In the two months since my diagnosis my husband and son have transformed a generous space of our living room into a haven of comfort for a couch potato…
A folding table on my left holds the telephone and generally does just what you’d expect an ordinary table to do: there are snacks, drinks, letters, papers, more papers… Sometimes neat, sometimes chaotic.
To my immediate right, things get a little more interesting. The very large window sill is home to a provisional bookshelf with many hours’ worth of reading fodder, a lampshade, a box of medicines whose variety and quantities easily compete with those of a small pharmacy. There’s also quite an assortment of office paraphernalia that you’d expect to find in a home office, including PC & printer.
Right in front of me a small cabinet is crowned with a 21” widescreen monitor that also serves as vehicle to feed my addiction to watching crime thrillers (online) on German TV.
And there, right in the middle of it all, reigning over this little two meter radius, you’ll find the lady of the house: I, the Couch Potato. Oh, and I’ve even got a throne! This rather luxurious piece of furniture, a reclining armchair, was given to me on loan by the Friends of the Sick and the Elderly in Gozo (FSEG). It allows me to spend my time in the comfortable surroundings of our living room, rather than lying down in bed all day.
Like any other charitable organisation, the FSEG depends on the public for help. You never know (I certainly didn’t!) when you might be the one in need of help… so please consider supporting the FSEG by joining their case on Facebook, or by becoming a member or sponsor.
The FSEG’s official website usually contains information about the organisation’s activities; however, it seems to be undergoing an overhaul of sorts at the moment.
To be continued, one of these days, with: Welcome to my world: (2) My time
Update 22:00 hrs:
After a rainswept morning that looked like it would last for ever, incredibly bright sunshine proceeded to flood my above-described little kingdom. How could I possibly ignore my beloved 5D any longer? So out came the camera, tripod, and extension tube!
Some time ago, while I was preparing the assorted pills that I was about to take, I placed them – without any thought or intention – on the screen of my mobile phone. That’s when the idea came for this shot. I never went ahead with it but kept thinking about it every day! Unfortunately I had to abandon the action after a handful of shots, as bending over the camera to focus proved just as painful as I’d anticipated. But it was a start – and worth it, too!
Posted on January 26, 2011 - 12:43 pm. 3 comments
…to my blog!
A blend of boredom and curiosity led me to sign up for a Blogger account in 2006. In those days I always checked out the latest fads on the internet; I was quite the geek back then. (I even used to have a separate category for my geeky mutterings, would you believe it!)
When I wrote my first blog post on Monday, 9th January 2006, I had no idea that five years and 954 posts later I would be still at it, but well… here I am! To facilitate my work as a freelancer, I set myself up with my own domain name and hosting space a couple of months later – a great opportunity to afford my blog the escape from rigid Blogger confines to creative independence!
The only downside to a self-hosted blog is that once you stop hosting it, it evaporates into thin cyber-air. It’s possible to import the text parts of the posts to another host, but all the photos that are stored on my server… *poof* – gone! When that realisation came to me last week it sent me into panic mode; I don’t want my blog to die! Perhaps it’s just the underlying wish for immortality? I don’t know. But the sad reality is that this year I cannot afford to extend the hosting agreement on my own steam. And I’m telling you all this to explain the ‘Donate’ button on the left. I’ll understand if you think I’m a freeloader who’s trying to make a quick buck. But if, on the other hand, you would like to support my blog and can spare a couple of euros, I’ll be forever grateful! I pledge not to use the funds for anything else but the hosting account. And if there’s anything I can give you in return… please do let me know! (A couple of high-resolution photos of Gozo, perhaps? Or a signed copy of Angelina’s Ghost?)
PS – I already received a couple of contributions, thank you sooo much!! (Arlene, your book will – finally – be on its way tomorrow morning!)
Posted on - 12:43 pm. 3 comments
For decades I have only ever taken fleeting notice of the name in obituaries, which would feature Malta’s “cancer hospital” as the place where someone had passed away. Thus, for me the name Boffa – not one of those common Maltese surnames that you hear all the time – has always had a sinister ring to it, although it should be stressed that Sir Paul Boffa was anything but a sinister man but Malta’s Prime Minister between 1947 and 1950.
