Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Filling in time all day

Life is so exciting. Back home from Melbourne yesterday afternoon, I rushed off to rehearsal for our choral concerts this weekend. We are singing Verdi choruses. And I drove myself there. This was the first time I have driven since being rushed off to hospital just over four weeks ago. All went well, except for the general failure at the end of the evening to accept our parking tickets and vouchers.

At present I am pondering whether to drive or take buses to the hospital, where I am to have an ultrasound to see what might have happened or contributed to the flare up of the lymphoedema. Apparently after the ultrasound I have to hang around for an unquantifiable  time for the surgeon to tell me what, if anything, it all means.

Parking near the hospital is a wonderful earner for whoever gets the money, and the uncertainties certainly add to the rich complexities of life.

I awoke this morning to the insistent cries of a delivery man. I sleep on the third floor, so had to descend to the ground level, to receive the parcel. It contained my pressure sleeve and glove, so I spent some exciting time working out how to get them on my arm. It took some time, and will certainly need extra time  in the morning rush. A rubber glove is the recommended tool to get it on.  It does feel more comfortable than the various layers of pressure bandages of the interim treatment. However I now have a numb thumb. Did not expect that rhyme to insert itself into this particulare piece of deathless prose.)

Although the trip to Melbourne was enjoyable, I am glad to be home. In some ways Melbourne makes me feel like a lost soul, a fish out of water, and that I just do not fit in there.

The main purpose of this particular trip was to attend a wedding ceremony of my niece and her husband. They actually were already married, two years ago in Mexico, where the bridegroom comes from. But they wanted a religious blessing, and a family celebration here, and she wanted to be a bride, in a wedding dress. So the husband's family came here from Mexico, to be present.
The ceremony took place in a lovely park, and there was a reception afterwards in a nearby Spanish restaurant. It all went very well. Everyone was very well behaved. And she looked absolutely beautiful, and her dress was elegant, pretty, flattering, and she wore my grandmother's bridal veil. And! The dress was NOT strapless - a style which to my mind an unflattering, which requires constant yanking and hoisting to defy gravity.

My sister's marriage failed some years ago, and it was a very difficult breakup. My family helped her leave the family home, with her share of their belongings. I could not help, as I was serving on a jury for seven weeks. The husband is well off, but my sister is not, and  in order to start afresh, studied law part time and has now been admitted to practice.
So in a way this ceremony presented us all with a delicate situation, but we all behaved very nobly and well.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Do this, do that!

It's the imperative. Although my class has been studying Italian for years and years and years, and we are reasonably fluent, there are various gaps in our knowledge and comprehension . Such as the correct and appropriate use of the imperative. We can, individually and collectively, become both tongue-tied and embarrassed. Our minds can go quite blank. Our expert and lively teacher, Roberto, has spent the last two lessons trying to get us to get it all right. Collectively and individually, it has been a struggle.

We finished the class by writing recipes, using both the formal and informal person. Around the class we went, with varying degrees of success. sometimes we know it in theory, but have to think carefully before grappling for the correct form of the verb. Around the desks we went, but the clock ticked over for the next class before my turn, which would have been the last one, arrived. I don't know which emotion was uppermost - relief, frustration or what.

The last tine my turn was missed, we were all translating poems from English to Italian. i had chosen Matilda, from Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales. I suppose I will never know how bad, indifferent or good it was. When one is in such doubt, perhaps relief is the dominant emotion, but it is better to be corrected and try to learn to get it right. Perhaps the apex of the learning curve has been reached and it is all downhill from now on. Heavens, I hope not.

Yesterday the physiotherapist measured the afflicted limb , and said that there had been a further reduction in the amount of fluid. This was good news, as it did not seem to me to have improved, but rather that it looked worse. She measured my arm so as to have a sleeve and glove made. It is done in Germany and costs an arm and a leg. The whole thing is very tedious. However the hospital has received my letter and has referred it here and there, and the office of one of the surgeons rang, while I was out - how come these calls are always made when one is out? - to say they wanted to make an appointment to check whether there was a blockage in the vein.

Tomorrow I fly to Melbourne to attend the 'wedding' of my niece and her husband, and to see my children and grandchildren.  So tonight I am trying to be very organised in my packing so that I can take the bus and train to the airport, and not miss the plane. I hope the weather is mild. Yesterday I had intended to get to choir by bus and train, but wild weather swept through, roads were flooded, accidents happened, buses were held up, and trains suffered lengthy delayed. So it was just as well I stayed in, although I missed an excellent rehearsal.

Thursday, 13 February 2014


Life at present is a round of medical appointments and physiotherapy. And dealing little by little with paperwork.

