Here’s a conundrum. How come that as of 15/04/2008 the Consumer Price Index remained unchanged at 2.5% despite prices spiralling out of control? That’s the type of sleight of hand hocus pocus that only an economist can produce! Our assets are diminishing by the minute, our money isn’t safe in the bank, food has become a luxury item but hey, the dodgy CPI has remained the same. Goodie, goodie.
Back to the real world and another conundrum. OG has a decision to make following our meeting with the oncologist on Friday. We were told that we are now in the realm of the unknown. What we do know is that of the 6 lymph nodes removed, 2 were cancerous.
There is a possibility that these two lymph nodes in the area of the tumour were the only nodes affected and that chemo is unnecessary. However, it is also possible that there are other cancerous nodes and chemo could prove to be beneficial. He said that if cancer is still present and OG decided not to have chemo he may feel that he hadn’t given it his best shot.
There has been a study to compare success rates of groups of patients that had chemo against others than had decided not to. Unfortunately, results of this study are not yet available. However, his opinion is that although the benefits of chemo are very uncertain and it isn’t an exact science if OG decided to have the chemo then the sooner it started the better because it would be ineffective if left for more than 3 months after the operation.
So, the conundrum is should OG put himself through this new ordeal so soon after the “major, major operation and major, major reconstruction” (the oncologists words) or take his chances that chemo is not a guarantee and concentrate on building himself up again.
Me? I prefer to Google. It’s a matter of preference. Do you take the word of the doctors, or do you keep them honest and frighten yourself shitless reading stuff that is incomprehensible. You know which one I opt for!
Our GP somewhat jumped the gun this week by giving us the results of the “bucket test”. In essence it said that 2 of the 6 lymph nodes removed tested positive and OG should now be considered for chemo. At the end of the report the consultant had added “Mr Cordner is currently unaware of the outcome of the histology”. I immediately Googled (as you do) and then rang the Uro-oncology Nurse Practitioner at Addenbrookes to ask if we could meet up with the consultant when OG was over there for plumbing adjustments this weekend.
That evening I was dozily watching TV when the ‘phone rang. It was “THE PLUMBER OF ADDENBROOKES”. I immediately found myself sitting to attention. God himself ringing me at 9.15 pm, this must be important. “Hello Mrs Cordner. Sarah said that your GP told you the outcome of the histology. Mrs. Cordner, I am so sorry, this shouldn’t have happened. I can’t apologise to you enough. Can I meet up with you and Mr Cordner tomorrow afternoon and I’ll go over it with you.”
Next afternoon saw him and his colleague perched on the edge of OG’s hospital bed explaining that if the nodes had been unaffected there would have been a 60/80% chance of being free of cancer after 5 years, now the odds had been reduced to 30/60%. He said that the next step would be to get OG over this operation and then hand him over to the Oncologist who would have his kidneys tested again and re-assess him for chemo.
The Plumber is a big affable, charismatic Belfast man who gave us this bad news in such a positive way that somehow it didn’t seem too bad at all. I can understand why he wanted to tell us himself. He must go home at night and think “God, I’m good”.
A slightly surreal moment was when OG told him that he had started our house renovation work as a retirement project and asked if he would be able to continue with it. He said “there is nothing to stop you, what are you doing?” OG explained the extent of it and then said “….and after that I want to build a swimming pool”. At this the consultant became really animated and the conversation switched to JCB’s. When he heard that OG has his own JCB and dumper truck I thought he was going to have an orgasm. They were in boy heaven together discussing the fun of driving sodding JCBs. Can you believe that?
Even more surreal, as all this was going on I found myself gazing at this George Clooney impersonator, slightly sweaty from his efforts to save another life, dressed in his operation blues with the V-neck allowing me a tantalising peek at his hairy chest, and slightly swooning. As the book says, we surely are from different planets.
So…. OG has many, many hills to climb - one day and one step at a time. The challenge this weekend centring around his nether region. As you would expect, since the operation his plumbing has been all over the place. His No.2 would not work and his No.1 was on automatic pilot. Yesterday they removed the automatic pilot. Now his No.1 is misbehaving, but thankfully his No.2 is perfect!