Since the end of November, Sir Paul Boffa Hospital has become the destination of my chemotherapy pilgrimage, approximately three times a month. The hospital was built just before World War II – and indeed, on the inside it does carry that typical dated government department aura. The first thing that usually greets us upon arrival at ca. 8.30 in the morning: brutal traffic and parking chaos, which however is handled very sensibly and in a surprisingly friendly manner by the security and reception staff. Here, all the staff at Boffa deserve to be mentioned and commended, really. All of them are doing sterling work, but what I admire most is how cheerful they remain throughout the morning, no matter the stress level, which is usually on the high side! I guess it takes a very particular dedication to your profession that lets you choose that kind of career and be able to carry a genuine smile for each and every patient – even grumpy ones!
Well, it’s time to come to the actual purpose of this post, which has been a long time coming. On my second trip to Boffa, having conquered parking chaos and about half the length of the long, long corridor leading to the Day Ward, we encountered a “traffic diversion” through the hospital garden as the corridor was being renovated. And discovered what a little gem of a garden that is! It took me several attempts to bring my camera, fully functional (yep, on Christmas Eve I even did that idiotic booboo of bringing it without a CF card!!), be fit enough to use it – and last but not least, find time for it!
My Boffa trip this last Friday (a wonderful spring-like day, too!) was finally the day it came all together. Well, almost, anyway; unfortunately I hadn’t reckoned with facing the morning sun straight-on and I was also missing my wide-angle lens…That I can (and will) bring another time, but I don’t see myself taking photos later in the day. After chemo, as soon as the drip is out it’s always a race back to the ferry. Until now we’ve never managed to leave the hospital with time to spare!
I couldn’t resist to catch a little of the early morning atmosphere on the ferry, I just love the light!
And here’s finally the garden – and its view – at the hospital. There will be a few more photos in the hopefully not too distant future!
Posted on January 9, 2011 - 12:41 pm. 3 comments
While over the past week or so I’ve been wasting astonishing chunks of time with simply staring out into the garden, my mind busy composing blog posts and facebook comments, there was no point in spoiling everyone’s happy celebrations with obnoxious outcries of “hey, I’m here and I’m miserable!”
You might argue I could have tried feeding my mind happier vibes by joining the general merry-making. Well, at times I actually tried to do just that, only to be brought down again by a bout of nausea here or an attack of vicious stomach cramps there… I was pretty miserable indeed, both physically and mentally. At most, I succeeded in wistfully recalling memories of the few highlights that marked 2010 for me: our fabulous Ireland holiday at the turn of the year; my MIPP photography course early summer (the most useful thing I did all year!); and last but not least, meeting up with my dear friends in Munich for Roger’s Tollwood gig in July. But except for those few happy occasions, 2010 was a downhill all the way sort of year, and that impression isn’t helped by the fact that many of my friends also had more than their fair share of burdens and heartache to endure.
So let 2011 be a good year for all of us – and let us all be blessed with the wisdom to recognise and appreciate the little things that make life beautiful!
Posted on January 2, 2011 - 12:12 pm. 4 comments
When I get ready for my treatment trips to Malta, I try to make myself look as “normal” as possible, even though I can’t hide those parts of my appearance that seem to scream, Hey, I’m ill! (Like, for example, those stick legs and the fact that I don’t quite manage to walk completely upright…) I always make it a point to put on make-up (well, the little you’re used to seeing on me, which isn’t really all that much). Well, on every single occasion I end up saying that I really should give the mascara a miss next time, because I’m always suffering at least one crying fit; just seems to be inevitable!
The first one yesterday happened, as I mentioned in my previous post, when the pain got so bad from sitting for hours on end. It was brief, but the next one followed hot on its heels, when I was told that my next chemo appointment was for 24th December… That info broke a dam the size of the Niagara Falls! I kept (still keep) telling myself that it probably won’t be all too bad; I’m only going to get vinorelbin on its own this time. But still, the thought of spending a big chunk of Christmas Eve at Boffa, and the rest of the day dozing, just kept (still keeps!) freaking me out. I’d been sort of hoping to be able to celebrate Christmas Eve with the family, the way we did four years ago (what, that was already 4 yrs ago??!).
Perhaps there would have been a little less emphasis on doing the cooking myself – but that really wouldn’t have been the most important part anyways. But hey… maybe things can and will turn out way better than I’m anticipating now, eh? Shit, just why am I such an utter failure at being an optimist?! *big sigh*
Christmas 2007 at home
And still more tears were in store, upon arriving back home from Malta! I think I’ve mentioned it before: I am what we call in German being “built close to the water” – meaning, it is laughably easy to move me to tears. All it takes, really, is looking at a person with conjunctivitis, and my eyes are likely to join in sympathy!
