agreed was good in principle, but has failed to implement. I seem to have fallen into the "bad cop" role.

Last night, after I spent the evening cooking for a couple of his friends, OD asked the older two to clean up after dinner. Needless to say, it was not done properly ( my pickiness..? perhaps?). But after having to stand over them and instruct, I lost the plot slightly. It didn't seem fair in my head, that I was effectively doing the cooking and the washing up.

[Oh wait- he has cancer. And his horrible cow of a girlfriend is making him do the washing up?!!!]

We had terse words, and I punished him in the most passive aggressive way ever. I kept stealing the duvet, leaving him with a frozen bum!

This morning, we haven't really discussed the issue any further. The kitchen is covered with crumbs and plates. I'm now going to have to try plan D. Wave the white flag, accept that the mess seems integral in the lives of the ODs' and try to be a zen-like about it.

And when Free-Rent Freddy moves out, I'm converting his room into my study/sanctuary/CLEAN ZONE.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Is it possible to leak snot out of your ears?


I'm having a "feeling sorry for myself day". I have the starts of the annual winter cold, with the prodromal sniffles, aches, mild fever and tickly throat. I toyed with the idea of VICKS FIRST DEFENSE, but my sceptical scientist mind doesn't think it will work. Plus, it's bloody expensive.

Instead, I found some effervescent Vitamin C, and have watched the Season 3 of Gavin and Stacey.

OD headed in for an important meeting at the usual 0545 start, which meant my plans to lie in went out of the window. I did manage to fall asleep but was woken up by a text from one of my Yummy Mummy friends..
" it possible to leak snot out of your ears?"

Her almost 2 year old has been running a temperature over the last few days, and "snot erupting from ears" sounds very much like otitis media or a middle ear infection. We had a brief chat, while the poor kid wailed in the background. I attempted to empathise with him but trying to explain the solidarity of being ill together to a toddler wasn't a great game plan.

I'm on my second cup of lemon and ginger while trying to function. I'm not sure if preventive strategies are good for things like viruses. I know they are definitely not good for spots. You know when you feel a spot erupting, and you slather on the OXY-10/Clean and Clear/Free Derm . And it does stop the spot emerging to the surface and seems to dry things up, but I still find that there's still the tiny focus of infection underneath, that continues to rumble, and the whole thing takes ages to clear up. Maybe it's better just to bite the bullet, let the spot "ripen", and pop it- messy, but quick!

Maybe I should have just let the viruses do what they needed to do and waved the white flag, instead of waging this futile minor battle- they have pulled back to their trenches, but they are rallying their troops, and it just means a long-drawn out affair!

OD's on his way back after his procedure. Probably with a very bruised googly bag. I'm off to pick him up, but I don't have a rubber ring- or is that only for postnatal mums and post- haemorrhoidectomy.

This whole cancer thing does mean that I can't exactly moan about how crummy I feel and expect sympathy. Another reason to hate cancer!

PS: Sorry about the bizarre post- I haven't even taking any sedating drugs!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Good Airlines vs The Bad Airlines

OD and I were meant to be flying home tomorrow.
Three days in Singapore, followed by a quick swoop into KL for a meet the parents/rellies, and the 2 days up to Ipoh and Penang. I'd really been looking forward to it.
Of course recent events have put a stop to my holiday planning. I had travel insurance, but OD didn't.

A quick email to the Parkroyal Hotel in Penang, and they refunded our hotel costs of almost £500 with no quibble. It was meant to be a non-refundable deal.

Another email to my very lovely ( blatant advertisment here) travel agent, Amy in Lee's Travel, who contacted Emirates. And the response was...full refund of £1200 , even though it's a non-refundable ticket....goodwill gesture...

And finally, I wrote to AirAsia ( we had booked a Singapore-Malaysia) short haul flight, and on sending them the same documentation, got this response.

Thank you for emailing Air Asia.
With regards to your email, kindly be informed that once your booking is confirmed, it cannot be cancelled and the payment you made is not refundable.

