Monday, April 22, 2019

April's Cruel Side

Around this time in April, in several past years, I've posted listing some of the best known dark deeds coincidentally all happening in mid-April. My 2013 post went like this:
It never ends does it? Man's inhumanity to man. The dreadful events, deaths and horrible injuries in Boston yesterday are the latest addition to a blood-soaked list of tragedies here in the USA, and let us not forget, in countries abroad - some at our own hands.

I've written before about the darkness of this month in recent US history: 19 April 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing when 168 people, including children, died at the hands of home-grown terrorists; then the shootings at Columbine High School, Colorado on 20 April 1999; and April 16 2007 was the date of the Virginia Tech. massacre when 32 people were killed by a gunman, fellow student of those he murdered.

There's no rational explanation for this growing cluster of horror in what ought to be a happy and optimistic time of year, long winter behind us, trees greening - but .......

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
(From Longfellow's Christmas Bells)

In 2010 I wrote the post accessible at

These and others can also be accessed via the label cloud in the sidebar, by clicking on "April Events".

In 2019 April is keeping up its cruel reputation: Notre Dame on fire; attacks in Sri Lanka with at least 290 people losing their lives.

On a very personal level (and these pale into insignificance on a world wide scale):
On 23rd April 1992 my father died.
On 21 April 1996 I and my late partner lost everything we owned, except the few clothes we were wearing, my purse and our car, in a fire which consumed the apartment in which we'd lived for 24 years.

This year I found that the lumpectomy carried out a year ago wasn't sufficient, so I underwent full mastectomy left breast. That still wasn't sufficient, so a few days ago I underwent re-excision mastectomy and learned that the right breast ought also to be removed in the near future. As I said, insignificant in the great scheme of things, but a bit wearying for yours truly, again, in a month that promises renewal and all things bright and beautiful.

Let us hope, very sincerely, that future Aprils will not continue in this pattern!

Postscript - The post's title uses a thought from T.S. Eliot's poem The Wasteland.

Friday, April 19, 2019


Here in the USA, Christmas still seems like Christmas did in the UK (and then some!) Easter doesn't feel the same as it did in the UK.

In England, especially during my quarter century in the civil service, we'd look forward to a welcome Easter break when our office ran on skeleton staff from mid-day on Maundy Thursday to Good Friday around 4pm - then office closed until the Tuesday after Easter Monday - even on Tuesday we'd have a quiet day, because in Leeds most solicitors' offices were traditionally closed on Easter Tuesday. So, not much going on for us in an office connected to legal matters: employment tribunals.

In my younger days, Easter at home meant lots of hot cross buns and simnel cake. My Dad baked both for his small bakery and shop; people formed a line outside to get some of 'em! Dad baked wonderful stuff - a truly talented perfectionist in the bakery he was, bless him.

In the USA, at least in Oklahoma, Easter Monday doesn't seem to exist; Good Friday isn't much different from most other Fridays, apart from extra church services being held. Hot cross buns and simnel cake are not easy to find. I don't like American chocolate, so my old annual treat of a yummy Easter egg has disappeared. But still - it is Easter weekend so...

Wishing y'all, whatever kind of holiday you keep:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

More Medical Updating

Yesterday, Tuesday 16 April, we had to be at the hospital at 6.30 am to prepare for me to undergo a procedure/surgery : left breast re-excision mastectomy. "Oh, good," thought I on hearing the arrival time, "I bet I'll be the opening act." I was.

Surgery was needed to remove two very tiny (microscopic) spots of potentially cancerous tissue close to the skin, a little way apart, just outside the line of the original incision, only perceptible via microscope. These were discovered during pathology of tissue removed on 2 April during my original mastectomy.

Preparing for the surgery (any surgery at our local hospital, and maybe in all hospitals these days) includes taking three showers using Hibiclens - antiseptic skin cleanser - in a prescribed manner: twice on day before surgery - morning and evening; once on morning of surgery. Freshly laundered towels, washcloths and clothing after each shower. That last shower was fun, timed just before 4 am. I was not playing with a full deck after a mainly sleepless few hours on the recliner, wrangling a dangling drain bottle which kept making a nuisance of itself in the shower! "Using Hibiclens will greatly reduce your risk of developing a staph infection" says the instruction sheet.

No food after midnight, before surgery. That is a direction that doesn't bother me one bit, but it must bother some folks, according to stern warnings on the instruction sheets the hospital provides.

I knew nothing. I was wheeled into the operating theatre, and once shuffled onto the operating table, a nurse applied a mask to my nose and mouth, in preparation for what I think is called intubation, then out I went.

