Poor L

With a slight fever, a headache and some sniffles, L opted out of kindergarten today and went with me on the bus to my hospital where he was happy to sit in the hall with a nice doctor who thought he could practice his English for 3 or 4 minutes while I was in the radiation treatment room. Lucky L got a few pieces of candy out of the deal although I doubt the doctor got much in return.

Then we caught the bus back and went to the local family practitioner to have L checked. We were given a 5 day supply of antibiotics and some cough syrup. He fell asleep at about noon and is still snoring away more than 2 hours later.

Wednesdays are my busy evenings with 4 classes end to end from 6 to 10p.m. so I guess I'd better start getting dinner ready to leave for the troops.


Busy Monday

Day 8 of radiation went as smoothly as the other 7. The radio/oncologist seemed surprised that I'm not itching yet but only laughed when I, a little comically, asked if the machine was working. The nodes in my neck seem an eentsy weentsy bit smaller and she said that they should begin shrinking by the end of this week but that there may be some swelling. She reiterated that I should let her know as soon as I started feeling itchy so she could prescribe a cream medication.

I caught my bus back and got off at the girls' school for a PTA district meeting about a bicycle safety event we're holding for the 3rd graders and up next week. I'm in charge of delegating spots on the course for 6 other volunteer moms to stand at and supervise. The police will come and show a traffic safety video and oversee the written and practical tests the kids will take to earn a "bicycle license" (a piece of paper with the child's picture, certifying that they attended the course, everybody passes).

After I finished some leftover spaghetti for lunch, the girls began to arrive home. Usually, depending on the grade, the kids are sent home at different times. This week is the beginning of parent teacher conferences so the kids all eat lunch and come home. Asking a favor of a friend whose daughter is in N's class, I managed to trade times and get all 3 conferences pretty much consecutively in a single afternoon, tomorrow. S has agreed to be here at 3:03 to get L off of the kindergarten bus.


Presents and Cake

A good friend from down the street stopped by to give me a birthday hug and brought the most delicious chocolate cake to share. She also brought grapes, a shawl and a brown hat her daughter had knitted . The kids enjoyed the cake and even sang "Happy Birthday" to me a little shyly, with my friend. She's good at encouraging them. It was nice to sit down and relax with a friend over tea and cake.

No radiation today or tomorrow, only weekdays.


Mini cream puffs with whipped cream and chocolate sauce were today's birthday treat for me and the kids. Fortunately, they tasted better than they looked. Posted by Picasa



Tired of manually spinning the clothes in my broken washer before hanging them out to dry, today, with permission from S, I used his credit card to buy a new washer. The new machine has twice the capacity of the 15 year old heap of plastic it will replace tomorrow when it is delivered. Then I bought a fluffy blue floor covering to go under our heated table. The kids were quite excited to see me arrive home with a bulky package and are now sitting quietly around the table with toasty warm toes. I rushed home to avoid overheating the magnetic strip on the card.

Today's hospital trip was OK, I felt a little nauseous, but I think it was the bus ride, not the radiation, doing that. I sit near the front and look out the window if I can. Due to the nature of the bus course, a number of older people with canes and heavily pregnant women ride the bus, so I usually stand up and offer my seat. These people usually don't venture to the back of the bus, so if there are seats available, I could sit back there, but that's usually where I begin getting flashbacks of Osh Kosh (a town where I was ill on family trip more than 30 years ago). I'm glad I have friends to drive me when I begin chemo.


Day 5 of Radiation

Only 25 more times to go. So far, I haven't noticed any itching or other irritation. I had an appointment with Dr. Fukushima, the breast specialist I usually see, and a blood test to check for cancer markers. The blood test from 2 weeks ago came out negative. He recommended I get a flu vaccine, so L, who needed his measles vaccination, and I went to the local clinic this afternoon for some shots. His was free as it's required before entering elementary school. Mine was $60 and I have to go back for a second shot in 4 weeks (both shots are included in the $60 price). The family doctor at the clinic down the street is apparently well acquainted with my radio/oncologist, Dr. Takayama, and told me I was in good hands.

Sometime in December, my Dr. Fukushima will introduce me to the chemotherapy specialist but today's general explanation was that I'll be going for a day visit once every 3 or 4 weeks for my chemo cocktail IV. I decided to wait until I met the specialist to ask for more details.

Out of curiosity, I checked the prices on wigs in a local wig shop and was shocked to find that they start at over U.S.$2,000. They look pretty ugly so I thought they'd be about $200 with the usual high prices here. Apparently after-care is all included in the price. Well, I'd rather have a new washer and refrigerator and maybe an I-Pod, so I put the pamphlet in the paper recyle bin and looked on-line for alternatives.