While we were away for the day, the postman had been busy stuffing our mailbox. Among all the junk-mail that the festive season usually brings, there was a Christmas card from my wonderful friend Claudia and a lovely letter from my dad (who’s extremely lazy when it comes to writing!), which I was hardly able to read/translate to my hubby as the letters kept swimming around in front of my eyes.
There was also a notice from the post office to pick up a bulky package… which had to wait till today. I couldn’t think of what it might be, for all I knew it was just one of those teaching-German-as-a-foreign-language brochures that I subscribed aeons ago and that I receive twice a year. But when George brought the package home this morning, the welling-up started anew! It contained a very precious gift from my dear friend Kathy – girl, I really don’t know how to thank you for that! (Oh yes, and may I mention that Roger’s ‘Christmas’ is my number one tearjerker this year…)
And would you believe it – all of the above was still not all! There was also an e-mail that I received from another dear friend from Germany. There is this infuriatingly funny German website where you can “write a song” for someone else, and Miriam has created one for me. Thank you dear – this made me laugh and cry, all at the same time…
So as you can see, no matter what life throws at me, the best, the worst and anything in-between – it really doesn’t take a lot to make me cry! At least I can say it runs in the family; I remember my mum, my sister and myself coming out of the cinema with swollen eyes after watching ‘Love Story’ – all three of us had cried our hearts out!
Talk soon again, I hope. A peaceful 4th Advent to you and to me! xxx
Simba ignoring the Christmas tree?
(On your part, please do ignore the dirty window – it figures that it just had to rain only a couple of days after hubby washed it!!)
Posted on December 18, 2010 - 8:28 pm. 6 comments
Time flies, once again (even though it clearly can’t be due to all the fun I’m having!); I can’t believe that almost three weeks have passed since my last post! The chemo that had been scheduled for last Tuesday had to be postponed because of a very low white blood cell count (2,600); however, another test on Thursday showed almost 3 times that amount (7,100), clearing the way for me to have the treatment yesterday instead.
It was my first ferry crossing to Malta since the start of all this that I did not spent lying down in the car, and the first time, too, that I took my camera with me. Which was just as well, as the sun rose into a sky that was just to my liking!!
Winter sky with rising sun over Comino Tower
Early morning at Mgarr Harbour
Unfortunately it was really, really cold (6°C), and I had to give up after a couple of shots. Sadly, I did not manage to get the photos for which I’d taken the camera with me in the first place; the views from the gardens of Sir Paul Boffa Hospital, located somewhere above Valletta Waterfront, are wonderful! But by the time we reached the hospital, it was important to get to the day clinic as quickly as possible because it’s “first come, first served” – yet another disadvantage exclusively reserved for Gozitan patients. Maybe we should start taking an earlier ferry but even getting up and ready to catch the 7.30am one is already quite an ordeal…
I ended up waiting for over 2 hours for my turn, but obviously I didn’t know that and thus could not take advantage of all that wasted time. But much worse was the fact that because of all the sitting around there came a point when I couldn’t help crying with excruciating back pain… They gave me a bed then, which was a relief but I think it also caused them to “forget” about me, because the whole waiting room had emptied before I even saw a doctor, – even those people who definitely had arrived after us had disappeared. Oh well… that was just my typical luck!
By the time I was done and free to go, I was hardly able to walk to the car – leave alone take a photo-stroll through the hospital garden. I do hope I’ll be well enough on one of my future appointments, to get a go at that view!!
I must say I was rather afraid from the side effects of cisplatin, which are said to be much worse than those of carboplatin. But it turned out the doctor who had told me that my chemo was to be changed to cisplatin, had mixed up some information (no, I don’t quite understand that, either!). As a matter of fact, what I did get yesterday was a combination of vinorelbin and carboplatin. So far, I’m just tired but haven’t had any problems. New pain meds (Morphgesic SR) are finally effective, and nausea hasn’t been a problem – it might (or might not!) once I’m running out of the tablets they gave me to cover the first 3 days. We’ll see. At least this time I have no gruelling medical examinations scheduled (I’m still reeling from the memory of that bronchoscopy…)!
All the way home I was lying down in the passenger seat, dozing on and off. Even those stupid car alarms on the ferry (who would steal a car on the ferry to Gozo anyway?!) didn’t make the trip seem longer than it is, and I dozed for most of that journey, too – as did George and Antoinette, my two angels, because I certainly wasn’t the only one who’d had a long day!
Another post is coming up soon… and it’ll be a little different to this boring account of my treatment day!
