Saturday, March 17, 2012


Last update:
Just got the report back from the cellular test:
No significant intraepithelial lesions or malignancy
Presence of normal microbial flora. No sign of significant cellular alteration.

So, that's that.


What now?

~ * ~ * ~

I'm done. This week the doctors finally told me that (apart from a cellular test that we haven't got the results for yet) all the tests and scans have shown that I'm in the clear.

For the first time in almost exactly a year, (diagnosis was March 9, 2011) I have nothing cancer-related to think about and no doctor appointments at all for two whole months. It's really over, for now. I have follow-ups every two months for three years, then every four months for two more. If I get to the end of that, statistically speaking, I'm considered "cured". Five years.

They were slightly worried for a time about an inflamed lymph node in my left hip, but it seems that this was not malignant but only a result of the banging around I got during surgery.

I thought I'd break radio silence once more to relate the good news, and to thank everyone here for the help, the donations, the prayers, the emails, the books and the general support and friendliness. It sounds a cliche, but I really mean it when I say that it made a lot of difference.

But I have a lot to think about, so intend to continue to be scarce for a while.

The whole experience has not been without heavy costs, and I don't mean only monetary. I'm changed. My outlook on the world has changed. And I am not sure now exactly where to go from here. I find I'm slightly frightened at the prospect of indefinite living. I spent the last year seriously preparing for the possibility that I would die and now that this has receded back to its normal remote corner of probability, I find I am at something of a loss.

Not having cancer, not having anything to fear, is turning out to be quite a difficult thing to adjust to.

I was very surprised to find that I fell into a deep depression shortly after receiving the news in January that the histology report had come back clean after surgery. It seemed terribly abrupt, as though I had been trapped in a runaway rail car for a year, concentrating with all my strength on not panicking, and now it had suddenly slammed to a halt. The silence and stillness are deafening and strange.

For a year, every day, I had to remind myself very strictly not to make plans or even entertain thoughts about the future. I've learned the trick of shutting down whole trains of thought: "Stop. Don't think about that." What I was doing with my life, where it was going, what the future held, were all topics that were off limits because every time they came up, there was the big, terrifying sign post in front of it all that said, "You might be dead".

Of course, maintaining strictly disciplined control every day of one's thoughts, hopes and dreams about the future for a full year is tiring work. And it had the odd result of making the past much more present in my mind. I've also spent the last year thinking very hard about what I have done up to this point. The question, what are you going to say to your Maker when you meet Him has been prominent.

I have since recovered somewhat from depression, but it is prowling around the edges of my awareness like a dark predatory thing, waiting for a chance to come back. The sudden attacks can be shocking and frightening. Of course the abrupt cessation of much of my normal hormonal function has not helped, and the treatment for that was only started four days ago, and has not really started to work yet. The doctor said it will probably help.

I have read that post-treatment depression is very common for cancer patients, though as yet little discussed in the medical literature. There are a few places in the US where these issues are dealt with for patients who are in recovery, but this awareness has not yet made it over here. The articles and research studies I found said that it is actually a mild form of post-traumatic stress, which makes sense. You spend a long time in a terrifying battle for you life, against an enemy that is at once alien and horrifying and profoundly personal and intimate, and all the while, normal life, daily activities, even normal thought patterns have to be suspended. There are illness, weakness, nausea, pain, terrifying surgeries and losses.

At the end, if you have survived, you are damaged, reduced and in many cases physically mutilated. Deeply and permanently changed, with prospects for the future that are different from what you had imagined before cancer, almost as though it has made you into a different person, someone you don't know. And when it is all over, you feel bereft. The doctors have waved good-bye and you feel almost abandoned.

For a year, I've had my thoughts and actions, every waking moment, tightly focused and oriented towards this one thing. Now that it's over, I almost don't remember what I was doing or thinking. And even if I do start piecing it all back together, there is no way I can go back to the same old me. Everything from now on is going to be new.