I stopped by the Japanese version of a dollar shop and bought a tape measure to measure around and over (ear to ear and front to back) my head to figure out wig sizes and went ahead and ordered two on line from a very inexpensive U.S. wig supplier (Paula Young) for a total of $69 including airmail international shipping. Most of the wigs they sell are in an average size, which was slightly smaller than the results of measurements over my rather bulky hair, calculating all those centimeters into inches, so I went ahead and ordered the average sized wigs. With 41 years of bad hair days, even a bad wig might look pretty good. We'll be all set for Halloween in any event. Tomorrow is a national holiday so my next minute of radiation will be on Thursday.


Extended familiy 2000

Extended familiy 2000
Originally uploaded by Koggy.
A few friends have asked to see the photo studio picture of all of us in kimonos from 5 years ago so I decided to put it here on the blog where anybody and their cousin can see it. So far, the tiny outfit L is wearing gets the most comments.


CT Scans, X-Rays and The 3rd Day of Treatment

After today's CT scan and x-ray, the doctor explained that the cancer is now at IIIC stage but that the staging is just words and he couldn't make any predictions good or bad as cancer has such a strange personality. Some stage 0 (pre-cancerous) women suddenly get really worse and some stage IV women have their cancer just stop and live for 20 years with the cancer in their bones. I asked him what the radiation therapy will really accomplish and he looked me in the eyes while listening and explaining (not a Japanese custom) and told me that the radiation treatment is expected to shrink the lymph nodes so I won't be able to see or feel them, but continued careful observation is very important.

He agreed that instead of just waiting and watching for the cancer to reappear, we should go ahead with chemotherapy, and I'll probably start in January. I'll ask more about what drugs will be used next Tuesday when I visit his office after my daily dose of high powered x-rays. Now I have to look for hats and maybe a wig.


Sports Day At School

It was raining on Saturday morning so a telephone tree message was generated from school to all of the classes that the sports event that had been scheduled for that day was postponed until Sunday. Of course by the time the call reached us, I had already made our deluxe family picnic lunch, minus the rice part, so we had a nice lunch at home that day.

S had invited the PTA softball colleagues and some of their families over for a sukiyaki dinner to celebrate the childrens' efforts at the sports day. We decided to keep the party plans and they became a pre-event celebration. Including our kids, there were 10 children and 11 adults. We fed the kids first and the adults retreated to S's room for drinks (I made a big batch of Sangria with some Beaujolais Noveau from 3 years ago that the superintendant gave me last week, lots of fruit and some orange liqueur, nobody got sick...) and dinner sitting on the floor around 2 low tables. The kids had the rest of the apartment to themselves and were well behaved. Most of the moms and kids went home around 9:30 to get ready for the next day's sports event (ie. start marinating some more chicken to fry, making those square tamagoyaki omelettes to slice and cutting vegetables to simmer in sweet soy sauce or, for the kids, taking a bath and going to bed). The men sat around and drank more for another hour when the aroma of my cooking for the next day's lunch drove them away and they returned home.

On Sunday, the girls went to school at 8 a.m. and L and I followed a little before 9 with a big bag filled with our picnic mat, lunch, lots of tea and the video camera. S showed up at 9:30, after all the boring opening speeches and stretches, to take over the video taping duties from me. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the digital camera recharger, so we didn't take any photos. We can probably stop the videos in a few choice places and upload images later.

The girls all had fun, not worrying too much about winning or losing, but were glad to have the next day off (a make-up day for Sunday) to rest after all the excitement.


Radiation Update

I met the oncology/radiology team today and listened to the whole spiel about needing or not needing the treatment for about 5 minutes before the dr. in charge manually examined my neck and under-arm and immediately determined I needed the treatments. He showed me the Japanese release form and underlined the points he felt I should be most aware of, taking a few minutes to explain. Then they all fumbled around for a while and finally discovered last week's CT scan results in the file and excitedly pointed out that nodes under my collar bone are also quite visible and asked how soon I could start.

I asked if today was OK and they all walked down the hall with me to the oncology radiation treatment room where I got to lie very still on the table while they positioned, measured, marked and photographed me so we can repeat the position 5 days a week for the next 6 weeks. Then I was alone on the table while a buzzer buzzed and I counted to a hundred in French. After a quick digital photo of my position again, I was able to get up and go meet with another doctor who will be working on me some of the time. She gave me a computer printout of my schedule so I'm all set for the rest of the year.

My kids are absolutely gleeful about all the red lines they drew around the area to be radiated (left side of neck and around left underarm area plus the left half of the left breast) and here and there on shoulders and waist to make sure we match positions tomorrow and thereafter. I'd been nagging them not to write on their bodies with magic markers just last weekend and now I look like an overused connect-the-dot :-). I bought 2 new turtlenecks so I won't look like I was attacked by a horde of 6 year olds with red markers when I work.

I'll go weekdays until at least the end of the year and should be in and out of the hospital within 30 minutes each time, so the schedule is not a problem. The bus ride takes about 20 minutes one way, and is convenient.

Time to go make some dinner and go off to teach a few classes.