Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pillar To Post?

We seem to be going from pillar to post again. The headache and nausea have gone, but the WBC and Neutrophils are still low.


The Prof. is brilliant but he's such a busy person that his patients have to be patient and flexible. The Cancer Center staff and patients with low blood counts waited from his blood draw (8:45a) to almost 1:00pm to know whether he would sign off on a chemo session for them today.


Others on his schedule for consultations this morning were sent away with apologies and asked to come in at the same time tomorrow because he had been asked to make a presentation this morning!


Holding as many portfolios as he does and having to fly hither and yon every now and again, it is difficult for him to get much 'face time' with his patients. He is totally 'hands on' and makes all the important decisions, so we all pray for his good health and safety.


While waiting today, I met an old friend. I had heard she was also a patient of Prof. Wong and knew we would meet up in Cancer Canter 3 sooner or later so I was not surprised to see her there.


As one does in such situations we compared side effects and notes. And I learnt something new: she said that she had a lot of trouble with mucositis and that it helped her get some measure of relief to keep ice in her mouth during her chemo sessions . 


She also had been told that in India, chewing on grated coconut 'flesh' helped sufferers from mouth ulcers and she's now tried it to good effect.


So now not only are we going to have Lin on Prosure powder (Vanilla!) in coconut water, he gets to chew the nice white 'flesh' of the coconut too.


All this means that he will be going to the Cancer Center next Monday for another blood test and, again, to wait for an all clear for chemo.


Hasta La Vista as I am going to Hong Kong to get away from the haze in Singapore (our Indonesian neighbours are burning down their forests to clear land for cultivation) and to continue my "R&R". Lin will be in good hands.


But I am imparting some advice sent by a friend:



THESE REALLY WORK!!   APPARENTLY THEY’VE BEEN CHECK OUT ON SNOPES AND ARE FOR REAL.   

AMAZING, SIMPLE HOME REMEDIES:

1. AVOID CUTTING YOURSELF WHEN SLICING VEGETABLES BY GETTING SOMEONE ELSE TO HOLD THE VEGETABLES WHILE YOU CHOP.

2. AVOID ARGUMENTS WITH THE FEMALES ABOUT LIFTING THE TOILET SEAT BY USING THE SINK.

3. FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE SUFFERERS ~ SIMPLY CUT YOURSELF AND BLEED FOR A FEW MINUTES, THUS REDUCING THE PRESSURE IN YOUR VEINS. (REMEMBER TO USE
A TIMER).

4. A MOUSE TRAP PLACED ON TOP OF YOUR ALARM CLOCK WILL PREVENT YOU FROM ROLLING OVER AND GOING BACK TO SLEEP AFTER YOU HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON.

5. IF YOU HAVE A BAD COUGH, TAKE A LARGE DOSE OF LAXATIVES. THEN YOU'LL BE AFRAID TO COUGH.

6. YOU ONLY NEED TWO TOOLS IN LIFE - WD-40 AND DUCT TAPE. IF IT DOESN'T MOVE AND SHOULD, USE THE WD-40. IF IT SHOULDN'T MOVE AND DOES, USE THE DUCT TAPE.

7. IF YOU CAN'T FIX IT WITH A HAMMER, YOU'VE GOT AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM.

DAILY THOUGHT:

SOME PEOPLE ARE LIKE SLINKIES - NOT REALLY GOOD FOR ANYTHING BUT THEY BRING A SMILE TO YOUR FACE WHEN PUSHED DOWN THE STAIRS.




Monday, October 18, 2010

Sigh, no Chemo today

After a brief respite we are back to low WBC and Neutrophil count. Haemoglobin and platelet counts are not that great either.


Lin had his blood tested this morning and then we met with Prof John Wong in the afternoon when he gave us the disappointing news. So we try again on Monday, 25 October. Let's hope that the chemo drugs are wreaking the same havoc on the "bad guys" as they are on the good ones!


Time for some good news!


Since Lin started on the 5FU and Folinic Acid (without Oxaliplatin) his mouth seems to have been more sensitive and painful. But thanks to a tip from our friend, Christina, he's been using Biotene mouthwash and oral gel and they have alleviated some of the discomfort.


The topic of exercise came up again in our session with Prof. Wong and I added my two cents' worth to Lin's plea to be allowed to swing a golf club. The Prof. is not acquainted with golf and was concerned that Lin might slip and fall or hurt a muscle by swinging too hard.


I assured the Prof. that the range is surfaced with a composite floor covering that is quite safe and the golf course is covered in grass. So he cautioned us to be careful as he's had patient's who have fallen, been bitten by a dog, etc., during their courses of chemotherapy!


Another piece of good news is that one of our friends had surgery recently for colorectal cancer and is up and home after six days in Singapore General Hospital.