Please be advised that we have received your medical letter however there was no supporting documents attached.
( what sort of supporting you need a pathology report??!!)
It will be helpful if you are able to furnish us supporting documents to verify the passenger’s relationship with the affected patient for our further consideration.

Perhaps I'm over-reacting, but it seems to me that because OD and I are not married, I can't ask for a refund or AirAsia "credits"- the last time I checked, there wasn't any official paperwork for "committed relationship". I mean seriously, even if two people were nothing more than travel companions ( i.e booked travel together),  ill- health is grounds for claiming on travel insurance!

A very clear example of the Good versus Bad Airlines!

To procreate or not to procreate...

OD's on his way for the chemotherapy preadmission appointment. And tomorrow, he's going to have a "small" procedure. No one can really tell us whether the ox-cap combo chemotherapy is going to fry his little swimmers.

One of the first things I established before our relationship "got serious", was whether he was willing to have more children. The man does have a screw loose on the kids aspect - I guess when you grow up with ten siblings, you must learn to love big families. So, the answer from him was "Yes, I definitely will have more children".

Recently, when we were playing the "look at all the houses we can't afford" game, he showed me one with eight bedrooms.

V: What the heck are you going to do with all those bedrooms?
OD: Fill them with children of course....
V: ( Mental thought: Hmph..who's going to clean up after all those children!!!!)

From the very start,  I have been hugely undecided about wanting to have children. I think I probably do, but the impact that a baby will have on my career plans really freaks me out. And the lie-ins, and the exotic holidays. Oh wait..the inherited four have already stopped the exotic holidays!

The other big issue about having children with a much older man is whether he's going to be up for the 4 am feeds and being knee deep in nappies again. After all, he's been there and done that! And of course, the impact on the kid. Is it fair on a child to have a much older parent? If we had a baby today, by the time he/she was 25, OD would be 77.

Numerous doubts and worries, even before the whole cancer diagnosis. When we talked about him having his swimmers stored , I confessed ( while bawling a little) to be extremely freaked out and undecided about the whole children issue. It seems grossly unfair to bring a child into the limbo of our lives and the unmentioned elephant in the room!

Obviously, my head's not really straight right now, and the enormity of the cancer diagnosis is casting a shadow on everything. I guess it's not really a time to make huge life-changing decisions and in six months time, I may be really glad that he had the foresight to cryogenically preserve some baby making juice.

A reason to procreate- babies are great photographic subjects, especially when they are as cute as this one. But I'm biaised.

Friday, 2 November 2012

The Grump Wars

I'm a bit of a newbie at relationships. In fact, my relationship with OD is probably my first, true "adult" relationship. Blame it on the Asian upbringing- I was repressed and had my nose buried in a book.

As far as I can tell, each party has a role to play in the relationship. And when we signed the metaphorical contract, I thought I'd secured the "Grumpy" role. ( "The one with the license to be a sulky cow"). And OD had the "tolerant" role. I even have a t-shirt with a grouchy smurf on it, that says..GROUCHY! Fairly clear, I thought.

And to be fair to him, he has been fairly tolerant of my grumps until recently. I suppose having bowel cancer can make a man much less reasonable. But the role reversal or the adoption of bilateral "grumpy" roles has caused some serious wrangling. Does he not realise that I have the "grumpy" privileges? Women have this hormonal fluctuations after all ( I should know, I'm a gynaecologist!). I was never a great believer in PMS, but by God, it certainly seems to exacerbate things.

The annoying thing is, the triggers for the Grump Wars are never major issues. The problem is the little issues, on a background of tension caused by cancer, teenage stepchildren, and general anger at the world mutate into nasty, vicious tiffs.

In the clear light of day, we can both be more accepting and understanding, but the Grump Wars are going to a feature of impending months. I suppose the purpose of all wars are the attainment of peace at the end. Unfortunately, there's the collateral damage that we both have to deal with.