I have killed the bastard...please denounce me!

Radio is finished. Hip Hip hurrah!!

115 posts/118 days after this adventure started I am happy and relieved that cancer is gone and that I am getting back to my normal life. Rest, gym and work (in this priority) are in the planning for the next weeks.

If anyone around you gets an unfortunate meeting with a cancer and needs advice from someone that went through the same, don't hesitate to appeal to my experience or share with them my blog. I shall keep it as a future reference, and above all, a piece of my personal history. My legacy for the future . Wow!!!

I will think what to do next in the blog world. I have some ideas and will keep you informed.

And what about my FUKITOL motto?


- Fuck indeed cancer. Dangerous bastard. Attacks silently and without invitation.
- Don't fuck chemo. It is there to save you (and fuck your hair!!). We became friends with ups and downs. But I truly hope I keep this friend at large.
- Yep, fuck the vomits...even when you call for it. But no complains, only vomited twice and it was not even chemo's fault.
- No, don't fuck this NHS, my ward at least. I needed them and they were up to the task. Long live the staff at the Thomas Macaulay Ward, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. I can't thank them enough.

And finally, how could I finish without thanking you all so much for your support, comments, reading my little silly notes. I will miss you, not the circumstance, as you may understand.

THANK YOU SO MUCH. It was a fucked but successful experience!


(and I leave you with Florence)


Any advice?

Basically what do I take out of this adventure? I don't dare to think what do you take out of it. Life is too short and moves to quickly, it would be too pretentious for me to believe that my story could touch you in any kind of way.

As you know this blog was created, above all, to allow me to rest and reach a wider audience this way avoiding to repeat on and on what was happening. But, now, when I look back, I believe that all the posts can reach anyone with similar cancer. It might help someone face it with a smile and believe that it is possible to come out ot the problem, positive and as a winner.

It is important to mention that my situation was pretty positive from the start. Would I have been told that I had a few months/years to live, the story would have been significantly different and my advice below would need to be different in some aspects.

So, here we go:

- Cry out when you get the news, but rise above next day and face the situation. There is no point in making a drama (well, you need to measure what doctors tell you about your chances), you need your strength to face the challenge.
- Tell everyone if you feel like. Or don't tell if you don't, but remember you will need some kind of support, so some people need to know.
- All things are relative, keep your humour. If anyone around you comes up with a crying scene recall them that you are the one with the cancer and needing support. And if A tells you that B has a depression, recommend a cancer to B. The depression wil go away in no time.
- The hair is falling? Shave it straight away. It will grow back. If the stock exchanges were going up so quickly after financial crises we would be happier in the bank.
- Once at the hospital smile and keep a normal routine. Smiling is good and cheers up the ones around you, patients and staff. The routine is important. You are on treatment, not on the death row. Walk, buy the newspaper, get a computer and read your e-mails, sms your friends, watch DVD's (maybe avoid dramas at 7 a.m.), put your face cream...
- No comments on hospital food....be strong and face the battle.
- Ask for help whenever and as soon as needed. Feeling nausea? Get antisickness. Feeling little pain in stomach? Get paracetamol...
- Take a treatment at a time, don't rationalize it too much before happening.
- Remember, everything may be over in no time and once done you will forget it quickly. The emotional process can heal quickly (depending on your strength).
- Watch out. When you go back to normality the body is still not up to spead. Hear your body.

And above all be a bit unconscious. Why the need to know everything in detail? As my friend E. would say, don't read the medicine description and side effects or you will feel it immediately. Some friends kept me asking questions about my cancer (they are your friends so they do care) and in some cases I just thought what do I care. The important for me was to know: What do I have? What are the chances of successful treatment? Is the treatment going well? Am I cured and can it come back? Apart from this I am not in this adventure to become a PHD in the matter.

Oh! And on the subject of cancer as a turning point in your life or a moment where you find your true friends. People often consider cancer as one of these defining moments where you re-visit your life and you change a lot of things: work, lovers, friends.

- In my specific case, I don't think the shock was big enough to make me change anything. So, yes I am going back to work (same work as before) and I go on living in London. I am not becoming a hippie. Hippiness doesn't pay credit card bills :-). Money doesn't make happiness...but can help. So, yes I still care about my bonus. I just hope I am able to convince myself to leave the office a bit earlier than usual. Having said this, again, if I had been told the situation was darker and would have it got darker, than I think that you then may start thinking about changing your life.

- On friends and family. Yes you may get closer to your family. Though sometimes you don't have much to tell them on those daily calls. Friends....you confirm the true ones and you may find new ones. I am priviliged that I confirmed the very good friends I have, I have found new ones and I had one disappointment. One only, not bad. But true friendship allows for understanding and forgiveness, so I shall still be a friend.



What about my hair?

Tricky subject. Always more for women than for men, so they say. I don't really agree. I look OK bald, but I want my hair back. Doctors, or anyone else that thinks know something on the subject, say that after chemo hair might come back in different shapes and colours. Bit of a dangerous game. Imagine it comes back blonde when you were dark haired or afro when you had a caucasian look! I think that what happens is that hair comes back thinner and eventually slightly curlier or lighter in colour. Mine is coming back thinner and still darkish. But the little bastard has joined forces with the chemo to let me increasingly bald. A day doesn't go by without me looking to the mirror trying to assess the overall rythm of growth. Clearly on top of my head, where there wasn't much hair already before, I see even less hair now. Can I complain to the NHS that I have entered hospital with a nice hair and I got out with much less and it is not growing back? Worst, white hair is supposed to go away. But, my beard is growing whiter...and darker in the moustache!!!