I first heard the news when I was in Hong Kong and was rather worried because she made the decision of have her operation without getting a second opinion from either National University Hospital (NUH which has a Cancer Center) or Singapore General Hospital (SGH in whose campus our National Cancer Centre is located).


Maybe the threat of my impending return got her moving, but once she met with the doctor at SGH she saw the light. She was admitted last Monday afternoon and had her laparoscopic surgery on Wednesday.


I visited on Thursday and she was a little tired but pain free and already raring to go home. Saturday saw the removal of her catheter, Sunday the drainage tube from her abdomen and today she got her marching orders from her doctor.


While she was there I had the chance to see how this hospital handled things. 


I attended a presentation for relatives, caregivers and interested people on colon cancer from pre-op to post-op. and it was very interesting especially when we listened to an ex-patient talk about his experience.


I learnt things that I only experienced (without the benefit of prior briefing) during Lin's procedure and hospital stay - and got to understand the whys and wherefores better.


As a result of our friend's illness I got to know a little more about colon cancer and its treatment and am more convinced than ever that the Singapore government hospitals are streets ahead of most - even private hospitals - and I would have no hesitation in being a patient or recommending any relative or friend to take that route when an illness calls for the most up-to-date treatment and care.


While I grumble about some aspects of life in Singapore and will continue to do so, I am appreciative of the public health organisation to which I have contributed as a tax payer.


I wonder if it is because the doctors and nurses are too busy curing patients that they have little time to play at being bureaucrats?


The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Traffic Police (TP) could learn from the hospital clusters; as a matter of fact many other government and non-government organisations here would benefit from working rather than pontificating.


The National Environment Agency (NEA) for one agreed with the Management of our estate that the best times to fog for mosquitoes would be at dawn and dusk. And THEN, mindful of the pest control companies' business they also said that any time would be all right!


The Public Transport Commission (PTC) could do with being more in touch with the people who take public transport.


As you can see we are fond of acronyms here in Singapore. In my mind, I imagine a huddle of little gnome-like creatures beavering away at inventing new ones for all the new 'bodies' that spring up every now and again.


We are booming despite warnings that things may not be so rosy in the next two quarters, and we are dealing with new Singaporeans and a tide of foreign workers. So we are not likely to follow the British in their culling of quangos and public services anytime soon. But it is food for thought that growing like Topsy cannot be the formula for all seasons.


There have been enough gaffes that have surfaced in our rather tame newspapers to make anyone wonder if we know what we are doing. Some are called "scholars' moments" (mistakes made by bright scholars 'parachuted' into top posts without experience of the real world or their feet on the ground). Others are truly 'foot in mouth' incidents that do not deserve re-telling.


Rather than rant on, I am going to attempt to include a video that'll amuse you:







Monday, October 11, 2010

Back In The Saddle

Cut short my trip to Hong Kong but that is another tale; no it's nothing to do with Lin. As a matter of fact a friend who saw him while I was away remarked that he looked very well despite my absence. My retort was that he looked well BECAUSE of my absence!

Instant stress when I arrive to find that he had driven himself to the airport to meet me; it's not as if I am incapable of getting home from the airport. How does he think I manage in Hong Kong?

More stress: we are there with luggage cart and the car in the car park. To save time I go and get the car and we load it together, with me heaving the big case into the boot. I think I glanced over at the cart to make sure it is empty before we drive off.

To cap it off, as I am unpacking I look for my laptop to plug it in and cannot see it anywhere, so Lin gets a painful earful and goes down to check the car. I am on pins and needles as someone could have walked past him and taken the laptop off the cart without him noticing and just about everything is on the laptop even if I do have Time Machine backups.

Thank goodness they say that a change is as good as a holiday. I caught up with most of my friends which was refreshing and managed to squeeze in 2 golf lessons, 2 practice sessions and 3 games of golf in 9 days, as well as some rather good meals.

Our resident "Einstein" was still taxing my patience and understanding so no change there. As I was rushing to complete some errands and then to the Airport Express station, she announced that my sister and another friend had called when I was in my shower.

I called both, only to find that my sister hadn't called - after all she had called earlier and dropped of something for me to courier to her son in Singapore. Luckily I remembered our Caller Id and checked the handset - it was someone else altogether!

As my sister and I both have been away a lot in the past 12 months, Einstein was only giving in to her natural inclination to give a name to a voice rather than ask the caller for her name! I am so happy she gave us the boot and that she saved us the trouble of getting rid of her.

Lin is in good physical shape but a bit grumpy due to perceived neglect and my reaction to the rather Einstein-esque episode at Changi airport.

His only valid complaint is that the inside of his mouth hurts. Since Prof Wong took him off Oxaliplatin the side effects of the 5FU seem to be more pronounced.

