Saturday, October 27, 2007

Still cancer free after all these years!

As my loyal readers may remember I went in for my second annual PET Scan on October 2nd.

Here in France the results take about 10 days and they send them directly to the doctor who prescribed the scan. Therefore the results should have been sent to my ENT (ORL in French) specialist around October 14th. I therefore start getting nervous around October 16th.

The way things work in the doctors' minds is radically different than how it works in us cancer patients' minds. In the doctor's mind he will call the patient if the results show a problem which needs immediate treatment or verifying as something needs to be done. However if the results show everything's clear well... then... there's no need calling the patient right? On the other side the cancer patient, me, is sitting here nervously waiting confirmation and reassurance that the cancer has not come back somewhere else in my body. The doctor has no idea how important that tiny bit of reassurance is. He has no idea that, as a survivor, I live with the constant, not quite omnipresent but regular, abject fear that the cancer is going to come back. It was such a surprise in the first place that I am constantly suspicious that it will come back and I will not know about it. Probably the most debilitating handicap cancer survivors have to live with is psychological and emotional: we live with the eternal fear that it may come back.

After quite a few days of waiting and getting more and more anxious I finally called his office two days ago (25/10) and left a message asking if he had received the results. He has a new assistant so I had to explain what a PET scan was, that it involved cancer, and how important it was that I get a reply. I then called again yesterday (26/10) and left a message. I hoped that my annoying persistence would get through to the receptionist that this was important to me. I sent an e-mail to my (wonderful) general practitioner last night.

At 20:30 last night my ENT called me and faintly apologised with the standard explanation that if there was any problem he would have called me immediately. He told me all of the results were negative. Just like last year I had that momentary heart skip of negative... that's not positive... that's not good. Then I asked for confirmation and he reassured me that they found nothing and everything is fine. He offered to fax me the results. I explained I don't need to see the medical information, this time, I simply needed those simple words: "there is no cancer anywhere in your body at this time".

TOUT va bien. I can relax a bit with the reassurance that my body is cancer free and I can make some plans longer than a couple of weeks ahead with the notion that I will not be stopping everything to start long and obligatory cancer treatments again any time real soon.

WHEW!

Life is good.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kiva


Kiva - loans that change lives


KIVA

THIS is what the Internet should be about: one-to-one assistance.

Kiva is microfinancing and microloaning. An entrepreneur or tiny business in need of money, generally in an underdeveloped country, requests a loan. We lenders each loan a portion of that amount directly. Once the necessary amount is raised the loan is sent to the recipient who uses it to develop their business or activity and they pay it back in installments to Kiva. Kiva then distributes the money back to the lenders.

Absolutely everyone wins in this situation: tiny businesses and individuals who would generally not be able to obtain this sort of loan from a "normal" financial institution get the money they need and they pay back in reasonable installments; lenders participate in helping individuals and businesses around the world AND lenders get their money back over time; Kiva, who do not take a cut or a percentage on the actual loan, receive donations from the lenders throughout the process.

Microloans and microfinancing: A win-win way of doing business and feeling good about business at the same time.

Big banks beware!

MY LENDER'S PAGE

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cancer Vixen



I was watching LCI this morning while having breakfast and they were interviewing Marisa Acocella Marchetto for her book Cancer Vixen which was translated to "Cancer in the City" as I'm sure the French had difficulty with the word vixen. The story behind the book and the author herself was quite interesting and I went Googling through the Net to find out more. A successful New York fashion victim cartoon artist, about to get married for the first time at the age of 43, is diagnosed with breast cancer. Her outtake and outlook on the entire experience is excellent and I can relate.

I ordered the book immediately from Amazon. But I was amazed to find what I believe to be a large part of the book, if not all of the book itself, published on the web on the The First Post site. I'm not sure why but one can read a large portion of the book directly on the site with all of the artwork and such. For whatever reason I appreciate it and it's wonderful!

