Prelude to Summer

I had a phone call at 8:43 a.m. to my cell phone as I was paying my bill at the cancer center downtown before my 9:00 a.m. I.V. M hadn't arrived at school. It looks like J went back to bed after her ham and cheese pannini sandwich and loquats or couldn't manage to roll the others out of their futons. I'd taken a later train than usual to make sure that someone got up...S never came out of his room, probably quietly waiting to see how long they'd all sleep before someone realized the time and raised the alarm. What AM I thinking, leaving my babies to fend for themselves while I take the trash out and traipse off for treatment? How selfish and irresponsible I am! I did explain what I thought had happened, confirm that M was not ill and apologize to the teacher; that's all I could do. All of the sandwiches were gone when I got home at 1:oo p.m. but L and N told me that they didn't eat any breakfast. Sigh.

On an upnote, the two ladies who always get their Herceptin I.V.s on Tuesday morning were already in the lobby when I arrived and one of them told me she's dubbed us the Tenteki Trio. Tenteki is the Japanese word for I.V. so I guess an English equivalent might be the Treatment Trio - One for all and all for one! We wrote our hopes and aspirations on colorful strips of paper to hang on the hospital's star festival bamboo branch of hope (tanabata). Mariko-san, the seniour member of the trio, gave me some rolled sushi she'd made and a can of organic carrot juice which she'd frozen to keep the sushi cool. I had she sushi for lunch at home and it was beautiful and delicous.

N is excited about the 5th grade trip to the mountains tomorrow. She'll walk around with a forest ranger and learn about trees and forest management in the afternoon, have dinner and a bath and gaze at stars with her classmates before bedtime. The next day is a trip to a commercial dairy where the kids will enjoy sampling as much ice cream as they can eat after their tour of the plant. They all come home on Friday afternoon. Older sisters M and J will be grateful for the quiet evenings before their final exams on Thursday and Friday but I'll have to think of some diversion for N and L over the weekend for the Monday exams.

I've been trying to figure out when I can see some friends for coffee or lunch before I get busy with everyone coming and going and needing three meals a day during summer break but the weeks until summer are already looking fairly busy. Last chance before fall...


Wardrobe Switch

With limited space in most Japanese homes, ours included, people tend to store out of season clothes in plastic cases in a storage area or the back of their closets. This involves emptying the dressers and wardrobes and refilling them with the upcoming season's apparel from the plastic cases and then refilling the cases with last season's clothes before trucking the cases back to our storage room in the basement of our apartment building. I procrastinated until the last minute (the week when the schools announce that students may wear their summer uniforms and that they'll need their school issue swimsuits for P.E.) so we're still mid-shift and our place looks like a Salvation Army secondhand shop.

On the way to the National Cancer Center today the students who commute to school stood out more than usual in their lighter colored summer uniforms. I took a local train and was amused to see little girls hesitantly lean out of the doors each time the train stopped so their friends boarding at each station could find them. The students are gradually replaced by sleeping company employees. I still don't know how they manage to sleep while standing up in a crowded train though.

The numbers from my blood work looked OK today and the x-ray I had showed that the lung tumors haven't grown in the past month. My feet were a little swollen from a busy weekend of walking to and from the stadium where M's track meet was held and from irritated toenails, remnants of ten months of almost weekly Taxol. As there appears to be no infection, I didn't ask for antibiotics but Dr. F. did tell me not to hesitate to call and get a prescription if I noticed any pain. The yucky parts are growing out quickly now that I'm off of the Taxol at any rate. A little pink nail polish and I'm all set.

I had my usual Herceptin I.V. , paid my bill and went to get my prescription for the next three weeks of Xeloda filled out. I think that I've gotten used to the drug so I shouldn't be so sleepy this time around. I'll have a CT scan at the end of July to get a closer look at what the Xeloda is or isn't doing and revise my strategy is need be.

I picked up a block of sushi egg tamagoyaki in the Tsukiji street market for the lady on the third floor and headed back to Shinjuku to meet my British friend who'd been shopping there and two other foreign wives. They were just finishing lunch when I arrived but still had plenty of chat left in them to last while I tucked in to my plate of Indian curries, naan and salad. I enjoyed seeing them and having company on the train home.