Posted on - 5:18 pm. 5 comments
Ok, let’s try this again! WordPress for iPhone let me down badly a couple of days ago, by failing to save the post I’d written. I felt like screaming (but that’s kinda mission impossible with a vocal cord paralysis LOL!) In the meantime I reinstalled it and hope that’ll do the trick. Or am I just incredibly naive?? Well, I’ll know soon enough…
So… Last Thursday started out really well. It took me a little while after waking up before I was able to put my finger on what was different to previous mornings: the customary pain in the back… it wasn’t there! The realisation put me in a peculiar state of cautious ecstasy. In the space of minutes I wanted to dance; made plans to go shopping for clothes and Christmas decorations; dreamt of having lunch somewhere by the sea; saw myself go photo-shooting; wondered whether the day would be long enough to do all the things I hadn’t been able to do for such a long time. Each of these rapid-fire thoughts was followed by an anxious mental body-scan to confirm that there was still no pain…
All I did manage to do in the end, was the looong overdue clothes shopping, which turned out pretty exhausting. I tried on five different pairs of jeans and trousers, and each time the changing took a little longer. I bought 3 pairs and subsequently even splurged on a pair of pretty sexy boots – and then topped up all the action with a long march, from ‘Big Bon’ to ‘Arkadia’, no less!! Rewarded myself with a generous piece of scrummy apple pie from McCafe. But by then it already became clear that I’d overdone it… Knackered, exhausted, no adjective can adequately describe how bad I felt the rest of the day.
Friday dawned with muscles in back and legs screaming bloody hell at me, and my stomach soon joined in. On Sunday I wasn’t able to eat anything at all – even a glass of water would come straight back up, and by nightfall there wasn’t anything left to get out. I had been looking forward to some more action on the weekend, such as visiting Rachel in her open workshop, which is just around the corner from my home, going to the Christmas Market in Nadur and, while there, taking a bottle of wine to my friend Hermi, who I haven’t seen in ages. But sadly I didn’t succeed in doing anything at all…
A full week after that shopping spree my muscles are still hurting, but at least I’ve been able to start building up my food intake since Monday, albeit painfully slowly. Please try to refrain from telling me that I need to eat in order to regain some strength. Of course I do know that – but it is so much easier said than done, especially if every little thing you ingest causes heartburn, nausea and worse.
This morning hubby and I went to Xlendi for a coffee – because I really wanted to have a little warm sunshine on my nose before it is said to vanish, as from tomorrow (see Times of Malta article, It’s going to feel like winter, at last!). Usually I would be craving colder weather by now, even rain and storms – and I’ve always regretted the absence of snow from these islands (although that’s been purely wishful thinking – such cold would be truly disastrous without proper heating in the house!). But this year I’ve been very grateful for the spring-like December days that we’ve been gifted, saving me from shivering with cold on top of everything else.
Next Tuesday I’m due for the next chemo; they’re going to give me some stronger stuff than before (cisplatin instead of carboplatin), and I can’t say I’m looking forward to that, as the side effects are said to be considerably stronger with cisplatin. But probably I ought to be grateful to have heavier artillery shooting at that shitty thing in my chest…
By the way, without wanting to renew the debate about whether I’m courageous/strong or not, the fact that I’m blogging about all this shit is certainly no indication in this regard. For me blogging is therapeutic; it is (and always has been!) simply my way of dealing with things. And as I explained before, it has the added advantage of saving me sending dozens of e-mails to my friends, which I just wouldn’t manage to do!
Well, that’s all that’s new from Sabine’s sofa-land. My view has changed a little since I posted an iPhone snapshot on facebook yesterday; here’s what I’m looking at now (thank you George!! xxx):
PS… Simba feigns total indifference – don’t you fall for it, he’ll wake up soon enough! LOL!
Posted on December 9, 2010 - 4:35 pm. 3 comments
Yesterday morning my doctor from Boffa phoned me to let me know that the cytology results had been received; that they wanted to adjust my treatment. Oh yeah, and forget about the break till 14th December: gotta go in tomorrow already. *Takes deep, deep breath*.
Pain level is as bad as ever (apparently that is due to the radiation I received to those bones last Monday). Probably it wasn’t very wise to have the bronchoscopy just 2 days after chemo either. I can’t say I’ve bounced back from that ordeal yet, mainly because I had to spend a full day without pain/anti-nausea medication. My stomach is in quite a mess… Oh well, I suppose that was enough complaining for one day!
After the phone call from my doctor, I had to have yet another blood test done to ensure I’ll be ok for chemo on Monday. We had a couple of hours before collecting the results, which hubby and I spent having coffee in Xlendi. The weather was absolutely amazing – downright wondrous considering that a lot of Europe is already covered with snow!!