We wait another week before seeing the Prof although I do not envisage an effective solution to the pain from the damage to his oral mucosa.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rest and Recreation

I am writing to you from sunny (blue skies) Hong Kong and it is Sunday morning. So good to look out of our windows and see blue skies and green hills.


In Singapore, although we are on a tiny hillock, we look out on condominiums and commercial buildings. And a building site - a portion of the Thai Embassy which is being torn down to make way for something new.


Whereas Singapore is relatively flat and development has spared few places, Hong Kong is hilly and 'civilisation' is concentrated in several spots. This means once out of those areas, there is much nature to be enjoyed.


Whilst children rarely have homes with gardens to play in, unlike Singapore, the government has provided and maintains walking trials, picnic and barbecue facilities in the country parks and at beaches.


Sounds a bit strange, but there it is - look at a Google map of Singapore and of Hong Kong. Aside from restricted areas, nature reserves, reservoir/catchment areas and golf courses development is fairly evenly spread in Singapore. This allows for some low rise homes with gardens. Of course we have made up by planting trees and such along our roads and now in vertical gardens.


Our trees are awesome, they stand majestically and spread their shade over many of our arterial roads. Unfortunately, tropical trees have a predilection for shedding branches in storms and cars and motorists have died as a consequence.


Like the flash floods that suddenly hit Singapore this year, they're deemed acts of God for insurance purposes.


Now look at a Google map of Hong Kong island (we are comparing island with island). All the built up areas are along the coast. The middle of the island is dominated by greenery in the form of hills (county parks and reservoirs).


So the chances of getting a green view are better in Hong Kong. Personally, I think the fabled harbour view is over rated.


On good days such as these Hong Kongers throng the beaches, creating traffic jams for those who live in Repulse Bay. And they stream up Tai Tam Reservoir Road to walk the many trials that emanate here.


The couch potato that I am, I only walked ONCE - just before we left HK for Singapore this time - in the Tai Tam Country Park. Although we have been living in this vicinity since 1989! But now I have done it, I can say it was thoroughly enjoyable. I just need someone to drag me out!


From not having bothered to touch a golf club since April, I had a lesson and then a round of golf in the two days I was here! Definitely a case of feast or famine! And I am playing today too!


When I went up to the golf club on Friday (a public holiday in Hong Kong), I saw a new dining room - it had been re-designed and renovated during the summer hiatus. Stunning - and done without the trials and travails that our Singapore club is going through.


Some of the men's locker rooms have been renovated too and should be finished by now and if not, soon. I was shown some photographs and they have selected a more traditional look with dark-stained lockers - what I call a rendition of what American designers think of as the English country club look!


So much of the renovation and construction work in Hong Kong (public or private) is done with little fuss and inconvenience to other people. 


For example, driving along the Tolo Highway to the golf club there are a few places where construction is taking place. There are warning signs of lane closures nice and early so one can be prepared, and when one is passing the work sites, the barriers are set in from the margin of the lane so that the passage of vehicles is not impinged.


In many other places the barriers, work vehicles, workers and building materials or debris sit on the lane dividing line between lanes so that motorists and other road users shy away. This effectively closes half that lane and you often find motorists straddling two lanes as a result. Thus a 3 lane road becomes a 1 1/2 lane road.


At HKGC we are building the great wall of China to fence off the front of our car park from the road, but even that has not caused much inconvenience. But then that's nothing compared to the new buildings that sprout almost as fast as mushrooms! 


Even though interest rates are low these days, there is still an incentive to build quickly - to achieve a revenue stream. Or to get the early completion bonus if it is a major public project.


Maybe Hong Kong should export its expertise in project management and construction? But then they are too busy building and making money to go and teach!


Aside from having the sun shine down on me since I arrived, the smiles and genuine greetings of everyone at the golf club warmed the cockles of my old heart. So nice to return to one's club and be made to feel welcome!


The wait staff are resplendent in their new uniforms (they put my sloppy golf outfits to shame!) which were designed by a HK designer, Barney Cheng. 


Incidentally the Cheng clan are great supporters of the club and we have had a few Cheng club captains with the likelihood of more in this and future generations. Other clans are well represented too, so be careful of whom you speak when at the golf club!


Well, I must run because I am cadging a lift today. Our car needs a service (scheduled for tomorrow) and we will be going out for dinner after golf so I thought I'd travel with my hosts. This means I won't be drinking and driving later!


(Written in haste so please excuse even more mistakes than usual!)


And, in case you don't know, I am here on my own! Lin is in Singapore as he's not allowed to travel (germs and such in aircraft and chemo on Monday). So I am here for a holiday - and maid hunting because our HK maid has given me notice.


Friends say she is not too bright to give up such a cushy job; maybe that's why my nickname for her is Einstein!