So, I'm going to stay quiet for a while, for which Lent seems like an appropriate time.

See y'all at Easter.



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Luke, I'm shutting down the power now...

Out of things to say.

Thanks for all your help and encouragement.

But I think I'm too tired to do this now.

Small update:
Mammogram and ecomammaria report came back all clear.

Other small update:
All other ecography shows clear. First follow-up appointments completed, awaiting test results, but so far all well. Prob. back after Lent. Getting a lot of things done w/out FB and blog.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

How it all started

The Wiki pages on non-profit and advocacy journalism are interesting, especially the notes about the notion of "objectivity" in journalism, an idea I more or less reject.
Many believe that there is no such thing as objective reporting, that there will always be some form of implicit bias, whether political, personal, or metaphysical, whether intentional or subconscious. This is not necessarily a rejection of the existence of an objective reality, merely a statement about our inability to report on it in a value-free fashion. This may sound like a radical idea, but many mainstream journalists accept the philosophical idea that pure "objectivity" is impossible, but still seek to minimize bias in their work. Other journalistic standards, such as balance, and neutrality, may be used to describe a more practical kind of "objectivity".

"Alternative" critics often charge that the mainstream's media claims of being "bias free" are harmful because they paper over inevitable (often subconscious) biases. They also argue that media sources claiming to be free of bias often advance certain political ideas which are disguised in a so-called "objective" viewpoint. [!!!] These critics contend that the mainstream media reinforce majority-held ideas, marginalizing dissent and retarding political and cultural discourse.

The proposed solution is to make biases explicit, with the intention of promoting transparency and self-awareness that better serves media consumers. Advocacy journalists often assume that their audiences will share their biases (especially in politically charged alternative media), or will at least be conscious of them while evaluating what are supposed to be well-researched and persuasive arguments.

I note that the latter quotes Sue Careless who
gave the following commentary and advice to advocacy journalists, which seeks to establish a common view of what journalistic standards the genre should follow.

- Acknowledge your perspective up front.
- Be truthful, accurate, and credible. Don't spread propaganda, don't take quotes or facts out of context, "don't fabricate or falsify", and "don't judge or suppress vital facts or present half-truths"
- Don't give your opponents equal time, but don't ignore them, either.
- Explore arguments that challenge your perspective, and report embarrassing facts that support the opposition. Ask critical questions of people who agree with you.
- Avoid slogans, ranting, and polemics. Instead, "articulate complex issues clearly and carefully."
- Be fair and thorough.
- Make use of neutral sources to establish facts.

Sue Careless also criticized the mainstream media for unbalanced and politically biased coverage, for economic conflicts of interest, and for neglecting certain public causes. She said that alternative publications have advantages in independence, focus, and access, which make them more effective public-interest advocates than the mainstream media.

It's interesting that many years ago, I spoke with Sue at a meeting of Real Women of Canada in Halifax and said that I was interested in getting into journalism, and asked her if she thought it would be better to go to the journalism school at King's College, where I was already enrolled in Classics, or to just dive in and start writing and submitting things to publications. She said that J-school was a massive waste of time and money, that all they ever did there was indoctrinate young people politically and that graduates from those kinds of schools could barely write a coherent sentence in English.

I took her advice and started writing for the Dalhousie University student newspaper, and submitted a few things for the Interim.

Boy, was she ever right!


Let's play a game!

The EU hath decreed that all young women will now be charged the same amount for their car insurance as young men. It's going to mean that young women are going to pay as much as £362 more per year.

Guess why.

Come on...


(No, I'm going to post the link later. I know you guys are a pack of shameless cheaters!)



Greek soldiers get training from John Cleese at Ministry of Silly Walks, O's P can reveal.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Thumbs up

A friend of mine this weekend told me, "I'm tired of you getting all the glory. I'm going to take drawing lessons."

That's exactly the thing I've been trying to accomplish with blogging all this.