I do miss gym

I told already several times: how amazing our body is. The most complex machine. Before having the cancer I was going to the gym quite frequently and have built up a bit of muscle (What? You didn't notice? :-). I do miss gym and my belly more than anything else. With cancer/treatment/hospital you naturally loose weight and muscle. But once back to your food and normal habits the body recovers very quickly. Better, mine did. To the point that I believe that even the muscle mass is coming back (did someone tell me they have memory?!). I just need some exercise now and get this belly fit again. I am not used to tight trousers in the waist.

Their "Fukitol"...my "Fukitol"

When my friend C. gave me the idea of calling my blog fukitol (in a blunt against cancer) I knew that was inspired in the logo on the pill enclosed here below. But I thought this "Fukitol" pill was a joke, like a spam message. However, "Fukitol" indeed stands for a website on these pills. Well, I haven't really made up my mind whether the blog is all a joke or if there are really pills. You tell me. Anyway, when you create a blog you can see who reads you. Or even better you can see how many people read you everyday and from what country. And you can see what they are looking for. That is, either people know my blog and they type the url or they don't and they google. In certain cases people (from Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Canada...????) have googled FUKITOL. Not my blog, but the pills. I hope they were not to disappointed with what they have found.


Slightly pinkier

Getting slightly pinkier as radio approaches the end, especially in the biopsy scar. The doctor says the radio area looks OK and I only need to see her again in a month. Rest and avoiding sun is recommended now.
Otherwise, getting ready to see the stars at the Brit Awards tomorrow in Earls Court. It is just around the corner. See them...but on TV. The Brits are amazingly funny compared to any MTV, Grammy's, or any American award show, where everyone behaves so well (forget Kannye West). At the Brits musicians seat at tabkes and each time they show a winner you see the table full of drinks. Ultimately one or two winners are drunk and the speech is crazy. This is Cool Britania.


14th of February

No, no, no....I won't make any comments on Valentine's Day. Commercial dates give me more nausea than food hospital!! Nothing against the Saint though. It was on the 14th of February of 2006 that I arrived in London. 4 years already. It is not exactly a love story. We are not into a firm relationship yet. We are just lovers. But the city has treated me well so far...not to mention curing my cancer. Quite an achievement.


Moving fast into capital sin: gluttony

From hospital food to home food to restaurant food to successive and close meals goes in just a quick timeframe. At least with me. I found myself pampering with an afternon tea, at 18:00 at Claridge's (*), forgetting that dinner was set for 19:15. When I saw the price of the Claridge's Royal Tea I even thought of running away, but there was no escape. Counting the number of people around me, there is clearly no economic crisis in London. So, I stayed and stuffed myself in small delicious sandwiches (6 to be precise, and they wanted to give me more), tea and sweets: scones and a "lady bag" and a "pink heart" (a macarron with a rose petal on top!). The "lady bag" was a true little bag made of chocolate. I must confess that the heart and the bag gave me a certain St Valentine's nausea. I almost asked if they did not have anything more suitable for single guys, but they would probably not understand. Unfortunately, the bag remained untouched, by then I thought it was too much as in a few minutes I would be eating meat or fish. Plus you never know what comes in a "lady bag". You might end up with an indigestion for ingestion of several types of woman makeup, several sets of keys, sunglasses and the like.

(*) In order to complete my mood highly affected by the price of the tea, they claim that the tea tradition was introduced by a certain Duchess of Bedford. Not, it wasn't...it was introduced by that Catarina de Braganca, Portuguese princess (and ugly) that married to Charles I. Apart from gold and other common stuff, the Portuguese gave to England the city of Mumbai and boats filled with spices and tea. She also introduced in England the orange jelly, tobacco (the sinner), and the usage of cutlery. I shall clarify the Claridge's tea manager.

"Catherine introduced the custom of drinking tea in England, a custom that was already very popular among the Portuguese nobility at the time. The tea had been imported to Portugal from the Portuguese possessions in Asia as well as through the trade Portuguese merchants maintained with China and Japan."


Talking about fire

I think I just found what to do next on the blog world. I aways thought of going Portuguese with a blog against political correctness (which includes western society going nuts, comments on current politics, etc...). Problem, my computer is not ready for the Portuguese accents. But I have more than good material to go English and on UK.

See an example: an hindu has just won a legal battle in the UK to be buried as per its religion tradition...cremated on a pyre of fire!! What's next? Poligamy? Men/women going around naked in traditional/tribal customs? The western's society increasingly blind respect for cultural traditions is going nuts. UK is not India, France is not Algeria, Portugal is not Africa....Mmmmm this promises to be an interesting future blog.

Want more? Public sector workers in Greece are striking. Protesting against the Government cuts (trying to save the country from bankruptcy). Why don't we simply let Greece go bankrupt and teach these lunatic workers a lesson? They seem to prefer bankruptcy to a viable country. Clearly having a work guaranteed for life is not enough for them.

In the line of fire

Just fired another cleaning lady!! Anyone wants the job? I am an easy employer. No, really. I just don't tolerate paying 4 hours and getting 3 or even 2.5 hours! With them pretending they were here for 4 hours. Even better, since everyone expects that after a cancer you re-think your life, maybe I start a new career as all-included man: babysitter, cleaner, cook...you name it. Think well. Of course my services come at a price. And I give no discounts.