At last, Breakfast news had me laughing. This is the funniest new items they have ever had. YouTube - The Terminal 5 Song (very funny). The guy that wrote this little ditty had his wedding luggage lost by BA last year and empathised with the poor passengers going through Terminal 5 so he took himself down there and recorded this song. The people dancing along with him are real passengers and they joined in the fun with him. What a brilliant, wacky thing to do. I love it!
One of the news items on breakfast TV recently was “Is retirement like walking off a cliff?”. I can answer that! Yes, it is.
A couple of years ago, for the sake of the continued growth and success of the business, I decided that the younger generation should step up to the plate and I relinquished my day-to-day duties. My dearly beloved (aka Old Grumpy) made no such decision, although, if I’m being truthful, I had hope that he would also do the same and we would then ride off into the sunset together to enjoy well earned “quality time” together. HA!
As part of our retirement plan we bought our lovely apartment in the Swiss Alps. We figured that this would allow our successors room to develop without us looking over their shoulders. I love it and have spent the last few summers there in glorious solitude without OG because he gets bored when he is away from the cut and thrust of the business. So that has been ruled out of the equation as being a viable retirement option. My next “retirement plan” was to write what is sometimes referred as “the bloody bog” (not, I should add, by OG, who thinks it is a wonderful thing for me to do.) This keeps me amused for all of 2 to 3 hours a week. I also started researching the ancestors - another few hours a week. Shopping is not an even on the radar because I hate it. So…. what to do with myself? I pretty soon I found myself being drawn back into the office just to “check things out”.
At first there was major resistance to this strategy especially when I called them in jest “the bloodless bottom line committee”. “Don’t you trust us?” they asked. We had a few tears and tantrums (mainly from me). I sensed they felt uncomfortable with my presence, but shit, it is my business, so to hell with them. Fortunately we managed to overcome these initial teething troubles and I now feel as though they view me as an unthreatening oddity that goes with the territory!
I now have a very enviable retirement situation inasmuch they make all the decisions and do the work, whilst I get to play with whomever I can inveigle into spending time with me. And, strangely enough, because I am the BOSS, I do find my colleagues most accommodating!
The only blight on this enviable lifestyle at the moment is OG’s health, but we have to believe that this will improve and then I am sure that he will be only too pleased to ride off into this mythical sunset with me.
Addenbrookes, as predicted, has been very conservative in treating OG’s potassium level. They decided to observe and test. The doctor wondered how the GP had managed to obtain a viable sample because it degrades very quickly. The GP himself had said that the first sample could have become compromised during the car journey to the hospital laboratory, which is why he took the second sample. Apparently movement breaks down the blood cells and releases potassium, giving a false reading. It took three attempts to get a viable sample for analysis yesterday and although the level had come down a little they decided to err on the side of caution and ask the “Renal Team” for their opinion.
So……there I sat all afternoon, OG sleeping, me reading. Finally at 1700 we were told that the ”Renal Team”, for whatever reason, would not visit with OG until today. Great, just in time for me to catch the full blast of rush hour and get hung up for 45 minutes in a “traffic incident” on the M11!
I must apologise that I have become a medical bore, but as I have said previously, we have so many kind relatives, old friends and cyber friends asking for news that we decided to hijack this space. Please forgive me. You are probably actually thinking that this is more interesting than my normal drivel, but tough, this is my blog and I can write what I like in it so there!
Since the operation OG’s blood pressure has been dropping through the floor. Being a fairly simple (and I guess I should probably also add ignorant) person, I wondered out loud if he should stop taking his tablets to reduce blood pressure (not rocket science?) OG immediately defended the doctors and said the tablet was duel purpose and also protected his kidneys.
However, being the gobby person that I am I did ask the GP the same thing during his house call on Monday. He recoiled and repeated the kidney protection mantra, took his blood pressure, did the “umm” thing, finally admitting that it was “a bit on the low side” and advised OG to halve the dose from 20mg to10mg. I tried hard not to smirk (as you do).
