Tuesday, 26 August 2008

A Break from Chemo

More news from Tumourville.

I got the results from the latest MRI scans yesterday and although there is no more shrinkage what is left is showing a lot less contrast. This is caused by less contrast agent being taken up by the tumour area and indicates less activity in the tumour. The bad news is that the current chemo treatment may have reached its limits for now.

Anyway the hospital tumour board has decided it is time for me to take a three month rest from Chemo. This should allow my body to regain some of its old strength and hopefully build me up for the next phase of the fight.

I'm obviously in two minds about this but I'm very thankful for the break.
Getting the results from the next scan (in November) is going to be pretty scary, but until then time to enjoy at bit more life.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Goodbye Olga

Moscow: On the surface it appears like any other major city in the world (too much traffic too many MacDonalds), and to the tourist that is how it would always seem but when you spend time with real Russians for a few days you start to get a peek at the the capital of a vast country that has been oppressed for so long it is having trouble growing up.

As usual with nearly all business trips you spend so much time in meetings that all you get to learn about your host country is through the corporate procedure and politics, through the food you get to eat and through the usually candid discussions you have with your colleagues.

So what did I learn about this little, but important, bit of Russia
  • That it really is a tiny piece of a vast country spanning 11 time zones!
  • Borsch (beetroot soup), Pelmeny (meat dumplings) & Blinis (russian pancakes) are good. In fact the food is great, except they use Dill everywhere except on fish.
  • Vodka is drunk at the beginning of a meal.... and often in the middle and end too.
  • Vodka is taken in one swig, and is proof of your ability to become a Russian (thanks)
  • Corporate politics is worn on the sleeve
  • You always know who the boss is, he/she sits at the big raised desk forming a T with the table at which the plebs sit.
  • IT is about 10 years behind western Europe
  • Red Square isn't
  • There are lots of Redheads and Blondes in Moscow
  • The Redheads are real
  • There is more to the problems in Georgia than our press are telling us (hint: BP)
  • Police corruption is so rife the citzens of Moscow have unnoficial fines lists so they know what the current rates are (10'000 roubles for a drink driving offence, cash of course)
  • There are more billionaires in Moscow than any other city in the world
  • That Moscovites don't know where their river (the Moskva) starts and ends
    (just teasing guys)
  • I can't understand one word of written or spoken russian

прощание для теперь москва

Monday, 18 August 2008


I'm quite excited today as I paying my first visit to Moscow tomorrow and the next four days. I hope I can take at least a little time off of from meetings to at least a little look at the city.

Goodbye Leroy

Since last September I have been closely following the Blog of another cancer patient Leroy Sievers. Last Friday night Leroy finally gave up the fight against cancer and passed away.

Leroy was a War correspondent who went on to become Executive Producer of ABC Nightline. Leroy had Colon cancer six years ago that was sent into regression only to reappear two years ago as a Brain tumour (then Lung and Spine). Those of us that read his blog knew that that his illness was terminal and that he was losing the fight over the last couple of months but it was still a shock to read the announcement. I feel like I've lost a friend even though we never exchanged a word in the time I subscribed to his blog and I'm sure that goes for all of the people who logged on daily to find out what was happening in the world of Leroy Sievers.

I wish you eternal peace Leroy, you and your blog will be sorely missed.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Three different kinds of pain


The pain has gone from Hip via my knee and it is on it's way out of my foot, seriously. I still don't know what caused it or why it moved, but in the middle of Chemo time all sorts of odd things happen (I had pins and needles on the scalp near the tumour yesterday, figure that out).

Amusingly my doctors, great as they are, also don't know what causes most of the oddities, they dutifully note down everything I say and make "mmm" kind of noises and then give me a very professional smile and say "anything else?".

For example, last week when I picked up my Chemo, I got a quick check up (Blood Pressure, Reflexes, Pupil dilation, the Ahh test and the Cough test) by an enthusiastic young doctor. After finishing, and telling me how fit I seemed (huh), he asked me if everything was OK (I always find that a bit of comical, asking a Cancer patient if everything is OK) I answered the usual "Yes, but" (when the answer should have been "No it bloody isn't, I'm dying you little pipsqueak") and then listed the usual complaints. When I reached "occasional annoying headaches around my left temple", he asked "do you get the odd headache just under the bone at the back of the Skull". I was stunned, "Yes, I do", I said, and then sat there quietly expecting to be enthralled by an eloquent explanation to these front and rear headache combinations. "Mmm, interesting" he said "I have another tumour patient with exactly the same condition" then he noted this down, gave me a very professional smile and said "anything else?".......

These are words I didn't think I'd be paying too much attention to for a few years, but circumstances have changed all that.

In Switzerland, as pretty much all countries Europe, we have a set of social insurances which we pay into when we are employed and healthy so that we and/or our dependents have some income when we are not. The main insurances are old age and survivors (Alters- und Hinterlassenenversicherung or AHV) insurance and Invalidity (Invaliditätsversicherug or IV).

Because I am only working 30% at the moment I am receiving money from an (employer financed) insurance (Krankentagegeld) to make up much of the difference. This lasts for two years.

After a year on working less than 60% I can now claim IV (or rather must claim IV as far as the Krankentagegeld is concerned) . Being a social insurance the means filling out a ten page form giving your life history and waiting about a year (they say about 6 months but I am told it is about a year) before you get anything. Luckily the Krankentagegeld includes an insurance to make up the shortfall. Insurances for insurances, I suppose it is only to be expected.

So that will keep my financial security intact for the next year I hope. Then, I guess I'll be talking about AHV, 2. Saüles and no doubt more long words.

Legalese is a universal problem, and it doesn't matter how long you have worked with a language legalese can waste hours of your time. While working through all this insurance stuff I had to sign a 2 page agreement (Vereinbarung) full of complex sentences on what could have been written in 3 sentences of plain German (if their is such a thing). After spending nearly 30 minutes deciphering this mess I still couldn't work out whether I had to send one or both copies back, neither could my daughter (a very fine German speaker) or her boyfriend (a native Swiss-German). In fact the pair of spent considerable time arguing their opposite cases.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Happy Birthday Tumour

I'm back on the Chemo at the moment which always makes me a bit miserable, add to this I managed to hurt my hip somehow such that I was hardly able to walk yesterday, Today it is feeling a lot better but I'm still hobbling about in a nauseous daze. I just wish I know how I dit it, Carol reckons it is a touch of arthritus but I then had to remind here SHE has the arthritus, I have the tumour.

One year ago today at around 7:30pm, and completely out of the blue, I collapsed with (what I call) my Big Seizure. I can't believe that a year has gone by, in fact I swear that the days are getting even shorter for me now. Anyway I should be happy, my tumour seems to be under control at the moment and I am pretty fit all in all.

I have my regular MRI Scan this week but unfortunately is more than a week later I get the results. I'm hoping for no tumour and a rest from Chemo. But thats probably as likely as our Kitchen being finished in 2 days.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Who believes Builders?

Remember the "Pigs might fly" comment in my last entry after being told our kitchen work would take 2-3 days. Well they are still here (nearly 2 weeks on). Current estimate is 2-3 days. Thank goodness I have an UPS (uninterpretable power supply :-) in the office.

One of the fun things over the last couple of weeks has been cramming us all into our little party room for meals. I'm not sure Carol thinks the same.

Been busy on several work projects over the last week hence no other blog since the builders blog. It seems that most of my last week has been consumed by preparing a trip to Moscow the week after next. There is certainly a touch of the old Russia about getting a visa. The odd thing is that you have to get an invitation from, of all things, from your hotel.