This evening was my turn to join the junior high school neighborhood patrol so I delivered the tamagoyaki and headed off to school to unlock the patrol box and don an international orange mesh vest with reflective strips and walk around the neighborhood with three other PTA moms for forty minutes. When I returned the vests after our uneventful tour of the neighborhood the track coaches came over to thank me for taking some of the team members to the big track meet on Saturday. It had been a Saturday open house at school so they hadn't been able to take the team and they needed a parent to accompany the members scheduled for that day's events.

It made for a busy day on Saturday but I enjoyed watching the kids go through their warming up routines and competing. M ran in the girls' 800 meter event which was broken down into about 18 heats of 20 or 21 runners and she came in about fiftieth over all, not good enough to go to the "all Tokyo" event in July, but better than her personal best so far, so she was quite satisfied. Her best friend came in first over all in the girls 100 meter hurdles and a few of the other team members also qualified for the next stage.


Rain and Trains

After so many rainy days last week, rainy season here has been officially declared on the public television news. The trains have had troubles with all the rain and have been running slightly off schedule. It made for a bit of a delay on Tuesday when I took my friend from downstairs with me to the Cancer Center for her quarterly exam. We ran into the morning commuter rush and the trains were very crowded. At one station there were eight extra assistants on the platform assuring that the doors would actually close by either delicately tucking people into the train or barring the way so more people wouldn't lean into the masses on the train hoping to be absorbed and on their way to work instead of waiting for the next train. When the doors finally closed, trapping bits of umbrella tips and clothing to get soaked on the way to the next station where the doors on that side of the train open, the assistance crew did gestures to convey departure readiness to the conductor while carefully watching to make sure people were far enough back from the train. I plan to get the Dance of the Metro Assistants on my phone video next time I find myself on that platform in a rainy rush hour. They had lovely neon green vests and white gloves.

I maneuvered a space for my 77 year old neighbor near the courtesy seats and made sure that nobody could shove her or bump into her; she doesn't need that with brittle bones as a long term stage IV breast cancer survivor who beat all those bone mets. The person in the seat in front of us even responded positively to my request to please let my friend have the seat so the trip went well.

We arrived a little after 9:00 a.m. and each went our own way to get the medical part of the day over before meeting another survivor friend who synchronizes her quarterly exams with my neighbor's so they can enjoy lunch together. The ladies of this lunch club seem glad to have someone to watch over my neighbor on the trains there and back and have made me a regular member now. They've already made reservations for September.

I had my heart scan (echocardiogram) and lo and behold my ejection fraction is back up to 75%. This was a relief as I'd been concerned about decline due to Herceptin. Then I went for my I.V. and was just walking out the door of the outpatient chemotherapy center when my neighbor and her friend arrived on the escalator in search of me. We'd all finished early because many of the oncologists were away at a symposium (maybe in Chicago) so their patients weren't in for check-ups or treatment that day.

We went down to the lobby to pay our bills at the newly installed automated cashier machines which naturally had one employee (formerly from behind the cashiers' counter) beside each machine to guide patients in their use. I was a little surprised that the machines accept cash only. Other hospitals using similar machines allow debit cards, credit cards and cash options.

The rain and wind had picked up while we'd been shuffling around getting poked with needles etc. so we decided to take a taxi to the restaurant where we had reservations. Another survivor friend yet joined the three of us and we enjoyed a relaxing two hour lunch of dainty bite sized portions of too many courses of traditional Japanese cuisine for my chemo brain to remember. The discussion varied between comments on the appearance, texture, flavor and ingredients of the dishes and news about various doctors and associations. One of their favorite doctors is now the head of the Hospice Care Association in Japan now and they told me not to hesitate to ask them to contact him if I should have any questions about hospice here. He was also the doctor who got them hooked on this lunch routine. He used to have a big lunch party a few times a year with the women in his care.

Tomorrow is my big day as pre-school teacher for a day. A friend has asked me to substitute while she's off to the States for her daughter's high school graduation. I expect to have a lot of fun singing, dancing and making crafts with the cuties.