That night he ‘phoned to say that there was a dangerously high level of potassium in his blood which could be caused by this tablet. “Stop taking it altogether and we will repeat the test tomorrow”. All the other renal indicators were OK, so it didn’t seem to point towards a kidney problem. Last night he ‘phoned to say it was still high and he would like to admit him to our local hospital for a rectal enema to “mop up the potassium”. Bearing in mind that he has had extensive surgery in that area I was very alarmed. We had a bit of a shouting match on the ‘phone because I said he should go back to Addenbrookes. Our local hospital is not the best in the World. As our Senior Registrar nephew said “no doctor worth his salt would want that hospital on his CV”. Nuff said.
By the time the GP came with the admission documents he had changed his mind. He said in retrospect maybe Addenbrookes would be the best option, but it was a long way for us to go, and anyway he didn’t know how to get him admitted. I said, “I don’t mind the distance (75 miles). Give me that ‘phone, I’ll get him admitted”.
A couple of hours later we arrived at the Ward to be told that we had to be admitted through A&E. So a delightful transsexual 6’3” tall nurse wheel chaired him down to A&E where within minutes of arriving they gave him an ECG and bleeped for the very same urologist that we had just spoken to on the Ward. Mad, but that’s procedure.
The urologist diplomatically said that he probably “wouldn’t recommend an enema”. Thank goodness we took the trouble to get him to the right place. They have taken several blood tests through the night and the level is still high so this morning they are calling the kidney man in to see him, although he is hopeful that he will be allowed home later today.
I have a couple of observations to make. I was surprised that GP’s still did “home visits” and we count ourselves lucky that we are able to have “frank and full” discussions with our GP’s who admit they don’t know everything but really do care. My second observation is that the A&E Department at Addenbrookes is as immaculately clean as the Wards and everyone we have dealt with has been courteous, friendly and very, very professional. Over the years we have had dealings with several hospitals and this hospital is head and shoulders above the rest.
They are also militantly against private medicine because they believe that everyone should be treated equally. BUT, they are willing to take the BUPA money to "help the hospital funds" whilst stressing that the level of care "will be no different". We are, after all, in champagne socialist country here! But, hey, this is socialism at it's best. It only proves that, with the will, it can be done.
The scan on Friday indicated that there is a small leak in OG’s plumbing. This is listed as a 5% chance of happening, so it’s a bit unfortunate. So….back home again for a couple of weeks and then another scan. There is a chance that the leak might self- seal, if not it may require a small repair operation.
In the meantime life moves on. Our French family are settling in and sent the following communication:
As the McDonalds slogan goes ‘We’re loving it’ even as the euro hits an all time high against the £, and we now only get about 1.239 euros for our good old £ (last year it was at about 1.50 euros to the £) and it hasn’t stopped raining for the whole of March. Although we did have a fabulous February so we can’t complain and we are now starting to get sunnier, warm days rather than wet and cool ones.
We have been to, seen lots and accomplished many things in such a short space of time, and we now know this part of the country intimately. It really feels like home. Even our rented, boxy bungalow with paper-thin walls is a safe little haven that we have come to know and like. It is on a small estate of similar bungalows all filled with many races and creeds, we have French neighbours on one side, Germans on the other and a Thai gentleman opposite.
The little people are all settling into their respective schools well and have adapted to their new routines and learning techniques well. Alex comes home everyday and bores us with the Spanish he has learnt. He is in a small class of about 15 pupils, they are treated much more like adults and he really seems to be thriving on it. We bought him a bike a few weeks ago and he uses it to go to schL. It gives him a little bit of independence, which hopefully he will benefit from. Finty is the star of the class and one of the French mothers who was talking to her class teacher said that she has never met a child quite like her because she has settled in so quickly and so well. She even said that she was a very bright child and helps the French children with their maths when she has finished hers. She continues to love it here and her best friend is still Clements, who lives a few doors away in a slightly smaller boxy bungalow. They are inseparable and are always scheming how to get to go round each other’s houses (when they have finished their homework of course)! Bastie has moved on from the trees, the whale and the drains and has progressed onto real live human beings. He has made friends with Toune, Valentine & Baryon. They are his regular friends now but Toune seems to lead him into mischief. He still has his moments when he says he doesn’t like school, doesn’t like school dinners and doesn’t want to go but when he gets there he seems fine and comes home having loved his school dinner, enjoyed his day and saying a few French words. They seem to have a very varied school dinner menu with lots of fish dishes. They even had LOMBSTER (as Bastie called it) the other week. He is slowly learning a few French words and is getting more comfortable with saying them instead of the English equivalent. Finty, by the way, couldn’t think what the shelter at school was called in English but knew what it was in French, now that’s progress.