I started a new practice drawing the other day. A pair of ratty boots. A classic.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Like all writers, I suppose, I have stashed away in various files little bits and pieces of writing, ideas, the beginnings of stories, character sketches and odds and ends of rubbish.

Today, I stumbled across a file titled, 'The Baroque House'. It was based on a complicated dream I had that I found so interesting that I wrote down the next morning all I could remember. This one, I recall, was very fantastical, with elaborate sets and props.

Just to amuse you...

Five were trapped in the house. All were unwanted, in all the world. One was an unpleasantly spoiled blonde and well-rounded prince of fifteen whose father had been usurped and whose political usefulness had come to an end. Another was a king’s mistress who had grown too many fine lines in her once-pretty face. Another was an ancient professor whose theories of mathematics had been proven worthless by the Sorbonne’s youngest and brightest lights. Another, a failed general whose battles had all been famous victories. The last was a sharp-tongued widow of an indebted man, who alone among her acquaintance thought herself too young to be passed over.

Five more lived, or at least dwelled in the house and watched the first five carefully, but were rarely seen themselves, except for the old housekeeper whose only task was to wind and wind and wind the many ticking clocks of the endless house. They watched and kept quiet. No one must break out of the daily pattern, even with a glance or a thought. No part of the spell must break or the plan would be ruined.

Each day, the routine was the same. The boy prince would find himself in a beautiful room all hung with gold, playing his viola da gamba. He did not recall how he had come there. Indeed, he hardly remembered who he was or anything at all, except how to play, and all he wanted in all the world was to continue playing. One of the other five, dressed as a palace footman, would come into the room in another moment and tell his highness that it was time for the bath. The watchful footman would then begin to draw the water and pour it into the bath. The prince thought vaguely that he was not usually commanded by footmen. But it was too late to think about it. The bath was drawn and the day had started again, exactly the same as all the others.

The retired mistress and the widow shared a room with an ornately painted ceiling and two huge beds. In came the housekeeper without a knock or a word, pointing to the gowns that were laid out on the chairs.

The professor woke the same way every day: slumped over a loose pile of books, still unread, spread over every inch of a huge desk in a library draped heavily with dusty red velvet.

Even the portraits and busts and wax figures looked up to watch in hope when the first escape attempt was truly started. Few of the rooms had windows, and what windows there were glowed only faintly with greyish light through barred-over glass, set high up close to the ceilings.

One of the recurring motifs of my dreams is a fantastic house, full of magical things, that can usually only be reached by magic. I was describing this once to my Uncle Mike and he surprised me by saying that he also had this magical, wonderful house in his dreams.

The Baroque House was certainly of this kind, but very sinister, where the wonderful house is normally benign.

Anyone else?


Keep calm and carry on

This morning, a couple of FB friends who are old bloggie-buddies here were discussing the Robert Spencer article (linked in the last post) about the oft-repeated claim of many in the Church that "Catholics and Muslims, after all, worship the same God." I have made the case many times that this is simply an error, one that becomes increasingly difficult to swallow the more you learn about Islam and its founding (anti-)principles.

One of the things that my two friends were discussing was the point Spencer made about Nostra Aetate (non-Catholics in the class have permission to stare out the window at this point, or go to the library), where it makes the claim in section 3 that "Moslems"
adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth... Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet.

There were expressions like "I really struggle with NA..."

Guys, for heaven sake, what's to "struggle" with?

It was wrong.

The passage above is perhaps the most obvious point where even people with no training in theology can say, "This contradicts the Faith". The document itself displays its own internal contradictions: "Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet."

[eyeroll][patientsigh]The nature of God is triune. We believe that God is one, indivisible, in three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. If you have denied the divinity of Christ, you cannot make the claim to believe in the same God as we do. If you are worshiping something that you claim is God but that does not include Christ as the Second Person of a Holy Trinity, then you are not "worshiping the same God," you are making something up all on your own. [/patientsigh][/eyeroll]

Moreover, Islam is filled with internal contradictions about both human life and about the nature of God; it is inimical to logic and the laws of rational thought. It is also opposed to the moral law.