Now...I'm still not 100% sure what was what, but the surgeon had explained that he would need to do a bit of re-aligning of the original incision, from a straight line to a more wavy or angled one, necessitating the move a bit of fleshy tissue from one place to another in order to "pull it all together". I'm still vague about the detail. Later, my husband and other visitors were told by the surgeon that the procedure had "gone well". We were home, amazingly, just after 11.30am. The procedure will probably leave me with a "tight" feeling for a while, but it'll gradually go away with ordinary use of left arm.

Going forward (as they are wont to say in business circles) there will be a few weeks' healing time, with follow-up appointments at surgeon's office, first of which will be on the first of May.

Mastectomy of my right boob is TBA (to be arranged). I'd like to have a few weeks of breathing space, to enjoy what's left of late spring, before summer comes a ragin' in once more, with triple digit temperatures. When it's 103 degrees outside, maybe I'll be glad of the ultra-cold temperatures inside the hospital. Yesterday morn I had 3 warmed blankets atop me and was still shivery cold - 50% temperature 50% nerves, I guess.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Unpleasant Update

I received unpleasant news at my appointment at the surgeon's office on Wednesday afternoon. Pathology shows that there is a little more tissue that needs to be removed where indication of cancerous cells has arisen on the margin of the tissue removed during mastectomy last week. Margins should always be clear. Surgeon will do what he calls re-excision to extract a small amount more tissue and adjust the incision, hopefully then drawing all together. Tricky but doable, he says. Alternative would be to look into possibility of radiation but he'd have to consult others on that. I opted for re-excision.

It'll be an outpatient procedure, on Tuesday, no overnight stay this time.

Here we go again! The incision and drain are still in process of healing from last Tuesday.

More unpleasant news. Surgeon advises having right breast removed, as and when I feel up to it, so that we don't have all these same issues again, a year or so down the line. It isn't a certainty this would happen but it's a clear possibility. I feel this is sensible, and as soon as left-side work is all healed, I shall do as advised. As far as they know, from my mammograms, and breast MRI a few weeks ago, there is no cancer in the right breast at present, so it isn't madly urgent that it be removed, but asap will be preferable, because a few weeks ago these extra cancer cells were not visible on the left side. It'll be for peace of mind as much as anything - and I'll be better balanced when all's done!

(Astrological thought) - I wondered what Pluto and Saturn retrograding over old ground had in store for me - now I know! A few more months of medical hassles still to go!

Tuesday, April 09, 2019


“Mother used to say escape is never further than the nearest book.”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
During my early to mid-teenage years I loved to read novels, or see films, about prisoners of war in Germany or Japan during World War II, and their attempts to escape. A book by Paul Brickhill, Boldness Be My Friend began my fandom of such stories, I think. I'd scour the library for similar tales, and found several.

I've wondered why I had this penchant for prisoner of war escape stories. My conclusion has been that, back in my teen years, I was feeling "imprisoned" by school and home strictures and wanted to escape myself. Or...perhaps I just enjoyed reading about the way human nature adapts, sometimes never gives up - no matter what.

Over the years I've loved, read/seen (more than once) versions of A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute; The Great Escape; Stalag whatever; The Naked Island (that was a grizzly one if I recall correctly); Papillon (1973 version) and others whose titles I now don't recall.

At the weekend I noticed that Turner Movie Channel was showing "King Rat" on Saturday afternoon.
King Rat is a 1965 World War II film directed by Bryan Forbes, starring George Segal and James Fox. They play Corporal King and Marlowe, respectively, two World War II prisoners of war in a squalid camp near Singapore. Among the supporting cast are John Mills and Tom Courtenay. The film was adapted from James Clavell's novel King Rat (1962), which in turn is partly based on Clavell's experiences as a POW at Changi Prison during the Second World War.

We decided to give the movie a whirl. It's an excellent, excellent film - should be much better known! There's a lot more to it than a straightforward POW movie. Escaping isn't an issue in this tale; escape would be virtually impossible due to the geographical situation of the Changi prison camp. The film examines the varied attitudes of individuals to the camp's horrendous circumstances; different psychological ways of dealing with what has to be dealt with. Acting is first class throughout, and many familiar faces (especially familiar to British viewers) pop up frequently.

James Clavell's book is now on my "to read" list - once I get through Winston Graham's 12 Poldark novels of which I'm currently in the midst. 1945 Changi, Singapore will offer quite a culture shock after so many tales of 18th century Cornwall, England!

Monday, April 08, 2019

Music Monday

I guess this should be my theme song for the next week or two:

While looking for something else, I came across this lovely song by John Denver, it's one of his I hadn't heard before. We still miss the wisdom of John Denver.