And now I am healthy too

What are the odds?

The last couple of days my throat has been immensely sore.  But only on one side.  So sore that I seriously started considering spitting instead of swallowing….  See – rie – aaas.

So I made an appointment with our GP for today.  Off we went – the children adore anything that resembles medical attention so they always go with.  To find out that there is nothing obviously wrong on the sore side of my throat (that isn’t sore anymore today – how does this work???) but that I have an ulcer of some kind on the other side.  I guess that I had one on the sore side that cleared up.  I really hope this (new?) one doesn’t become more painful.

On the plus side, Boeta’s chest received the all clear.  He still has a nasty cough but his lungs are fine.  I am so relieved.

And Carien’s ears are absolutely perfectly clear.  Not a trace of infection.  I wish I could show you our GP’s face when

1.  I told her that Dr Pentz said Carien’s ears were OK and

2.  When she saw for herself that it was.

Moral of the story?  Next time we will do Orelox and Prelone from the start. 

Just for the record and for in case Adriaan Pentz ever reads this:

I like him.  He seems to be a very competent doctor.  After all, Gerrit sent us to him and if Gerrit thinks he is OK he has to be fabulous.  And I have no doubt that Carien’s ears were in fact a lot better that day.  But he shouldn’t have been so infuriatingly calm and reasonable.  I don’t appreciate calm and reasonable.  It is just not acceptable*. 


*It is like when you are all revved up for a fight and your significant other remains calm and, dare I say it, reasonable.  It sucks.


We are back to -itis

For the past 2 months at least one of us has been sick.  We have been taking turns in no particular order.  Until now Boeta handled it all well and at his worst had a runny nose.  Carien finished her second course of antibiotics (for ear infection) during the weekend and on Monday I made an appointment with our GP for Tuesday, just to have her make sure that Carien’s ears are completely clear this time.

Monday night Carien had a fever of 39C.  On Tuesday morning Boeta was listless and had a fever of 38.5C.  So instead of “yes, her ears are clear, have a good day” the children were both miserable. 

As I expected, Carien has ear infection again.  Or still, depending on how you look at it.  Her tonsils aren’t happy either, but not too badly so.  So she is now on her 3rd course of antibiotics in the last month.  Yes, month.  Added to that is a bit of Iliadin nasal spray and a lot of steroids.  We are seeing the ENT (ear, nose, throat doctor) tomorrow and will then get a date to get grommets for her.  I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in a very long time (she tends to spread her misery around) and right now I will have her toe nails extracted if that will cure her ears.  I am quite desperate.

Boeta on the other hand….

The GP listened to his lungs.  Then listened some more.  And some more.  And declared that he either had very bad bronchitis or more likely, pneumonia.  So she got on the phone with Gerrit and he said what I thought he would:  first x-rays (to see if it is pneumonia) and then immediately to his rooms.  So off we went.  Between leaving at the GP’s and driving to hospital I gave Boeta medicine for his fever.  By the time we got to Gerrit (a loooooong time later – X-rays take time) Boeta went from being totally lethargic and unwilling to walk to being his normal self.  Gerrit just shook his head – between him and the GP they thought Boeta will have to be admitted.

In the end, it is indeed pneumonia.  Fortunately in the early stages.  And Gerrit is a wonderful, wonderful person.  He thinks we spent enough time in hospital already and therefore we are home.  I am keeping a beady eye on Boeta and should he get worse I will take him back.  He is on some hardcore antibiotics that tastes really vile.  R e a l l y  vile.  Let’s hope it works.

I am on the verge of a breakdown.  Carien is a diva at best of times.  When she is sick (like she’s been the last month) she is just plain impossible.  She is screaming and crying at everything and everyone.  Boeta doesn’t help.  He teases her constantly and further gets on her already fragile nerves.  And on mine.

Boeta is running around like there is nothing wrong with him.  Of course this causes him to cough his pretty little lungs up but it still doesn’t make him take it slowly.  I don’t understand this child.

