I'm posting this link to a trial for women with early stage breast cancer - i.e. cancer that hasn't spread outside the breast - to be given tykerb (lapatinib). Tykerb is the drug I'm taking at the moment for cancer that has spread, but it's clear from this new trial that they're now looking at seeing whether it can help women who aren't yet in dire straits - which has to be a good move.
I know the link says it is for women in Canada and the US, but in my experience, in this country - England - you have to be very proactive and just hustle to get the newest drugs, and knowing what's available in the rest of the world is half the battle...so that's why I'm passing on the link.
So one of the other things we are very lucky to have in Hendon is Chai Cancer Care, a place where Jews can go for cancer advice, lectures and alternative therapies. I first registered in 2004, which involved proving I was Jewish - slightly offputiing - when I was initially diagnosed, and never managed to get back, because just coping with the disease takes up all your time. But finally, getting some alternative treatments is right at the top of my "to do" list, and so I trotted round to Chai yesterday, having made the phonecalls, the appointments and so on, to arrange not to have the treatments there (because I know I'll end up cancelling when some other thing intrudes) but to see which of their therapists would do a home visit.
I had, therefore, a very specific mission, and one which, moreover I'd been really specific about on the phone several times. What happens when I get there? Well, without wanting to moan too much, because they have very kindly fixed me up both with a reiki practitioner (no, no idea either, but I'll report back) and a physiotherapist, I have to report that I did also have to put up with the usual half-hour of stuff about counselling.
As in, "so, how is your husband/ the children/ family/you?"
Me: "Well, you know, fine thank you - given that the circumstances are what they are, everybody's coping well, it's not the sort of thing you can do much about."
Chai: "You know we offer counselling, anybody can partake."
Me: "yes, thanks, I do know - we're fine thanks."
Chai: "It can be very helpful for the extended family."
Me: "Well, kids, husband, all fine actually. I mean, obviously, it's like living with an axe over your home, but that's not something that anything can be done about, it's not something any counselling is going to help."
Another fifteen minutes of this, and what leaflet does she give me to go away with? The counselling ones.
Anybody who watched Tony Soprano through all six series of The Sopranos, or has watched Woody Allen's life, has got to know by now that counselling is no kind of solution to anything - it's not even transformative - let alone a solution for something which nobody can predict. like how long one will live.
So what is this obsession with counselling cancer patients? Is it the people working in these resource centres who are in desperate need of counselling? Are they projecting outwards (as I believe the correct phrase would be....)
p.s. just had another phonecall from Chai, to confirm the physiotherapist, and the conversation ended with, "do please come in and feel free to talk anything over at all."
New (to us beknighted folk this side of the Atlantic, the ones without easy access to latest drugs) at ten pm tonight - the latest Aaron Sorkin. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. How long have I waited for this to launch on More4? Spending my day working out how many hours I have to stay in bed in order to be able to make it downstairs to the living room to watch television at 10pm....Do I care that the studio's already binned the series? What do they know?
The tykerb - the stuff I can't get in England for love or money - arrives from Israel this evening (complete with drugs company biro which has also just fallen out of the box), courtesy of Anthony's son Max running round a blazing hot Tel Aviv (40 degrees in the shade these days) from pharmacy to lawyer's office, and after various long discussions with Fedex about VAT, and suchlike, and I open the packet to check it's the right stuff, and of course, the label is proudly emblazoned with the words, lapatinib (tykerb) a Glaxo Smith Kline innovation: Made in Ireland. Must get myself a new digital camera - this stuff needs illustrating, not just describing on blogs...
Peter Ostler chuckles and remembers the last time he had to go through hoops and cross borders to get medicine for a patient - "that time it was made in Amersham" he says, pointing to a place about half an hour away from Mount Vernon.
MRSA seemed to be the thing on all the nurses' minds these few days I had in hospital. All of the ones I saw mentioned it in some context or other - usually new rules that had come in at other hospitals. At Bishopswood, where I stayed - the private bit of Mount Vernon - there is disinfectant gel everywhere, and the nurses all put on thin rubber gloves before each procedure as well. But nobody - neither doctors nor nurses - scrubs hands for longer than thirty seconds or so, and I'm sure I've read that it actually takes a good couple of minutes to clean the hands enough to remove the chance of infection.
In one of the papers last week there was a piece saying that when patients ask nurses and doctors to wash their hands before touching them, it results in generally raised standards in that hospital. But, four years into this illness, and it'll take me another four years (I think) to open my mouth and say, "uh, can you wash your hands for the full two minutes please?"