Among the possible horrors of cancer treatment, if there is good support available, there can be good things as well. Like getting reflexology sessions. So good!! And free of charge. I almost fall asleep, except today, since the lady told me she leaves in a boat and that gave space to a discussion throughout the session. The feeling is so good (reflex I mean, I am not referring to living in a boat!) that when finished I found myself a bit dizzy. I thought that reflex really works, by touching your main energy points, or whatever the speech they give you about sources of this and that. Nevertheless, I think the dizziness is caused by the fact that you lay your head and feet in two big cushions. The position probably mixes up your blood circulation and drives you dizzy. Before, that, in the morning, I finally managed to arrange some goodies to thank the staff in the ward. Two big baskets of fruit (they get too much chocolate and that is noticeable in their figure), one for each ward. And a "thank you" card. Did you ever try to get a decent "thank you" card? Quite a challenge if you are looking for something wihout animals, balloons and similar designs. Also gave a check to the charity of the ward which contributes to a fund for the staff to use in their social life. They truly deserve it. And then, like if I really miss hospital, I managed to have to go back twice, as I forgot to ask for a receipt and to ask if I could stop the medicine. I can not until after the radio.


This blog has a few more weeks to go

If you think that since the cancer is gone this blog is finished, don't rush. I will only close it after radio ends. Until there I will keep you updated on my little adventures in the health world. And I can not close this blog before ellaborating on lessons learned. So keep watching this space.


I need to teach them how to count

The radiologists keep surprising me. What saves me from deception is that I am in between doctors and nurses and try to reconcile the things each side says. When I saw the doctor she told me about 3/4 weeks of radio. Then I started and the nurse said it would be 10 days. Then I saw the doctor and she said it would be 18 days. Next , the nurse says it is going to be 15 days. And in the middle of all this I was like "are you sure nurse?". Bottomline, it will be 18 days. 9 more sessions to go. Coooolllllll!! And I only need to see the oncologists in 3 months time. In between I need to rest and behave.


Getting on with life

With the exception of not working fully and not gyming yet, life is getting back to normal pretty quickly. Going to cinema, shopping, eating out, meeting friends....everything seems normal again. Which brings up a strange feeling each time I pass in front of the hospital though. The chemo (with full time at hospital) finished just before Christmas. It seems quite far away already. Radio is still there, but it is a very quick procedure. I guess this is our brain's way of processing less pleasant moments in the library of memories. It happened, its finished, move on. Thank God (and me) that it is like that.

Fait divers: Don't miss the movie "Invictus". Morgan Freeman's performance of Mandela is superb, plus you get to know more about an important piece of XX century's history. Precious, the movie, is quite interesting as well. Mo'Nique is very good and you will see Mariah Carey as never seen (indeed, the woman lying under all the diamonds and expensive dresses that make the star) Bit sad story, but I managed to laugh in the least probable situations. It was bizzare as probably the 10 people in the cinema were in shock and I was laughing. I was in the mood. Also watch "Single Man". Beautiful movie, photography, music, excellent performances by Julianne Moore and Colin Firth. Its the Tom Ford (ex-Gucci man) touch everywhere.

A "Samantha Jones" moment

After several years over the end of "Sex and the City", I have found the series. Thanks to the cancer...too much time in hospital leaves you with a good stock of books and DVD's. Interestingly, I didn't manage to consume much culture while at hospital. Today I wonder how did I spend the time. I guess checking the blood pressure. But, going back to the HBO success. I am watching series 6 and couldn't stop laughing with the episode where Samantha finds out she has cancer. Not that it is funny, far from that, but more her reaction, as it recalled me so much mine. Kind of "I have cancer"...."Ok, no tears! This is what you need to know...blablabla. Any questions? No, then, next subject." And she also calls the cancer, "the fucker'. Lovely.

And now this is for C. Do you remember when we manage to get to the swimming pool of the Soho House in NY? Bit more discrete than "Samantha Jones" in her Annabelle Goldstein moment. Lol



8 sessions of radio and counting. 7 more to go. Well, depends who is right. The nurse talks of 15 sessions in total, I say 18 (that's what the doctor told me last Monday). Either way it is almost there. The room is freezing (almost) and their hands as well. Radio might cure me, but might get me a cold in no time. Still no side effect (except for the bit soar biopsy scar) and trusting a colleague patient it might never come. She is the only one talkative. If chemo was much worse to take, you would expect patients to be more reserved, but it was during chemo that I had more chatty patients around. In radio it is all to quick, you come and go. This specific lady is clearly very chatty. You say hi and she is already into her treatment and life. Bye then. And I was entitled to a presentation of the support services by a volunteer, herself a patient. Breast cancer 9 years ago, cleared ever since. She seemed to have digested a tape since her speech was so perfect and automatic. She was on her 60's, but very elegant. Interesting character. At least she preached her religion and moved on.


Quiet days

7th session of radiotherapy and still no side effects. I hope it stays like this. Only the scar of the biopsy seems to start accusing the radio, otherwise no tiredness or other effects. Went to the office twice to keep updated with the business. Same old new. Good to be back. My stomach gave signs that it is not used to the City lunchtime anymore, will need to be re-educated.


Organization, organization...no organization

Do you remember my adventure with the PET and the CD-ROM with the results that the radiologist required? If not, I recall you. I had to go three times, three days in a row to the St Thomas Hospital to pick up the CD-ROM's. Either they gave me the wrong one or the radiologist forgot to request the right one.