So please think of me tomorrow and in the days to come.  I am climbing the walls by late morning.  By lunch I need tranquilisers.  By evening I look at my children and marvel at my self-restraint for not having harmed them in the preceding hours.  It is that kind of week.

Words of wisdom

To quote Ronald McDonald, “I’m loving it”.

Will tell you all about it once my brain stopped fizzing and the children stopped clinging.  They’re not used to their mom not being around the whole day long.

Brain freeze

Since forever I knew that I was smartish.  I wasn’t the fastest runner or the most talented musician or the most graceful swimmer or the most likable.  But I was smart.  Added to a pathological shyness (yes, me) we moved around a lot as my dad got transferred from town to city to suburb to town and back.  Nothing makes a shy child more shy than joining a new school every second year…  Back then I still tried so hard to fit in.  The first 29 years of my life I desperately tried.  And then I turned 30 and decided that I like me and if you don’t it is your problem.  It was my best birthday ever.

Either way.  While the other kids shone at the aforementioned activities, I did well at school.  Not straight A well though.  That would’ve been wayyyyy too much work…

So after school I went to university and started my career as professional student.  I did a BSc (Bachelors of Science) with Biochemistry and Genetics as majors.  Then I got a bursary to do my Honours in Biochemistry.  Then I couldn’t find work but was offered a bursary to do a Masters of Science (MSc)  in Plantbiotechnology.  After that I found a job 😉 and worked for the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Cape Town in scientific positions for the rest of my short career until I resigned to become a oncomom.

Since then (December 2008) I haven’t used my “professional brain” at all.  The parenting one, yes.  But not the logical*, scientific one.

While studying and working I went to lots of workshops, conferences, training sessions and so on.  The typical topic of a presentation would be “Analysis of sucrose accumulation in the sugar cane culm on the basis of in vitro kinetic data” or “Human papillomavirus prevalence, viral load and pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix in women initiating highly active antiretroviral therapy in South Africa: a cross-sectional study”.  These scientists would spend years working on their projects and then have 20 minutes to tell you all about it.  And they were my colleagues.  My bosses.  My friends.  I wasn’t the smartest among them by a long shot.  A monstrously long shot, to be precise.  But I had more people skills than a lot of them so it evened out in the end.  I liked it.

Then I left my academic comfort zone.  And I haven’t even read a scientific paper since. 

Tomorrow I am starting a 4 day cancer workshop.  It is going to be intellectual.  There will be participants from all over the world and they will all be specialist in the oncology field.  And then there will be me.

I am going because Cristina (our oncologist) invited me.  She organises it.  So apparently she thinks I will understand something.  I am scared that I won’t.  My scientific brain is so out of practice.  I feel slow.  I feel dumb.  I suspect that the person sitting next to me will return from lunch wearing an “I’m with stupid—>” T-shirt.  I suspect I will have earned the distinction. 

So here I am, a veteran of the academic world, all nervy because I am attending a workshop.  But do not fear, dear reader.  I do not plan on letting either one of us down.  I plan on dazzling my fellow-attendees with my personality while peeking at their notes.  They will be amazed at how great minds (mine and theirs) think alike.  It works for me!

*Wouter.  Don’t say it.  Just don’t.

Tonsilitis, otitis, sinusitis, everythingitis

Today the kids and I paid our GP a visit.  I believe in letting a cold run its course but after a week I reckon it is time to help it along.

In summary:

I have otitis (ear infection), sinusitis, throatitis and coughitis.

Wouter is pretty much as I am, so I guess he has the same.

Carien has serious bilateral otitis (both ears are badly infected – bear in mind that she finished antibiotics for the same a week ago), severe everything-above-the-neckitis and to top it off, her chest made the GP roll her eyes.  She didn’t even comment on it.  To keep with the theme for this post, a dodge chest will henceforth be known as chestitis.