What Nostra Aetate refuses to mention is that Islam claims to have been founded on the word of an angel, that its "holy book" orders its followers to murder, rape and enslave others. It says that God can change His mind and contradict Himself. Why do the authors of this document neglect to mention that Islam's followers are under obligation to conquer nations who refuse to accept it? The document mentions that "in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems," but declines to mention why.

I'm afraid I just don't see the problem with simply rejecting Nostra Aetate. It contradicts the teaching of the Church on heresy. It is opposed to Catholic doctrine, to the Truth of the Faith.

One of the reasons we can see that the Catholic religion is true is that it never, ever contradicts itself. It is inimical neither to logic and reason, nor to observable data, nor to its own deposit. It holds together in relation to both internal and external evidence.

It is popular for Catholics to make silly boasts like, "If the Church told me black were white, I'd believe it..." but in fact, the reason we believe everything the Church teaches is because it is observably true. Catholic teaching on faith and morals is never internally contradictory. Ever.

So, what do we do when we find something that proposes a change in a previously held doctrine of the Faith? What do we do when we are faced with a proposition of heresy, from any source?

Understand that the "we" in this case just means you and me. Lay people. I'm not talking about bishops or curial cardinals or the pope. I'm none of those things and their obligations aren't my obligations. I'm a lay person. So, what do we do? Come on now, you know the answer.

The fact is that not enough time has passed since the issuance of those documents. The crisis of Faith in the Church has not abated, and much of the mess was caused by that Council. I have faith that there will come a day when the Barque of Peter, the Church, will correct itself, or, more accurately, will be corrected by the proper authority. There will (soon) come a time when the people in charge of the Church will no longer be wedded to that wretched disaster. The young men in seminaries now, the men joining religious orders and starting to move up the ranks, will at some point no longer have to keep quiet in the presence of the current generation of leadership. They will be the leadership. And that day is not far off. One of the reasons I'm happy to have survived cancer is that I can now imagine that I will live to see the day, as poor John Muggeridge didn't.

There have been times in the past when terrible heresies all but wiped out the Faith in the world. When the Faith has had to go underground. When the world woke and "groaned to find itself Arian". Remember? It hasn't yet been 50 years since V-II. The Egyptian generation has yet to be purged. Until then, what are we charged to do?

In the meantime, what's my job?

To keep the Faith.

And nothing else.



Next question.


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Fellow enthusiasts

I've been trying to get back to Euclid all week, but what with one thing and another...


But at least my post about it has made an impression. Katherine of Pie and Palestrina complains about exactly the same thing I experienced in school.
In nearly every class and school I've attended, the teachers and students have approached learning as a necessary evil, and one that you "have" to get through in order to get a job. From then on, however, your reward is to never have to learn anything again. You can spend your leisure time watching hours and hours of television. The idea of knowledge for its own sake is ignored, and most teachers instruct their students to learn the barest of facts about disjointed chunks of our world without making any connections at all.

Lawdy, but how I hated school! And this is why.

Haaaate-ed It!!!

Why oh why didn't Mum homeschool me?! Why did she send me to those mind-numbing child-holding tanks for all those wasted hours when we could have been doing Euclid and combing the beach for invertebrates? It's not like she had a job or anything...



Saturday, March 03, 2012

Cold Comfort

This is precisely what I mean when I talk about the brutality of Anglo medical care and the utilitarian ethic that has taken over much of western medicine. It's not just Britain, but is the norm in Canada. Whatever their administrative failings, there is simply no way this would happen in an Italian health care facility. Ever.

All her life
, she was appalled by the thought that one day old age, infirmity or sickness might make her a burden on others.

Like many of her generation she did not like to make a fuss. Quiet fortitude was her style. So during her final illness she did not protest when she was treated with a level of dismissive contempt that amounted to cruelty.

When she was quarantined in a bleak and windowless hospital room, Mama — who had been diagnosed with terminal leukaemia — was accorded neither compassion nor care.