The good news is that, so far, there has been an improvement in my arm. The physiotherapist beamed!  I did, too. But it will be a slow process, and I can only hope that I can get to the stage where it ceases to be a constant problem.

All this bandaging, to compress the tissue, takes quite a long time each day. Doing it one-handed is quite tricky, and it has been a hit and miss process trying to achieve the right degree of compression. The arm aches, and it is not possible to do anything much with it. It feels as though I have many more thumbs than fingers. Holding the music at choir was quite tricky and makes the arm ache.  And I cannot crochet, for the time being, the arm is not flexible enough,  and is too sore. Just as well I finished the baby blanket before all this drama happened.

I should be able to drive in about another ten days, and that will be a relief. My kind friend drove me to choir last night, and another friend from choir drove me home. There is an all day rehearsal on Saturday, and bus and train will get me there and back. And I have almost finished my letter to the hospital, detailing my condition and its cause. Inter alia, I make the point that I was less able than usual to deal with the situation, but this is hardly an unusual, given that hospitals deal all day and all night with sick people, who by definition would not be firing on all cylinders.

My friends, neighbours and local doctors and health professionals have been so very supportive, in all ways. And having a heavily bandaged arm helps me get a seat on the bus, and elicits many kind enquiries.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

All tied up

Life seems to have contracted to bandaging my arm and doing the massage in the blessed one hour out of 24 during which I can take the bandages off. Typing is not all that easy. My arm does seem to be less swollen, but I am sure that it will take time, and that I will require a pressure sleeve. The letter to the hospital is yet to be written. Typing is not easy, let alone accurate. The people I regularly encounter ask what has happened to me. A bandaged arm provokes attention.

Yesterday I took the bus to the produce market, and bought flowers, bread and fruit and vegetables. To me flowers are a necessity of life, once I moved to this city and could no longer grow my own. I came in for criticism of my character in my stepdaughters' affidavits for buying flowers. Real character defect, it seemed to be. Small minds.

To me plants and flowers add beauty and pleasure to life.

It is interesting working out what I can do while not being able to drive. Mostly, I walk, if necessary with my shopping trolley. Last week a friend drove me to choir, and I took a taxi home. It was not cheap, but it is a temporary expense. I do not want to have to ask for help. One of the knitting group picked me up for our meeting on Friday. I did not get much work done, as the bandaged arm makes it difficult.

I was unable to join the rest of the family who travelled to rural NSW to celebrate my older sister's golden wedding anniversary. The train journey would have been too difficult and unpleasant. I was sorry to miss out, but it was not feasible.

The garbage collection company says they will be repairing my garage wall tomorrow. I hope so. I had not been able to talk to anyone except the telephone receptionist, but I did ring the council, and was put through to the man who is responsible for the garbage collection, and he promised to contact the company. Evidently he did so, so I hope that the repairs do in fact begin tomorrow morning.

Perhaps once all this has been attended to, life will be easier.

I have been feeling rather low and hard done by. But I have seen a couple of friends, and that is always a source of pleasure. This week there will be more physiotherapy and medical appointments.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

A further litany

Yesterday the garbage truck that empties the rubbish bins left in the lane hit my garage wall, and did quite a lot of damage. A neighbour heard the bang and came out, took a photo, and noted whose truck it was, and when I came home he told me all the details. Very kind of him.The truck took off without leaving a note for me. I too have taken photos and have telephoned the wast  collection company and the council. This was the second time the wall has been damaged by a truck. The house on the lane running parallel to mine has also been hit, and has only recently been repaired. It would be good to have all the damage repaired quickly. Who knows? Who can tell?

It has been a bit of a rough week. However the lymphoedema physiotherapist did phone, giving me a cancellation appointment yesterday afternoon. She says the lymphoedema is quite severe, massaged the afflicted arm, explained how to do it, wrote the instructions, and bandaged the arm. This morning I had to unwrap it, do the massage and then re-bandage. It took quite some time. During the day the hand became quite swollen, which made me feel rather panicky. The physiotherapist telephoned me this afternoon to hear how I was managing, so that was helpful. But I must confess to feeling rather buffetted and bashed by fate and bad fortune. And I feel rather exhausted and downcast.

I did get to choir last night, a kind friend having driven me there. I took a taxi home. We are singing lots of Verdi choruses. Although I know most of them to listen to, singing them is quite another matter, due to the speed, and to the elision of the words. The choir friend who sits beside me told me her own health drama - she had a nasty bout of tachycardia (?) which sounds like the opposite of what I had.