Anyway...at the end I got the right 2 CD-ROMs and gave it to the radiologists. Today, while waiting for the radio, the doctor came to see me and starts talking science fiction with figures and this and that (I had to ask three times how many days of radio I was going to get and couldn't figure out what her answer was)...and I realized she did not see the results of the last PET. I clarified the cancer is gone and by the way, where is the CD-ROM I gave them with the results stating that? Oh! They only got one CD-ROM (original results)....wait a second, I gave them 2!!!

In any case, the good results don't change their radio plan. I will definitely get 18 sessions of radio (18 business days, or shall I call them hospital days?). But, with less intensity in the last days. This plan ensures that any possible remaining cancer cell is killed.

The dialogue with the doctor made me think about Prof. B. yesterday's ironic remarks: "Did you like the radio doctor? Did she seem knowledgeable?" I said yes, and he challenged " What a surprise! Are you sure? Did you ask difficult questions?" He is such a funny guy.

The radio staff are nice, but there is not much socialization with patients. Not as during chemo. You get there, wait 5 minutes, they call you, you go to the machine, they position you, 1 minute of treatment, finish and off you go. But it is understandable. During chemo (in my case) you stay in hospital or you spend more hours in hospital. The staf end up socializing more with you.


1,000 visit

Nothing like good or bad news to increase the audience. My blog reached 1,000 visits. Many thanks to you all for your caring interest.

Removing the Hickman line...ouch!

After the good news below, the next thing that comes to your mind is please remove me the Hickman line. This is probably the last link you have to the chemo and the soon you get it out the more relieved you are.

Having gone through intrathecals, bone marrow exams and the set up of the line itself I could only conceive that removing the line would be a piece of cake. Well...by the time the doctor finished explaining what was going to happen I was giving her a shy smile..hiding my apprehension. She smiled as well as we understood that it was going to be "fun".

While the set up of the line is made with an X-ray team, local anesthetics and so on, the removal is literally a doctor trying to pull it out!!! Now, you should note that due to the time you live with the line, the tube becomes attached to your tissue and skin, which indeed allows the line to be well sealed in your chest.

The process starts with the doctor giving you local anesthetics. Then cutting the skin around the line. Then giving more anesthetics in order to push the tissue back with a scissor before pulling the line out. And the line...it was bigger than I expected. It is good not to know it in advanced, otherwise I could not live peacefully with it. I am not the type of complaining with little procedures/pain, but this one was a bit over the top...and I didn't complain. The doctor is literally centimeters away of your face, opening your chest. There is blood everywhere (that she cleans immediately). Once finished you see a cut (not big, but not very smallish either). I made the point nicely that my chest had been ruined, but she says it will be a little and beautiful scar. The worst was to come. Bit painful once the anesthetics effect is gone and any movement causes pain. They gave me no painkillers, but I had a glass of red wine at lunch...just to alleviate the pain. Lol

This battle is won

I was going to write THE battle is won, but life is full of surprises and it is better to say THIS battle is won.

It is quite a relief to know that the PET confirms that the cancer is gone: "Comparison is made of the previous study of 29/10/09. (...) The findings indicate a complete metabolic response to treatment. The previously seen mass in the left axillla is no longer visualised on the current study". Ufffff!!!!!! The little fucker is gone.

The doctors were as happy as I. I guess that is their recompensation...to save lives. There are no bonus for them. Prof. B. started the consultation by playing with my financial job trying to trade the results summary for my potential bonus. I had to recall him again that I am not a banker...and certainly not one from Goldman Sachs. Doctors and nurses came around for the news and we all exchanged happy and relieved smiles.

But, what's next?

Radio goes on. It is considered as a bonus treatment. Since, the PET was made before radio started, that means that radio will further reassure that the cancer is not there.

I need to recover. Chemo destroys a lot and radio will make me tired. The immune system needs to come back fully. Though blood samples show things are ok, radio will bring the body down again.

Checks. I will need to go back for regular checks and they will teach me how to look for symptoms and this way avoid to freak out at any little suspicion.

Re-occurence. Unlike, but possible, even in several years time. As I had a rare mix of lymphoma types, they have no experience on re-occurence for my case. But as the doctor said: "If it comes back we know what to do."

So, this blog is not over yet.

They were going away when I recalled: "Hey what about the hickman line? Can't you take it out now?" You will read more about the hickman line in the next post.

I am still writing about the good news. Give me an hour.


Calling the "devil"by its right name

When I was told I had a lymphoma, I was also told that there are different types: Hodgkin's and Non-Hodgkin's and these have sub-types. It appears I had a mix of everything. And for me that was enough. I didn't care much about knowing exactly which sub-types. Some patients like to get into all the details. For me it was enougth to know that it was curable, the cure covers different types of lymphomas and that I was in phase 1. Today, thanks to a letter exchanged between doctors I can say, with scientifical knowledge, that my diagnosis is: Mixed Non-Hodgkin's (partly diffuse large B cell and partly Burkett's) and Hodgkin's disease in the left axilla. Stage 1A (meaning not spread). There you go.


There is another me out there

The other day I read a comment on Sarah Jessica Parker, where she appears to have said that she didn't spend time googling her name. Well, I thought, I never googled mine, so I did. The outcome is scary. Someone took my name....hopefully not my self.