And there is no other reason that the euthanasia movement has taken such hold. Frankly, people are terrified, and with good reason. They have seen how their relatives and friends have been treated by this Godless, heathen, human-hating "autonomist" philosophy.

The English can thank heartless Protestantism for creating this cultural paranoia of "being a burden to others" that really does have the whole country in its icy grip. There is almost no religion left in this sad realm, and the Protestant revolution can be thanked for most of their current cultural woes.

Every day I thank God (and, incidentally, St. Philip, who as good as "told" me to come here) and my friends who convinced me, for bringing me to Italy and delivering me from this horror, so much worse than the simple frustrations of Italian secretaries.


Daily Nature

UBC has a Daily Botany page which is going on the sidebar for a daily read.

Today's plant is the Fritillaria pudica, a rare and delicate kind of spring-flowering bulb. I remember talking to Br. Ted about it who put one into a new garden patch at the Oratory. It really was a lovely, delicate little thing.

I think I will take a walk around town later today, if the promised sun comes out (they said it would be sunny all weekend!) and take some pictures of some of Santa Marinella's early flowering trees. I think the crab apple at Piazza Civitavecchia has been in flower for a few weeks now.

What's the latest in Nature News? National Geographic, (remember them?) has a Daily News page.

Latest? World's tiniest Chameleon discovered in Madagascar, home of a quite a few of the World's ____est things.


Gutenberg comes home

The Vatican is having one of its terrific historical exhibits this week on the history of the Bible, and by extension, the history of The Book. One of the cooler things is a reproduction of Gutenberg's original press, that you actually get to work and make a page from.

Above is my friend Gregory getting instructions on how to work it.

Here's Gregory working it.

Then you get to take your page home.



Thursday, March 01, 2012

Last straw

Well, we had our last adventure with the administration of the Gemelli Oncology department yesterday.

I want to start this little story with a reiteration of something important. I remain convinced that I have received the best possible medical care for my cancer, and I am always going to be grateful to the doctors and nurses who treated and cared for me. I've said many times that I would never have wanted to trade the care I received here for the kind I know I would have received in England or Canada.

Italian doctors, particularly at a Catholic hospital, actually seem to engage their souls in what they do, they like people and are genuinely distressed when a patient is ill and frightened. I believe that this Christian humanistic ethic is vastly superior to the utilitarian ethic that has taken over in Anglo countries leaving doctors coolly indifferent and nurses outright brutal and callous.

I'll always consider it an act of Divine Providence that I was here when I was diagnosed and that I didn't have to go back to the Cold Countries.

Italian hospital administration, however, I would not wish on my worst enemy.

After my surgery at the end of December, I was told very forcefully that I was not necessarily out of danger. I absolutely had to have a follow-up appointment with the doctors to check that there was no more cancer, and that these appointments would have to continue every month for a year, then every other month for two more years. It was crucial to continue to monitor me closely to make sure the cancer is all gone. Recurrence is terrifying and can spread into vital organs in a matter of weeks or even days.

Recurrence = death in nearly 95 per cent of cases.

I was told that I had to get my first follow-up appointment secured by the end of January. And, fatally, I was given a phone number to call.

Now, why didn't anyone just arrange the first appointment while I was still in the hospital? Or just set it up and call me and tell me when to come back? For some reason, they think it's a good idea to make the patient make these arrangements after being discharged. This despite the fact that a patient after a total hysterectomy can't arrange a glass of water.

So, a month came and went and all our efforts to raise anyone in the oncology office were in vain. This has been the standard thing all along. They don't answer the phone in the oncology office. They JUST DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE. I told the lead doctor about this problem so she gave me her cell phone number and told me to call if there were problems.

I called.

And I called.

And I got friends to try to call.

And they called.

No answer. Voice mail messages not returned. Busy signal for six or seven hours straight.