It was good to have a sing. And the Italian classes have recommenced, and it was lovely to see everyone, even though much of the language allegedly in my head has been pushed aside by more recent events.

My brothers and sisters are all going to the country this weekend to help celebrate my older sister's golden wedding anniversary. She is permanently in hospital, suffering from dementia, by now very severe, and her husband is not all that well, either. Thinking about her does put my woes into some sort of perspective. I am not going, as I think the train journeys would be far too long and uncomfortable for me, and not give me much scope for all the massaging, and bandaging that needs to be done. The following weekend I am supposed to be going to Melbourne to attend the 'wedding' ceremony of my niece who got married in Mexico a couple of years ago.  She is going to wear a wedding dress. I don't know what she wore when she was married in Mexico.

It does not do to dwell on all these things, so I am about to curl up with a book. Tomorrow it might be a good idea to start the car and let the engine rev for a while - it would be aggravating to get a flat battery once I am  able to drive again. Next week is full of medical appointments and physiotherapy. At least, I suppose, I can say there is never a dull moment. Sad, annoying, depressing, enjoyable, entertaining, interesting, challenging, puzzling, perplexing, but No, not dull.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Slings and arrows

There is a little ditty about feeling low, which tells that all of a sudden a voice from high counselled:

     "Cheer up! things could be worse." So I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse.

So there I was, feeling that, all things considered, I was recovering reasonably well. However, much to my dismay, the lymphoedema which afflicted me in the wake of chemotherapy and radiation following surgery from breast cancer in 1998, and which had been contained by physiotherapy and a pressure sleeve, has flared up again, this time quite severely. The arm is very swollen and uncomfortable. It looks as though I am half a fat lady.

The nurses in the hospital kept coming to take my blood pressure, and I kept having to say, "Not on the left arm, that is the lymphoedema arm!" My daughter attests to this. Evidently no one made any note of this. A couple of times they just ignored me and did it anyway. Then during the surgery I was hooked up to drip, anaesthetic and whatever, on the left side, and this is the result. Why don't they listen? How many times do you have to say something before it gets noted, and the routine varied?

This should not have happened.

My sister, a cardiac care nurse, advises me to write to the hospital. I will do so.

I have made an appointment with a lymphoedema physiotherapist, but this won't happen for a couple of weeks. Today, my regular physiotherapist will see me, which should help. The arm will probably need a pressure sleeve, and that will take some time to be organised and made. In the meantime I must be even more careful than usual.

It took months of care, and physiotherapy, and the continual wearing of the pressure sleeve, and subsequent carefulness - no blood pressure on that side, no injections, no heavy carrying, no overheating, to overcome the first occurrence, and for it to remain dormant. But it never goes away. You cannot afford to take the risks.

Sunday, 2 February 2014


It has been a day of sorting and tidying. Not all that exciting, but in a rather reassuring way, maintaining the routine of every day life.

Yesterday I went to to a birthday pary of a friend, godmother of my son. Although we now live in the same city, once again, we see each other relatively infrequently. When our children were little,we saw each other often. My friend is my son's godmother. I love her children, and am always do very glad to see them. My love is reciprocated, and a great part of my enjoyment of the birthday party was to talk to these children - now in their forties.

Friendship is very often situational, but endures nonetheless. Thus it is with this friend and her family. What a swell party it was.

As I may not drive at present, I travelled by bus. For the next few weeks, I will be travelling by bus. This is, mostly, easy enough, but some trips are across the city, and public transport is cumbersome. I will manage, or if it is too complicated, will vary my schedule for the time being.

This recovery period is rather odd. I pad about the house, slowly but efficiently. Moving further affield can be rather more complicated, but should work out. Local services are good, shops, bank, pharmacy are within easy reach. The year's activities are about to resume, and the logistics vary. It is easy to get into the city, but cross country is more difficult. Transport is in and out of the city, not across it. While my disability is, I hope, temporary, getting to choir is not simple. A friend insists she will drive me to choir this week, and I will take a taxi home. I want to keep my usual routine going. Some thought is required, and I do not wish to be a nuisance. Once I am able to drive,  things will settle down. So  I hope.

 The discomfort is lessening,  but I am having to think things through.

My handyman has been here, and he is getting through all the various tasks. He classifies these as minor maintenance. This is reassuring. To my mind, repairs should be done as required. Dr P, alas, tended to see repairs as needless extravagance.

 To celebrate these repairs, I bought a palm. One of the frustrations of inner city living is the lsck of garden space, and, perhaps foolishly, I try to squeeze more plants into a very limited space. And  I buy flowers. You have to have some fun, pathetic though it may seem.