Check it out (and in case you don't know, my full name is indeed the same):


Comparing Divas...a musical moment

For those of you that know FADO and for those that don't know, it is interesting to compare the same song in the voices of the biggest ever "fadista" Amalia Rodrigues and the new big success Mariza. I do like Mariza very much, but Amalia is THE voice. Check out two songs: "Maria Lisboa" and "Primavera" (Spring):



3 days on radio and still counting

Today was the third day on radio. Still no side effects, but everyone says they will come, mainly tiredness. So, I am waiting. I tried to establish from the radiologist if the radiation they are giving me is like a fine dot entering the body (like if it was a laser) or if it is something bigger covering a small but wider zone. The reason for asking was to understand how I need to protect myself when taking sun. That is my may concern, really. The guy didn't get it and started explaining that, yes they know what they do and that indenpendently of how small or big the radiation is, it is pointing to the cancer spot and it is killing it. I quit and hope to get a better view from the doctor next Monday.

Fait fivers: Did you watch "Up in the air"? Really good movie, funny, good interpretations, different subject. All the part on miles is hilarious, especially because I am all into miles, though I am far from the platinum mark. After I went to the supermarket and couldn't stop laughing at myself when giving the supermarket card for the points and paying with Amex for the membership rewards. That's the miles economy working as I call it.


What an eventful day...and radio rocks

Where to start? Oh! yes...another trip to St Thomas Hospital. Third time lucky I got the right CD-ROM with the PET results. Another freezing crossing of the river (just in case you ask yourselves, I didn't swim, just walked...over the bridge), more tourists taking that special picture in front of the Big Ben (couldn't they create special lanes for tourists?).

Since it was the third time I was in the area I found it was convenient to turn tourist as well and visit the Westminster Abbey. 15 pounds (!!??) to get in (no wonder the donations box is empty). I did the moaning scene and asked the guy if the price included a private mess or if I was entitled to take a rock with me as souvenir. He got the joke, as he was foreigner as well and agreed that ...yes living in London is expensive...but don't mention it to my HR continental staff. For those London is affordable. Anyway, the Abbey should better be called Noble Cemetery, seen the number of noble tombs. Pretty busy really, some are almost on top of each other. A good illustration of London real estate demand! Even in post life. Some parts are beautiful though. And full of history, don't forget Diana's funeral was here. The price must be justified by the number of people working there. Do they really need them? And the finish touch....You can only leave through the...Yes...the shop. There is no other way. Certain things never change in this city. I was not excited in buying old fashion tea cups or illustrations with the Abbey.

Not satisfied enough with my religious incursion I walked to the Westminster Cathedral. This one is catholic while the other is protestant and more famous (the second). The Cathedral is a strange architectural mixture. Not a good example of religious interior design. Pretty ugly to be honest, but at least free. The catholics could learn something with their neighbours. The donations boxes have more use here...no wonder, they need 3,000 pounds per day to keep the church open. Can't they offshore? :-)

And then... reflexology session. Great preparation for the radio. So they say. Can't judge yet which difference it makes. But, it was definitely very good.

Finally, radio. A nurse explains me everyhting again: "you can not move, if we need to move you you don't help, you need to wait till we tell you it is finished" and the best of all..."when the machine starts moving it will get close to you but don't worry as it won't touch you!" Scary, because once under the machine I couldn't stop thinking that for some reason the machine would not stop at all and would crash my face. They have spent like 15 minutes measuring, checking ny position, doing more marks in my arm and chest. In between I felt like a victim of an alien. The big monster watching me from all angles, moving to see where to strike, getting closer and moving away again. And these red and green (at least the colours of Portugal) laser lights going around in the room. Off they go the nurses and leave me alone with the predator and rock music in the background. But I can't dance. The monster makes some noises. I am so stiff thoughout the process that my hands start hurting. It took like 2 minutes and it didn't feel like an eternity. The nurse is back and it is finished. That was quick and easy. Though sweet poison. You don't feel now, but you know something is being cooked inside. You will pay in the next days.

Note: My father passed away a year ago. Life is too short. Time flies. Tic tac tic tac tic tac.


Back and forth

Chemo at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital (C&W). Radio at Charing Cross Imperial College Hospital (CC). PET scan at St Thomas Hospital (ST). I am not complaining. They are not far from each other and I live central. But some stuff...like communication, could work better. Example: The radiologist (CC) wants copies of the PET scan from ST, which are sent to the oncologist (C&W). The oncologist can send them, but it is quicker if I get a copy directly from ST. Yesterday I did the PET scan and they gave me a CD-ROM with the results for the radiologist. Some time after they called me apologizing as the results are from the PET of October, so I should go there again today to pick up the results of the scan of yesterday. Which I did. Picked up good one, left the old one. Half an hour later the radiologist left me a message saying she also needs the results of October!!, which I returned to ST. So, I need to go back tomorrow. I like the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben, but three days in a row crossing that bridge is a bit too much.


Another PET

No, I did not buy a little pig or even a chihuahua. PET = positron emission tomography. Fancy name for a full body scanner. Boring. I described already the first one back in October, but I didn't recall they injected me some radioactive fluid. So radioactive that I am not supposed to show up with pregant women or children as company, not that the thought had crossed my mind. I did recall they make you rest for an hour and then the scan itself takes half an hour. Since they leave you alone in the room and the scan today seemed to take longer with the machine stopped, I thought that something was wrong. But you can not really leave so I started opening my eyes wide in direction of the video camera. Maybe they could see it and think I was in need of help. In which case if they would show up I could ask if everything was going well. It certainly was. I had also forgotten how hard they are manipulating the cateter. They put it in the middle of my arm, injected the fluid and where usually other nurses remove carefully the plaster and then the needle, here they take everything in a single movement. Like if they were waxing. Bit unpleasant.
Note: Not a good idea to have chicken tikka masala after a fast of more than 12 hours and a PET scan. Not a good idea at all.