And then we get to Boeta.  Boeta has a runny nose.

I am on a 5 day course of hyper-strength antibiotics, cortizone, stuff to stop the coughing, stuff to stop the throat from clogging up and a couple more.

Carien is on a 10 day course of antibiotics (since the previous stuff didn’t work we are really getting out the big guns now), some megamix of stuff that the GP mixed up and a lot of love.

Boeta is on Rinex.  Because he likes taking medicine when everyone else does.

So here we are.  Our “sick” chid turns out to be the healthiest of us all.  Wouter tentatively advanced the theory that Boeta’s immune system is compensating for all the months that it was inactive and he was neutropenic.  I can live with that.

Ethan has tonsilitis and general upper respiritory infection.  But mostly tonsilitis.

When does it stop?

So now Ethan has a fever.  Deirdre, who has been my pillar of strength when Boeta had fever (and incidentally told me not to worry – we’ll talk about that later, Sister), phoned me in a flat panic this afternoon.  Ethan had a fever.  Then it cleared.  And today the school phoned her because he hit 39.5 C.  Niiiice.

From what I gather she took hom to a doctor and he has an upper respiratory infection.  In other words, normal everyday fever.  The type that normal parents notice, treat with Panado and only worry about when it continues for a couple of days.  The type of fever that my children had many times before 24 December 2008.  But until then fever was something that they got and got over.  It wasn’t something to fear.  To go completely hysterical about.  It wasn’t something to make you break out in cold sweat and relive the day that you heard that your child had more than a fever.  It wasn’t the end of the world.

When Boeta had fever last week (the week before?) Deirdre was the first to tell me to relax.  To look at the other signs and symptoms.  Is he eating well?  Has he been loosing weight?  And since Cristina examined him the day before, do I really feel that I have reason to be worried?  Today it was my turn to tell her the same.  It is what we onco-parents do for each other.  We need to debrief after every bump in the road.  Did you child vomit today?  Relax, it is just a stomach bug.  Did he sleep more than usual?  He probably just played more than usual.  Does he have lots of bruises?  Yes, but he plays like a hooligan – what do you expect? 

We try to keep each other calm.  Sometimes it works better than other times.  For fever, nothing works.  Fever is the sign of tumours.  Fever is one of the sure signs that your child is headed for a long hospital stay.  Because fever indicates infection.  And in a child receiving chemotherapy any infection is life theatening.  Fever is the Enemy.

And here we are.  Once again one of our children had fever.  Once again the parents involved knew deep down that everything was OK – after all, all the other members of the family had fever in the last few days so obviously it is something contagious.  And once again those parents freaked out.  And all around them their friends and family were telling them not to worry.  It was going to be OK.  Once again they wanted to scream at their family and friends to shut the f… up.  Because once you become an oncology parent you don’t count the opinions of outsiders anymore.  If you aren’t in the oncology world we don’t want to hear your opinion.  Even if you are right.  Even if I told you what to say if I freaked out again, I don’t want to hear it.  Leave me alone and find me another onco-parent.  To another onco-parent I can open my soul.  I don’t have to explain.  I don’t have to be brave.  Onco-parents know.  I can simply look at another onco-parent and both of us will know

We don’t hear about fever.  We feel it.  When Deirdre phoned to say that Ethan had fever I felt it.  And until he hits 24 hours without fever (the magic mark after which you can be discharged) I will continue feeling it.  It is a constant gnawing in me.  I know that he is OK.  My brain knows.  But my body goes to battle stations.

When will it stop? 

Will it ever stop?

Excuse me?

I am hearing deaf.  After both Woutertjie and Carien had ear infection in the last two weeks it seems it is now my turn.  Oh my word it hurts.  Fortunately the pain can be managed with copious amounts of medication.  But what irritates me no end is that I can’t hear. 

Tonight I asked someone if I could phone her back in a few days’ time when I could hear what she says. 

This is torture.