By the way, I’ve had much of that hair chopped off a couple of hours later! Not sure when you’ll get to see a new pic… For now I leave you with this sunny vista and hope you all enjoy a peaceful First Advent! Talk soon…
Posted on November 28, 2010 - 12:22 pm. 3 comments
“P” as in poking, prodding and pricking procedures…
While I tried to find some sleep a couple of nights ago, a flood of words jumped into my mind totally uninvited (and actually quite a few more than those mentioned above!), all describing what I’m so fed up of having done to me lately, and all of them strangely starting with a “P” – and I wondered if “punishment” had something to do with that. Punishment for being the whiner and moaner that I am; and probably for having relied on cigarettes as crutches for far too long. Even the report that I was handed to take home after the bronchoscopy states:
“…had a bronchoscopy done in view of:
- her being a smoker;
- having vocal cord paralysis;
- on CT scan has bone mets and left LL spiculated lesion.”
So very clearly, the lesion and metastases were just serving as a smokescreen (sorry for the pun) to mask the real deal: they punished me with this despicable little procedure – for being a smoker…
I know, I know… I might be a little incoherent here, and ever so slightly over the top. So bite me!
In any case, last Wednesday will definitely not go down as one of the better days in my life. The bronchoscopy was every bit as bad as I had feared – and then some! If you’ll ever be told it would be a piece of cake to have a “very thin” tube inserted through your nose into your lungs… well, even if you’re much less hysterical than yours truly, please do take my word for it that it is not going to be pretty! First they drown your nostrils and throat with an abundance of extremely vile-tasting local anaesthetic. It is true that you’ll hardly feel that pipe going down after that – but that mainly is because you’re kept busy trying to prevent yourself from choking to death. Yeah well, I do admit that in a clinical setting and in the presence of a professor and several nurses your chances to suffocate there and then are pretty slim, but there were a couple of times when I really feared bad things might be on the verge of happening…
The actual procedure took about 20 minutes I reckon (it did feel like hours though!), but the whole experience was made that much worse by the fact that I had not been allowed to take any medication at all after midnight, and I was sorely missing my painkillers and anti-nausea tablets.
OK, so let’s leave it at that. As any of the other recent shitty stuff, this is now also in the past. And let’s face it: it needed to be done to figure out the exact nature of that damned carcinoma… (the results are still to come).
Yesterday my American friends celebrated Thanksgiving, and although it isn’t a feast on the Maltese (or German) calendar, it certainly is proper and makes sense to stop for a while – to count your blessings and give thanks where thanks are due. Although this is a rather tough time for me to do so, I think I could be worse off still than I actually am.
- There’s hubby, first and foremost… George has been so amazing and loving through all this mess, and I haven’t got a clue just where he finds all the strength and patience.
- And hot on his heels, so to speak, is his sister Antoinette, who has become a true angel in my life (as have all my other in-laws, really!). She joined us on every single trip to Malta to keep holding my hand, feeding me, comforting me… I’m so very grateful for everything my Gozitan family is constantly giving me!
- A huge number of friends who keep nudging me to remain positive… I’m always sorry I cannot manage to keep in touch “properly” with you. But if you weren’t there, believe me, all of this would be that much harder to bear!
- And last but by no means least, I’ve been very impressed with the very caring attitude of all the staff in the various hospitals I’ve seen in the past few weeks, be that Gozo General Hospital, Mater Dei in Malta, or Sir Paul Boffa Hospital – the Maltese “cancer hospital” that I only knew from hearsay before last Monday. Starting from security guards, over helpers and nurses to doctors, consultants and specialists – I have yet to meet someone who wouldn’t give you a kind word and a smile, no matter how many challenges they are facing in a sometimes less-than-perfect working environment.
Thank you all!
Posted on November 26, 2010 - 3:09 pm. 3 comments
Trying to come to terms with the next “big one” coming up. At around 11pm I’ll take the last pain medication that I’m allowed before my bronchoscopy at Mater Dei tomorrow. After midnight, no food, no water, no meds. That pretty much means a lousy night coming up, a lousy trip to Malta early in the morning – and then the lousy procedure that I’m really, really not looking forward to at all…
But hey… I’m sure this time tomorrow I’ll be laughing about it all. Well, at least I hope so. Nope, I’m really not a courageous person at all, no matter what you think!
Posted on November 23, 2010 - 10:10 pm. 3 comments