For the last month I have been having French lessons. I have been going every morning from 9-12.30 into the centre of Toulouse to my beginner’s French class. Seth drops me off at the station in Colomiers where I catch the train to the outskirts of Toulouse, I then hop on the metro for 4 stops, which gets me into the heart of the Capitole. It is incredible really how easy and cheap the journey is, it takes about 20 minutes and it costs me 11 euros for the full week. That self same trip in the UK would probably cost me at least £11 per day. Anyway, I have now finished my beginners French and it was hard, really hard learning all about conjugations, verbs, and liaisons. I still can’t speak French though apart from ‘je ne comprend pas’, which means ‘I don’t understand’, this seems to get me out of most situations or will force the French person to speak English, which most of them do, a little. I was talking to Clements mum about how I wasn’t sure if it was the best way to learn French for me because it was so focused on the verbs and the spelling of them and the sentence structure, and we didn’t do enough practical talking exercises. That’s really what I wanted to learn, more so than the written word. She was saying that they are so hung up on academia in France that this is they way the teach it unfortunately. This bears out what we read about the French and their education etc. which school or University you went to is so important to the French that even as a 40’s something person this appears at the top of your CV, even above all of your years and years of work experience. And we think the English are snobs. If the truth be known this is why I haven’t sent an update for a while as I have been so totally consumed with my French lessons and homework. Seth has been very patient with me and taken up the slack with my shortcomings for the whole of March.
We popped back to England just before the Easter weekend to say high to the folks back home (makes it sound like we travelled back from Australia)! and especially to see Davy who was going into hospital for a major operation. He has since had the operation and is coming out the other side with a few little hiccups along the way We have been getting regular phone calls, texts and emails from kind friends and family with updates and progress reports, for which we are really appreciative of and thank you very much.
The French seem to have an awful lot of stray dogs and the merde is something else, you have to watch every step you take. Talking of merde the public toilets are pretty disgusting here too.
Seth is still his usual jolly self who stumbles into situations where fools fear to tread, not the dog shit obviously. He first of all checks to find out if the person he wants to speak to speaks English and then when he discovers they don’t he continues asking questions in English (with a very heavy French accent of course) that you just know the French person hasn’t understand and then he is surprised when they respond in French and he can’t understand them. He just carries on though speaking with a French accent and by the end of it he has made himself understood and got what he wanted. He is a real survivor and to Seth ‘nothing is impossible’ or is it ‘impossible is nothing’?
We are going to watch a well-deserved film now ‘Blood Diamonds’ and will catch up with you all a lot sooner next time. We would love to hear from you. Love and miss you all A bientotxxx
It was such a relief to come home for the weekend, although a little scary. The 75- mile drive was particularly trying. OG has a scar from his groin to above his naval and two drainage tubes so I was conscious of every bump in the road and drove at a very sedate and elderly 40 miles an hour even on the motorways. In future I will be more tolerant of old fogies driving at the speed of a tortoise.
As predicted, his appetite picked up immediately and each day that goes by sees him gaining more strength and wrestling control back from me. He even managed a short trip to the office yesterday and is starting to ask questions that make my poor colleagues sweat and stammer. Bring back the “good old days” I say!
Tomorrow we move to the next phase which is to have another scan to re-check that the plumbing is still working and then have the last of the drainage tubes removed. There will then be the usual follow-ups and maybe other treatments, but that will all be revealed in the fullness of time.
I was going to write “when I started this blog we had no idea what a boon it would be to help keep all our family, friends and colleagues up to speed with OG’s progress”, but as I was writing I had feelings of déjà vu. Hadn’t I written this before? The bitch of it is that this now happens frequently. I start recounting an interesting tale only to see my target audience lose the will to live. I say, “have I told you this before” and I can tell from the reaction that not only is this a repeat, but is probably, at best, a repeat of a repeat and may even be a repeat of a repeat of a repeat!