Radio on the go

The radio planning has been done...in 15 minutes. You couldn't ask for quicker. And the nurse shot all the explanation speedier than Gonzalez. The bed was hard, as they kept warning, the tattoos (one in the arm, the other in the middle of the chest) are tiny and painfless (they use a needle and ink), and I kept still like a rock. I even tried to memorize every position of legs, arms and hands. I want this to go well. No moves whatsoever (as advertised in all reading material). I just had a doubt about the tattoos. If the point they made is in the middle of the chest how come they will only touch a bit of the lung? By the middle of the chest they reach heart and the full left lung. But the nurse reassured me that the tattoos do not show the area of radiation, but the position of the body. Uff! Done and the nurse told me to go to Maggie's Center (www.maggiescentres.org, see pics enclosed), that "awful" orange building outside. They offer support, like massages, etc. I thought "awful" building? But that is the famous cancer support center praised by its aestethics. You don't really discuss taste. The nurse may prefer the old building where she works to the new Maggie center, an example of cosy place, where cancer patients feel at home. Another example of British philantropy. They offer yoga, massage, relaxation and stress management courses. The lady kept insisting on stress management. I don't know if I can cope with a quiet life, but I might give it a try. Though 6 weeks of course seems a bit too much.


CT scan and released again

What an anxiety. I want to go home...meaning I want to run away from hospital food. But what is the point to go home if you are not fully re-established? Since I am isolated they tend to "forget" me a bit. Consequently, I got a bit irritated when by 09:30 they still hadn't shown up for the blood samples (despite my requests to do it asap). Yesterday they did the blood samples but didn't count the neutrophils. At 10:00 today I had to be at the CT scan. So if they didn't do the blood samples, I would be stuck here due to bureaucracy or lack of organization. They finally arrived and I could go to the scan. I was supposed to drink a liter of water, but the instructions were unclear. I only had 450 ml expecting to have more at the CT office. They think 450 ml is OK, though it left me with the feeling that the results could be wrong because some water is missing. Anyway, they are the pros. The water is to help making the scan clearer. Plus they inject you this fluid that gives a warm feeling and nausea and helps highlighting the parts of the body they need to scan. Since I am so accostumed to chemicals by now, I didn't feel anything. Little fight between departments, the ward had to put me a canular. As they didn't, a doctor had to come downstairs to the CT office to do it!! For your info, last time I did a scan here the CT people did the canular, so why couldn't they do it this time? The doctor did it, but I had another of these doubtful moments: as the doctor is not used to do it, the needle was not correctly positioned and there was a bit of pain. There wasn't really! To complete all this one of the staff comes to me spdaking in Spanish: "You are Spanish no?" Well, indeed no mate, I am Portuguese. But I still showed him my language skills. So there I went to the machine. You lay back, arms behind your head, they give you the fluid and off you go. A voice tells you to breathe in and hold it, you pass the round circle that scans you and then the same voice tells you to breath normally. This takes place twice and you are done. Results available on 01/03. Back to the ward the doctors come to see me. It is OK to leave, though you don't really figure out where their decision lies compared to the previous day. That is, they don't have the neutrophils results yet, but since I am feeling OK, no fever, the white cells are much improved, I can go home. Well, I was like that yesterday as well. Of course, I am back Monday for a routine consultation and they will check the blood again. Interestingly I learned that if the neutrophils are low the machine doesn't count them automatically, a specialist needs to count them manually, like litterally manually, 1, 2, 3....Another team of doctors shows up: I am OK I say, he is OK they say and off they go. As I trust doctors, I shall not play the perfectionist and insist on scientifical bullet proof results that would keep me here for weeks and I go happily home.


Wake me up...not

How quick we forget what happens to us in a hospital. Let me tell you what happened to me since I was re-admitted yesterday. Nothing dramatic...just the proof that is impossible to rest.
15:00 They give me first intravenous antibiotic. We had to stop as I almost throw out, so quick this thing went into my system.
15:15 New antibiotic (they need to flush the hickman line each time). Administered at each 6 hours. They take me the blood pressure and check temperature
16:15 Flush the line after the antibiotic is finished
17:30 The assistant comes with the admission questionnaire (I confirmed my religion is still the same since December)
18:00 Dinner...oh my God!!!! And the assistant comes back for more questions and samples
18:30 Blood pressure and temperature
20:00 They give me a 8 hour bag of fluids
21:00 I am reading and start feeling really sleepy, but at 22:00 I need to take a medicine
21:30 Neutrophil injection
22:00 Get the medicine and go to sleep
23:00 Blood pressure and temperature. Order breakfast.
00:00 New bag of antibiotic
00:20 Flush the line after antibiotic is finished
03:00 Flush the line and new bag of fluids
06:00 New bag of antibiotic
06:20 Flush the line after antibiotic is finished
07:00 Blood pressure and temperature
08:00 Nurse visit
09:00 Breakfast
09:15 Blood samples
09:30 Doctor visit (all going well you may leave in the next three days)
09:45 Different doctor visit (all going well, you may leave today depending on blood samples)
(and since I am isolated they need to put on new gloves and an apron each time)
Don't get me wrong. All this must be done. But it is not simple to try to rest.