I highly recommend what I've read so far to just about anyone. I particularly appreciate the comments on her web site where she mentions her next book which is, as she says "thankfully", NOT about cancer. We all move on...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sell A Band



I found this one while listening to one of my regular podcasts of Digital Planet: What a brilliant idea! Yet another excellent use of the Internet and microfunding. Musicians and performers (Artists) present their stuff on the site (songs and sometimes videos) in the hope of earning $50,000 to go in to the studio and record. Once they're reached the magic amount they are provided with an A&R person and a producer and a recording studio and they make their CD. Afterwards the CD is sold online, 3 songs are available for free downloads and the rest of the individual songs are also sold as downloadable files. The profits for the sales of the CDs and the sales of the song downloads are split amongst the Artists, SellABand and the Believers.

Believers (you and I) purchase "parts" of the $50,000 fund for an artists at a rate of $10 per part (therefore 5,000 parts). In return the believer will receive a limited edition copy of the CD, a portion of the sales profits based on their number of parts and, most importantly, participates in the development, marketing and discovery of new artists. In most cases the Artists actually send some form of existing CD or demo CD to their believers as soon as they buy some parts so the believer doesn't have to wait until the Artist reaches the magic amount.

Sell A Band provides all sorts of tools for promoting the artists on believers' web sites, e-mails and such.

I became a believer right away and you can find my believer's page. After spending some time listening to various artists on the site, which I must say was both a lot of fun and quite enlightening, I became a believer of the group Equation which I quite enjoy. I then went to their web site and downloaded lots of their live music as MP3 files. I uploaded those music files on to our home music server and have been listening to them over and over again for quite some time know. Hypnotic. They then sent me a demo CD with a few live tracks and even a few videos of their live performances which I have also uploaded on to our server so we can watch them on the living room television and on the other computers in the house. I have become a big fan.

I must say it's a wonderful and unique opportunity to be able to communicate directly with the musicians themselves about their music, their performances, their goals, their message, their dreams and to feel like an active part in the experience. In some ways it's similar to the Salon des Vignerons Ind├ępendants, which we attend regularly and loyally, where one gets to communicate directly with the winemaker bypassing all of the various levels of the distribution process.

There are some wondefully positive things the Internet can provide to the world and this is one of them!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Second Viddler video


This is my second Viddler video and certainly last for the day. I really should be working...

This one was recorded through my MacBook Pro just for testing and playing around with a bit of tech.

Does anyone know what the verb is for video blogging? Vlogging? Vidogging? V-Blogging?

Viddler

I found the Viddler site through my following iJustine in my regular visits through Twitter. I actually visit both Twitter and Facebook several times throughout the day as well as updating them both through the web or through my phone.

Viddler looks like fun and it was incredibly easy to start using. Below is my first Viddler video and I'm going to now try and record another one from my Mac to test out how it works on another platform.

Do I really have time for this? No way. Is it fun? Definitely. Should I be doing this right now? That's debatable. But technological exploration is my life!

Does this have anything whatsoever to do with Cancer? No.

Is there more to life than Cancer? Damn straight!

Viddler


My first Viddler video. We'll see if, and how, this thing works....

Monday, October 08, 2007

Scarface - 2 years later


I had scheduled myself to do this on September 26th, 2006... but I had computer problems and then network problems and then my webcam broke and ...

This shot is to show off my scar 2 years after the surgery. The goal is to show the evolution of the scar which is especially of interest to others who may, unfortunately, have to go through the same type of procedure.

This photo shows my scar on my neck as of today (October 8th, 2006).


This photo, on the right, shows my scar from 2 years ago just after taking the bandages off. It comes from my blog entry of September 26th, 2005. Quite a few things have changed since that photo not least of which is that I have aged 2 years; I have changed webcams which shows a noticeable difference in quality (I now have a Logitech QuickCam Ultra Vision which I am quite pleased with); I have changed spectacles which is not quite as noticeable although the news ones have progressive lens thanks to a combination of age and (mostly) the effects of high neck radiation thereapy on the back of the eyes... add to all of this the fact that I need a haircut and a shave and you can still analyse the difference between the 2 photos and the 2 periods.

