Saturday, 18 January 2014

Designs on Melbourne

The heat wave persisted through the five days of my visit to Melbourne - the longest heat wave on record, the papers reported.

So I spent a lot of time sitting in air conditioned cafes and browsing around the shops in the city where I could go from store to store without being blasted by hot air. The best coffee I had was the brzillian blend at the Sensory Lab which is just inside the David Jones menswear store.

I did manage to get myself one block away from the core of the city to check out the Design Dispensary shop on Little Lonsdale St. I wanted to get Matt and Tal some of these bookends.

They are recycled from old Melbourne bricks, sculpted by a UK architect as one-off pieces. He did book titles to order, but these are the only ones left now that he has returned to the UK. I also loved these stools which come in lots of different designs including my favorite, which looked like a stack of books glued together.
<a name='new_cardboard_stool'>CARDBOARD STOOL</a>

They are strong enough to bear 200 lbs each, and light enough to pick up in one hand. And they ship as a flat pack to NZ. Not that I need stools! But I love them.

Monday, 13 January 2014

At the Peter MacCallum Cancer Hospital in Melbourne there is a whole section for head and neck cancers. They probably see a couple of new patients just like me every clinic day. It took just a week from my first enquiry by phone to being examined by the radiation oncologist and a surgeon. They both agreed that there is a base-of-tongue cancer. Either it is getting worse, or their cameras are better. They were surprised at the time it has taken for me to get a treatment plan. Why has taken so long, they asked, and all I could offer was 'Christmas?' That resulted in a bit of head shaking.

Anyway, better to have this confirmation than to be in the CUP category where I was (cancer of unknown primary). They are so onto it, so friendly and efficient.

Sadly it is 42 degrees in Melbourne today. I just don't function in these conditions. It feels like walking around in a clothes drier set to High. I don't know if this a factor in my feeling a bit overwhelmed by the concept of packing up my house in Rotorua so I could rent it out for 6 months,and moving to Melbourne and finding an apartment. Maybe boring old Hamilton is not such a bad place to treated after all. There seems to be some urgency about starting radiation, so it would have to be done quickly if I am going to move.

When I ventured out of the air-conditioned hospital I went to Federation Square and visited some of my favourite paintings at the NGV. The Hotham Street Ladies have set up an installation which is a retro sitting room which is just about all furnished in items made from icing. Here's an example of their work, from the sign (letters about a foot high)

Monday, 6 January 2014

A mould is made

Off to Hamilton I went to meet the Radiation Oncologist, Chris Hartopeanu. The nurse told me he is Romanian, though I had picked up another South African accent - and yes, he did work there for some time. He took time to explain to me what the PET scan meant, and he relayed the essence of the discussion that took place about my case.

It is possible that I could choose to have the base of my tongue resected, which would mean that I could have a more-targeted, less compromising course of radiotherapy aimed at the neck area but sparing the throat (relatively sparing, that is - there would still be some effects). Not sure what resection means in this situation, but I gather they can take out the suspicious area and reconstruct the tongue and voice functions as best they can). But it would be likely that the cancer would remain active and resurface, and so the safer course is to be more aggressive with the radiotherapy. I gather I could even insist on having further biopsies done rather than starting any treatment, given that the first lot found nothing.

The consensus at the meeting then had been in favour of radiotherapy of the bilateral neck area (because if there is something in the throat, then it can move to the lymph system on either side) PLUS the area at the base of the tongue around the tonsils. He reckons that this will almost certainly clear the cancer completely. Here's that But is going to cause permanent loss of quite a lot of salivary gland function, which brings its own dangers down the track. He urged me to get a second opinion. I gather that he was here in the realm of the psychology of being a cancer survivor - making sure that I am fully certain that I have made the right choices from the beginning will affect how well I cope with what is to come.

Ok, that's the not-so-fun bit, now here's the rest - they have a Mould Room. I guess it is like a library where keep everyone's moulds. You wear the mould each time you get the radiotherapy so that it goes to exactly the same target each time. I had my mould made today, and also got a spot tattooed on my chest for helping to line me up on the machine.

The grid over my face is the mould - it is a flat sheet that they warm up, it goes soft, they press it firmly over the head, then wrap it in a cold towel which sets it.

Then I had a CT scan which will be used to set up the radiation dose plan, so they injected tracer into the line in my arm - which is pretty funny stuff because it makes you feel for all the world like you have just peed your pants, except you don't. Whew. And the machine does a washing machine noise and slides in and out of the scanner.

Pretty cool?

The nurse was going to then put in a P. E. G., but lucky for me they decided that can wait a bit. The PEG is why I got a professional strength blender. When my throat starts to feel like it has been sunburned, I can slug spinach and broccoli directly into my own stomach via a syringe through the tube!!! Let's just hope that I don't actually have to do that very much. Still, it would make it easy to choose between a chocolate and a bit of broccoli. "I'll have the artichoke and asparagus puree now, yum."

I visited the Cancer Society's Lodge, and all I can say is, thank you thank you to all the people who donate to the Cancer Society. It is like a 5-star hotel. Minus the mini-bar. Ok, not quite 5-star.

But wait, now comes the REALLY fun bit. I got home and rang the Peter MacCallum in Melbourne, and I'm off to see them next week. A holiday in Melbourne instead of a week at work at the Rotorua Library? High five!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Work window

It was back to work today. I have 2 weeks before treatment starts so it's an opportunity to get a bit of income. Also a distraction. I am refreshed and have lots of good ideas. The best thing happening at the library is that the contract has been signed to digitise the remaining issues of the Hot Lakes Chronicle, which was Rotorua's first newspaper. The National Library will work with our microfiche, converting them first to film, then scanning and adding the content to Papers Past. So I achieved something during my time at the Rotorua District Library.