A Much Better Week

Audio is the London Live Version

Things got back on track this week.

First, my wife got better, and we were able to get back into our routine of regular walks, even if the weather was mixed.

Secondly, things at the clinic started to move. One brother flew up to do his blood work, and arrangements were confirmed for the other to do his in the States early next week. I finally got an appointment for the second opinion at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) for June 6th. And my counts at the end of the week had bounced back, allowing for another round of chemo next week rather than a further delay, although my haemoglobin remains low, reducing my energy level.

All of this was a reminder of how the healthcare system is a big bureaucracy, and how I have to use my bureaucratic skills, honed after 30 years of working for the government, to advance my case. For example, the delay in getting the second opinion appointment was caused by my haematologist and the clinic in taking 3 weeks to get the requisition to the PMH, not the PMH which responded in about a week. So track, follow-up and be persistent.

I have asked for a full copy of my file plus CD of my images (requested by the PMH) to ensure I have everything, and make things easier should we decide for a third opinion.

I also had a good appointment with the clinician who is more generous with her time. I asked about whether the ban on driving remained given that I no longer appear to have the headache and vision symptoms as before. It  remains, although some flexibility for short distances in the city (no highway driving) and not during rush hour. And no biking – as she said with a smile, think of the risk and how you will feel if something happens like ‘breaking open your skull’ that delays your treatment plans! And I also pressed for Neupogen for the next round to reduce my period of low immunity (fortunately covered by my drug plan).

On a personal level, it has also been a good week. Our daughter turned 17 so we had a nice family celebration, joined by our son visiting for the Victoria Day weekend. The weather has shifted from cold rain to nice spring weather, the flowers are in bloom and the trees are green, wonderful renewal and growth, making our walks more enjoyable.

With our son the film buff here, watching some interesting movies together as a family. Repulsion, an early Roman Polanski film with Catherine Deneuve, captures one woman’s descent into madness and paranoia – a really uncomfortable film to watch but one that demonstrates his skills as director. And Limitless, an interesting concept but not successful thriller about what happens with a miracle drug that makes one smarter (bit too Hollywood, makes lots of money, gets his girl back, and then becomes a politician to save the world!).

I did not go into the office this week as my counts were still a bit low at the beginning of the week but will do so Tuesday. And time to hand in my laptop and Blackberry, thus marking a further transition, although I will still have access to corporate email through my desktop (and eventually iPad).

I am currently reading Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, by Timothy Snyder. It is a powerful book, capturing the atrocities committed by both Stalin, in the name of collectivization and the ‘revolution’, and Hitler, in the name of ethnic purity and cleansing, and the linkages between the two, in a manner that does not diminish the centrality of the Holocaust in terms of the unprecedented nature of the ‘final solution’. There is a fair amount of controversy on this point to which Snyder replies to in this article. Given my work with affected communities, very helpful to broaden my understanding. Highly recommended but not an easy read. This is also my first e-book; while I miss the tactile sense of turning pages, so much more convenient!

I have started adding to my blog some health or life-related articles that I find interesting – I will try to be judicious in my selection.

Next week will be another hospital week, with the same kind of chemo as before (Ara-C or Cytarabine), given that it is easier on my kidneys, although harsher in other respects. The usual triage decisions we have to make!