I am quite pleased to see that the scar has significantly faded since the beginning and the colouring has changed from a rather noticeable brownish red to a hopefully more subtle redish brown. It's certainly still noticeable but I feel it is a lot less "in your face". The other difference I notice, both visually and physically, is that the scar has receded in to my throat/neck over time and it pulls on the skin surrounding the scar as I move. This causes a sort of pull every now and then, and extremely rarely a slight spasm of pain, but it rarely bothers me and throat pain has become quite relative to me in the past 2 years.

It's interesting to follow the evolution of the scar as this is certainly the most noticeable aspect of my cancer. I like to think that if the scar wasn't up on my throat and ears that most people would not even know that there was anything different about me in comparison to most people... disregarding my other personal excenticitries and unique quirks of fashion and expression.

;-)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My Second Annual PET Scan


Having scheduled it several weeks ago I knew that today was going to be my second annual PET scan. I can still remember my first PET Scan quite well.

I woke up late as I knew I wasn't going to be able in the morning. But I made this appointment much earlier than the previous one (09:45 this time) so that I could basically get up, shower and go.

I plugged the address in Sarcelles in to my GPS and headed off. Last year I left myself an hour to get there and it only took 20 minutes. This year I left myself a half an hour and there was, of course, an accident on the autoroute and then road construction on the side streets. I arrived about 15 minutes late having been stuck for about 10 minutes only 400 metres away from the centre.

The rest was now ordinary: a bit of paperwork, a 5-minute visit with a doctor who this time only asked if anything had changed since last time, sit in the waiting room for about a half an hour and then off for the procedure. As I walked in to the examining room I realised how much I do not miss these medical centres which I now only have to go to rarely in comparison to going daily just a couple of years ago. The nurse was very kind to remind me to go to the toilet beforehand, which made me feel like a 6-year old boy, as I would be lying down for over an hour and a half without moving. She then took some blood from my finger and put in the intravenous distributor in my elbow.

I was then put in a bed to lie down. The nurse comes back in, this time with a lead protection jacket on, and injects the "product" in to me while saying "this won't hurt or feel hot" and such niceties and I'm saying to myself "If this is so inocuous why are you wearing a lead protection jacket and I'm half naked being shot up with whatever it is you're being protected from?". I'm then told to remain horizontal for at least an hour. Things started going a bit downhill for the centre from this point forward. For me it was easy as I basically drifted off in to sleep as I had only slept about 4 or 5 hours the night before. But I could still hear the discussions around me. One woman was just plain being difficult and then started crying about how no one cares about her and on and on. I could relate but didn't really want to hear about it when we were all trying to relax and prepare for our turn. Then it turns out that they were having problems with the scanner itself. They stopped injecting new patients. But those of us who had already been injected were going to have to wait. Each scan normally takes about 20 minutes but they were now taking about an hour. I lay there just waiting.

Finally it was my turn. Off with the watch, eyeglasses, trousers and earring. I was then placed in the, now all to familiar, scan tunnel and had my arms put in to position (above my head) and my neck and hip placed. I was then told to not move during the procedure which "should normally" last 20 minutes. I asked "normally?" and the nurse explained they were having issues with the equipment this morning and that it may take longer. Laying in one position without moving at all for over 20 minutes is not fun. As I was slowly rolled out from the tunnel I was told I was one of the lucky ones as my scan "only" took 30 minutes. I thought to myself: "you should lie down in there without moving for 'only' 30 minutes and see how 'lucky' you feel!"

For an exam that was supposed to cut out about 3 or 4 hours of my day I didn't get out of there until well past 3 and headed home to eat and drink a bit.

Now comes the hard part... they send the results to my doctor in about 10 days and I spend the interim period waiting, waiting and waiting...