About the middle of February, I finally called the doctor and told her that I had had no luck raising a human being at the oncology office and that the time had long since passed when I was supposed to have had my first appointment. She said that C________, the follow-up appointment secretary had told her that she had tried to call me "several times" but had got no answer. I said that this was unlikely because I had grown so paranoid about missing the call that I was carrying the phone around with me in my pocket and sleeping with it under my pillow, and had tucked it into my bra when I didn't have any pockets. I had also received no "missed call" or SMS messages.

Dr. _____ said she would call C_______ right away and get back to me. A few minutes later, the long-suspected-of-non-existence C_________ called and gave me an appointment for February 29th. Two pm.

I was annoyed that this meant that two months to the day had been allowed to pass without this important follow-up, but let it pass, relieved to have the business over. I had a list of things I wanted to bring up with the oncologist: tired all the time, possible surgical damage to my left leg that is making it hard to walk... stuff like that...

So, yesterday, I took the day off work and bundled my perpetually tired self onto the train and went into the City, to the Gemelli and was in the appointed place at the appointed time.

No one was there.

I banged on doors at the end of the long empty corridor. A woman peeked out through some blinds behind a window, and flicked the switch on the microphone and said in Italian, that the office was closed for the day. No they had never heard of Dr. _____.

With growing unease, I went down to the oncology office to find out what was going on. When I got there, I found Valentina, the regular secretary, about whom the less I say the better after a year of ... encounters... and another doctor, neither of whom spoke any English. Mustering up as much Italian as I could, I explained that I had an appointment with Dr. _______ but no one seemed to know anything on the 7th floor. C_______ was at lunch, they said, could I please wait. I said I would but could someone please call Dr. ______. I had tried several times but the number just went straight to voicemail.

I stood in the corridor. [Don't leave... don't leave... don't leave...] Eventually I wandered back into the office and stood there just to make them as uncomfortable as possible.

About 15 minutes later, C________ came back from pranzo and looked at me in shock. What was I doing here?

I have an appointment.


But your appointment was last week, Friday at ten am.

No, [teeth starting to grind involuntarily] you told me to show up today, February 29th at two pm.

[Eyes wide] But Dr._______ never takes appointments after noon.

This is when you told me to show up. February. 29th. at. two. pm. That's all I know. No wait, I also know that I am now a month overdue for my first follow-up.

But Dr. _______ said she sent you a message. You were supposed to get a message confirming your appointment.

Niente. Nothing. Nada. Nowt. I had received no messages from anyone. When you called and told me when the appointment was, that was when I was coming. [Grinding getting louder] That is how this works. You tell me the time for the appointment, and I show up at that time.

This went on for a while, with me getting increasingly furious.

"Aspetta. Cinque minuti."

The phone on the desk started ringing forlornly. No one answered it while a little flurry of papers were consulted. I wondered how many other people were trying to get first follow-up appointments while the phone continued ringing futilely. I looked over at the end of the counter I was leaning on, and noticed that the large and very ugly pot of dried flowers, painted purple, were visibly shuddering in time with my heart beat.

C________ approached again looking worried.

Dr. ______ can't come today. She told me that she had sent you a message giving the other time. Last Friday.

I never received any message from anyone. I have to have a follow-up appointment every month. I'm very, VERY angry.

I know...

It has now been two months since my surgery and I have not seen a doctor once in that time.

I know...

I went on to explain in detail how difficult it is to make an appointment when the appointment secretary never, EVER answers the phone.
Is there some other pressing work that needs to be done that means you can never answer phone calls from patients? You ARE the appointment secretary for follow-up appointments, aren't you?

C_______ starting to look more and more worried as my face flushed bright scarlet, sweat ran down my forehead and my breathing started coming through my teeth. Was it my imagination that the rest of the room was starting to shudder in time with my heart beat?

I drew a deep breath,

OK, this is obviously pointless. Let's just make another appointment as soon as possible.

Well, the next available appointment isn't until September.




C_______ jumped as my voice rose to a window-shattering pitch.