Back to hospital...nothing major

Yesterday I vomited dinner and lunch (indeed lunch had not been digested). Today, regular blood samples showed that the neutrophils are slightly low. Putting both facts together doctors decided I should stay for intravenous antibiotics and neutrophils injections. 1 or 2 days. Precaution measure. Back to hospital food.....


Oh! disgrace....TV is back

I finally managed to get Virgin Media to come around and install my TV and broadband. With my in and out of hospital it was not possible to do it before. And I now even have wireless internet. Wow! So quick that my brain needs to adapt. But, TV is a vicious machine....I still have plenty of books to read and DVD's to watch. My stay in hospital was definitely short (thank God and the hospital staff) to catch up. How did I survive 7 years (true) without TV after I came back from Brazil? Clearly I did. First imagine on that screen, that stayed in the dark for 2 months, the Haiti disgrace. I could have stayed in watching for hours, but resisted.

Some other disgrace, or maybe not. It appears that the blood samples I took this morning revealed high levels of sodium?! The nurse think it might be a mistake, but I need to go back. According to "Wikipedia" this could be linked to fluids and kidneys functioning. I am feeling OK, I am feeling OK, I am feeling OK.

Fait divers 1: My Swiss neighbour (door to door, if closer I had to live with her), this beautiful, but unnice girl, managed to open the front door in front of me and not say hello. The feeling is like you are there, she sees you, but she totally ignores you. This wasn't the first time, but she did it again, confirming my previous suspicion that I have the worst neighbours in town. She is not the only one in the building that fills in the category " Let's ignore the neighbours". Next time she is not able to open the front door and rings my bell, it will be pay back time. Oh! Gosh. She followed me to the restaurant and she is sitting now in front of me.

Fait divers 2: The other day a friend said " London is so expensive that when you leave home you are already 200 pounds in negative". I have found this hilarious, not to mention so true.

Fait divers 3: Did you ever feel that your cleaning lady is not working the full hours you have paid for and that she is not cleaning properly? Well that is the way I feel each time she comes by. Veselina, is her name. She complains the ironing takes all her time (if tat least if the end result was good). I have a certain difficulty to communicate with her (maybe the fact that she has a hand cream name!) so anything I need I treat through the agency "Perfect Clean". Perfect? Yeah right!. Anyway, the communication didn't get much better. They convinced me to buy some cleaning products (that I had to search for on internet as I didn't know what they are) just to find out after that I had these products at home. Apart from a language problem my cleaning lady might have another problem with her sight. Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that today I decided to do some ironing (yes I also iron, and very well, I accept commissions if you need a hand). It took me almost 45 minutes to iron 2 duvet covers!!! To perfection. In any case, I might need to concede that the woman needs more time. I will ask her to raise a ticket with my helpdesk and I will investigate her case. lol.


Me again seen by a photographer in the 30's

I saw this photo in a book and couldn't stop laughing thinking of my situation.

It is a autoportrait by Herbert Bayer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Bayer. This was a cultural Saturday. Two photograph exhibitions to help educating my persona in view of enriching my collection. For your own personal enrichment: 1 - http://www.hamiltonsgallery.com/ (tour with one of the photographers, Kobi Israel)....you should see the boss' office. OMG, I want the same. 2 - http://www.selmaferiani.com. We also saw the photographer: Rula Halawani, not very friendly :-(. Kobi Israel is jewish and Rula is palestinian. They didn't meet, but when we told Kobi that Rula was not very nice he said it was probably the fault of the israelis. Lol.


Haiti...you can help

As you know we have everything we want in our developped countries...and we still complain. I have a lymphoma, free healthcare, free food (at hospital) and so on. If you had the chance to look at what is going on in Haiti, it is horrendous. Not only they are the poorest country in the world but now they also got this terrible disaster. You can help by donating.
Some sources. Be generous:
For UK, US and international organizations
For Portugal


Let's get graphic

I realized that I tell you about hickman line, radio, but I don't give you a true image so that you get better the real thing. So, here you go an image of a hickman line (not me, sorry to disappoint you) and a radio session (clearly not me!). Enjoy. It doesn't hurt. Well! the line, as the radio I didn't try as of yet.

Putting on weight

"You have even put on weight!" ... the comment, from a colleague, right in the middle of a conversation that clearly meant that looking at my face it seems I have been stuffing myself, felt like 1000 bells ringing in my head. Help! I am putting on weight? But like in the weight is concentrated in my face...yes because the rest is pretty much like in good old days configuration. Oh gosh where is the gym? Miguel doesn't put on weight. Well, I lost a few kilos in the hospital. Normal I would say. But once back home, as a free man, free to choose the food I cook or pay for, I am back to normal. I just miss that extra (not big) bit of muscle that only gym (or a work in building) gives. And I miss gym, I do. I really thought that after chemo was finished I could run to the gym, but nope. The hickman line is still there and I better not have a flash of blood jumping from the line into the exercising neighbour. It wouldn't look good either in the swimming pool. Imagine me going down the stairs from the changing rooms into the pool with some stuff falling from my chest. Enough to scare everyone. The hickman line is not removed before the scanner results. It will take at least three weeks. Then there is radiotherapy. Not good idea either to have gym while roasting my left armpit. Anyway, if there is an advice I can give: exercise. I am absolutely convinced that I took chemo better than others because of all the gym. You may wonder but which gym, because you see me as slim. Well, I am not slim, I am fit. Doubts? In the first week in hospital the doctor asked me to soften the stomach so that she could do a check. Meaning, my stomach was in full abs splendor. Lol, but true! I have to thank G. for all his patience as my gym buddy. Despite feeling he was trying to kill me at each session, I even told him his goal was to see me being taken away in an ambulance, all the pain was worth it. No pain no gain.


While waiting for radio...an exhibition. Overrated!

Overcrowded, overpriced, overrated.
The Victoria & Albert Museum magic formula: a good poster and marketing, a fancy set for the start of the exhibition, a few objects (and I mean few), paintings or drawings doing for the missing objects, some short videos and a lot of merchandising at the shop. The Maharaja exhibition raises a lot of expectations, like all other exhibitions they do. But knowing how rich the Indian kings' culture was/is you can only be disappointed. The Sunday Times described it as a "tremendous" exhibition. I wonder if we saw the same exhibition. It felt a bit like when E. commented the royal jewels exhibition at the Tower of London: "Is this all?" and "This is all fake!". At the Maharaja's there are a few interesting displays though. A few amazing jewels and clothes. But too little. The rest is a lot of beautiful drawings making for the lack of artefacts. And then you need to queue to read the texts. So I quitted and just had a quick look at everything. But the shop is there at the end with a rich display of objects they want you to buy. All this for 11 GBP. Better go to the medieval section of the museum. Free, better would be to be paid if the overall price we bear to have a free museum is to have disappointing temporary exhibitions. In the medieval section they have among others this huge column of some roman emperor. I wonder if they have paid for it or if they just "borrowed' it.

Another fait divers: The Sherlock Holmes is worth watching. Another good story with the detective, fantastic performance by Robert Downey Jr and the cemetery scene takes place at the Old Brompton cemetery just around my place. Where I take my nephews to see the squirrels. They didn't get what we were doing at the cemetery (my nephews, not the squirrels) as in Portugal a cemetery is a sacred place or close ot it. But I like it.


Radio radio radio...not for tomorrow :-(

After hickman line cleaning at C&W Hospital I had radiotherapy appointment at Charing Cross Hospital. Not in Charing Cross, as I originally thought (thank God I checked first or would have ended up in the other side of town) but in Fulham, not far from home. The hospital is a Imperial College NHS Trust, so, full of medical students. Dr. T. welcomed me with two students. As usual they asked if the students could attend. I said of course as long as they don't ask stupid questions. You remember the last time when after 15 minutes the guy stated: 'Oh! So you know you have a cancer!!!!". They were cute and being a guinea pig can be fun. This time they even got to touch the hickman line and I entertained them while Dr. T went to get the consultant (the big brain Dr. P.). I gave a quick course on how chemo feels like!! But going back to radiotherapy. I thought I would get there and tomorrow we would start. Nope. They need to see more exams (the originals); speak to Prof B.; within 2 weeks they will get me an appointment to do the radiotherapy planning and within 8 to 10 days after we can start. Boring....I went saying we can start tomorrow. But it didn't work. This won't start before February. However, good news it won't be for 6 weeks, but only 4. More good news they are pretty confident that it will be a easy ride for me and will kill the lymphoma....bad news they will touch the left lung!!!! but just a bit...and as I don't smoke I won't risk a cancer....just a fibrosis. Nothing special they say. I just need to remember, in future, if I have a lung X-Ray to tell the radiologists that I had radiotherapy. I don't know if I should be too relieved. Also, I can forget exposure to the sun, only in the radiotherapy location, for the rest of my life (Oh My God). Otherwise, I can enlist myself to a skin cancer treatment. But with strong protection it is OK. Oh! and I will get a tattoo to mark the radiotherapy location...nothing fancy like a siren, just two tiny dots. I joked with the doctor saying I would tattoo "DON'T TAKE SUN HERE".

Fait Divers:
1 - Leaving the hospital I wondered where to have lunch when I spotted Pizza Express. You might recall how desperate I was in my last day in hospital to have a pizza romana from Pizza Express. So I went for it with a big smile and excited stomach. Made my choice, the pizza arrives and oh horror and disappointment, there were anchovies, which I hate. I asked if the menu mentioned anchovies, the waitress said yes and then in typical British client-focus she offered to take it back and do me a new one! She made my day. Pizza romana "siciliana". Delicious.
2 - I went to the Thomas Macaulay Ward to say hi to the staff and deliver a little gift to M. the Portuguese assistant. Being Portuguese she treated me better than anyone else and I thought I could give her a little something. I called her aside and asked her not to show to everyone as I was not distributing gifts (yet) to all staff. She was very happy. I then went to speak to other staff and when leaving I could see M. in the staff room opening the gift for all her colleagues to see! Some people never learn.
3- Cinema moment: "It's complicated" with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. I recommend. Meryl at her best, good performances, not the typical silly comedy. Interesting cinema crowd: mostly women in their forties, fifties and sixties and middle age couples. It confirms what the critics say. Hollywood is being taken over by elder women actresses giving women movies they want to watch. Well and men as well.
4-When writing the post I had to confirm how to write "siren", but I wrote "syren" in google. Syren is a thai porn actress. Well done for you syren. Even syrens can be entertainers!!



Tomorrow, Monday 11th January 2010 is time for another cleaning of the hickman line (they can't take it out until they can the scanner results) and consultation with the radiotherapy specialists to determine the treatment that will follow. I will keep you informed.