In an instant, it all flashed through my mind...all the months of waiting for this office to return my calls, answer the phone, to tell me anything at all about my condition, my prognosis, their obfuscation when I asked for consultation appointments, for medical records to be sent to my GP. The three months I spent thinking that the whole business was going to be taken care of with one surgery, no chemo, no hysterectomy, the information that had turned out to be a lie. The memory of the 17 hours I spent in the hospital with no food or water before they told me they were going to cut out my uterus. The three cycles of chemotherapy after which I was sent home to recover alone with no medical assistance or oversight, no support. The terror of the day when I tried to walk and my legs gave out, when I woke up at one am screaming in pain from neuropathy because they had only prescribed tylenol for neural damage...

All the months of fear and pain, the nights thrashing in agony, all of which could have been greatly alleviated had I simply been able to reach a doctor on the phone. A year of not having my calls answered. A year of not being able to ask a doctor a question. A year of having to look things up on the internet and make guesses. A year of terror.

I am happy to say that I left before I started screaming like a lunatic. No oncology secretary was harmed that day.

I walked through the hospital, garnering stares, to the train station. At the platform I called my GP and told him what had happened. That they told me I would not be able to see any doctor until September. He was horrified. I said I needed to see someone else, at some other hospital. I needed a referral and I had to get the Gemelli to sent my medical records to him.

He gave me the name of another oncologist at Civitavecchia hospital and with the help of friends, I have an appointment with him tomorrow morning for a follow-up. Other friends, who are used to dealing with the Gemelli, are going to arrange for my medical records to be forwarded.

I will be getting in touch with a lawyer to discuss how to lodge a formal complaint.

As of this evening, Dr. ________'s phone continues to switch directly to voice mail.

So, I thought I would let y'all know what has been going on lately. And why I am putting the paypal button back on the side bar for a while.

I have to see a whole new set of doctors and it is likely that the best way to deal with a lot of this will be to work through the private system. My health coverage has expired and I have got both the money and the correct paperwork to renew it, so that's not a problem. But it expired the day after I was discharged from the hospital after surgery, so I have not been able to get myself to the office in Civitavecchia to file the papers. This means that all the doctors I have seen (except for Dr. G______ the local GP) have had to be paid, and I have shot through 250 Euros in follow-up blood tests.

To deal with other post-operative repercussions, I will have to have a mammogram at a private diagnostic clinic and more scans and blood tests for which, even with full public coverage, there will be user fees. And I'm broke. At least, I'm not so broke that I can't keep the rent and bills up, but the gynecologist is private and I will be having a succession of ultra sounds and consultations which are going to run me into some hundreds of Euros. [So much for my microscope...sigh]

Though I am embarrassed to ask, I would certainly appreciate some help defraying these medical expenses. It seems likely that I will have to be doing a good deal of this in the private system. We are past the point where the treatments will cost in the thousands and tens of thousands, but the hundreds are still more than I can manage easily.

Thanks in advance.


All squared away at Civitavecchia Ospedale San Paolo. Tests and appointments all booked, medical records being sent on. The oncology department is tiny, probably no more than three doctors and as many nurses, one of which answers the phone and books appointments straight away. I brought all the paperwork I had giving the whole medical history.

Dr. M____ is a perfectly nice fellow and speaks about as much English as I speak Italian, so we more or less matched in the middle and managed to communicate pretty well. He read all my stuff over and called one of my Gemelli doctors he knew. Turns out that no one is worried about me medically, they are very confident at Gemelli that the cancer is finito. It seems the pain, and now lump, in my leg is just an inflamed lymph node, which is a normal outcome from this kind of surgery. I'm getting it ultra-sounded, however, just in case there is something else wrong, but no one thinks so.

So, all follow-ups, scans and tests are booked. The nurse actually took me down to radiologica to make sure I got all the pieces of paper stamped by the right people, then wrote my appointment times in her book and gave me a photocopy.

So, there we are. Moving on...