Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The wonders of private medicine in Brisbane

Late last week, I noticed that a rather large lump had developed under my jaw where a cancer used to be. Over the weekend I decided that I needed an expert opinion about it. So on Monday I rang my ENT guy (an eminent surgeon) and was given an appointment for that morning.

He felt that the lump was not cancerous but booked me in for both an MRI scan and a PET scan just to check. I had the MRI that day and the PET scan the day after. 

It is unimaginable how I could have got a more rapid response to my concerns.  And all the parties were private contractors, not government employees, funnily enough.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

No shortages where I shop

I have always been somewhat bemused by news reports of shortages in the shops -- mainly baby formula and toilet rolls.  There has NEVER been a shortage of baby formula at my local Woolworths. I read of Chinese buyers stripping the shelves of it.  There are plenty of Chinese people where I live but the supply of formula must have been enough for them to leave some on the shelves

The toilet roll story is a bit different.  There was period of  a couple of weeks when it regularly and rapidly sold out but for all the rest of the time there was always plenty on sale

Below are a couple  of example pix taken recently

Those "No trees" toilet rolls are a puzzle.  What do they make them out of?  Plastic?

Thursday, July 16, 2020

A farewell and a wake

Nanna was cremated at the Mt Thompson crematorium today.  Anne and I attended together with about 25 other people.  The travel bans meant that none of her grandchildren other than Joe were able to attend.  We had a very good video speech from Paul however.  Nanna's favourite song was played:  The Bluebird of Happiness.  She used to sing it. The whole occasion was relaxed but dignified.

The chapel

After that was the wake at Jenny's place.  The food was good and a nice party resulted.  Jenny and her friends organized it. I went for the sandwiches as usual.

Both Anne and I talked to Jeff a bit and Joe sat with me for a while in his usual silent but companiable way.  It was good to see Timmy and Rachel there.   Rachel is "showing" now. Timmy was looking dapper in his suit. Ken and Maureen also attended, as did Mark and his ladies

At Jenny's request, none of us wore black. I wore a red flannelette shirt and Anne was dressed in shades of beige. She is dressing very well these days.  Kate was very nicely dressed in blue and Joe was dressed in greys

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

More birthday celebrations

I am now 77

Joe came over about 8:30am and we sat talking about politics for a while before he had to return to his work

Then at midday I met Regina at Easts Leagues Club for lunch. The meals were forgettable but Regina was pleasant as usual.

Then at around 7pm Joe and Kate came over, bringing some dinner which we had in the old living room. It was curried sausages so was a combination of two things I like. And there was a fancy chocolate cake to finish.

As we often do, Kate and I talked a fair bit about research

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Egg-rolled pork!

My birthday celebrations got underway tonight.  Jenny came over to my place bringing a big dish of Korean egg-rolled pork -- complete with the usual accompaniments: Japanese ginger and Korean Kim Chee.

So with three strong-tasting dishes I definitely had a good  birthday dinner.  Egg-rolled pork has become a family favourite dish so most people reading this will know what I am talking about. 

Jenny did not stay on after the dinner as she has a lot to do in connection with a certain interment event on Thursday. It was good of her to make me a birthday dinner at a time of great stress and sadness for her.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

When I was in an ICU

The following account of what a stay in intensive care does to you did explain a lot to me.  I was twice in intensive care in the last couple of years after my two operation on my neck to remove cancers

I was in there for little more than a day on both occasions so the  effects of ICU should have been minimal for me but I certainly felt them when I came out of the anaesthetic. I was in a fog.

I have always felt and said that those operations -- particularly the first one -- were a watershed for me.  I was never the same again.  I am much less energetic and vigorous and my once unshatterable self-confidence is now much more shaky.  I feel that I am only the remnant of what I was.  Much of my psychological  strength is gone and I am certainly physically feeble.

At age 76, most of the effects I am talking about could be attributed to simple old age and there is certainly an element of that at work.  But as soon as I got home I was aware that I was enfeebled and noted later that there was not the expected  rapid bounceback to where I previously was.

I still seem to be OK mentally, however. I still find it easy to see the holes in most of the published scientific research that I encounter

I am an ICU doctor, but I have also been an ICU patient following an admission with sepsis. My recovery was longer, and in some ways scarier, than sepsis was. The weakness patients experience after intensive care is profound, and it takes days to be able to stand, then to walk upstairs and then to walk to the shops. But the muscles recover quicker than the brain, and it is in the brain where the longer lasting effects of PICS preside.

The cognitive symptoms are the easiest to recognise. In the weeks after I was discharged from ICU, my thinking was foggy, I could not sustain any attention while reading or watching TV, and tasks such as recollection and simple decision-making were inexplicably tiring. Although the worst of it resolves relatively quickly, it took me several weeks to feel able to solve the sort of problems necessary for me to look after patients again.

But the psychological impact is far more pernicious than just the cognitive effects. Depression and anxiety are common in post-ICU patients. But even without these overt labels, the alterations to one’s perspective can be profound. Optimism decays to pessimism, willpower and aspiration are drained away. Despite being a doctor fully aware of PICS, it was months before I could even recognise this psychological aspect in myself, and it took longer still to overcome it.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

The sofa has arrived

And it fits perfectly into my cosy revived living room.  Anne was over for breakfast at our old Buranda haunt and we had just got back from that when the sofa arrived in a big truck.  One of the truckies carried it upstairs single-handed as it is of a light construction.

My audiovisual facilities were all ready to go so I put on a DVD of "Im weißen Rössl" (White Horse Inn).  It was in German but the English subtitles were very clear. Anne stayed for the full show so did not leave until 12:30.

An excerpt

Friday, June 19, 2020

A new routine

My life has once again settled into a routine -- which I like.  I go to Jenny's place for dinner 4 nights a week, to Joe's for 2 nights week and Anne comes to my place for dinner one night a week

Jenny is as always a talented cook so I get very good dinners from her.

Yesterday Anne and I tried out a new place for dinner in Kangaroo Point that had been recommended to me.  It was a bit of a surprise.  It was just a cafe but had a liquor licence so we were not allowed to drink the champagne I had brought along.  We had three things off the menu and they were all very good, rather surprisingly. We were the only diners there.  The ambiance was non-existent but the cook certainly knew what he was doing

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A new sofa

Jenny and I went to A-mart to buy a sofa for my revived living room. I wanted a two-seater to fit into the space I had.  Two seaters are rather rare but most three-seaters usually seem to have no more that two people on them so I saw no problem with a cosier arrangement.

We found one in a style rather like the "Swedish" fashion of the 70s and I quite liked it.  It was covered in in grey fabric. So I bought it. Most other 2 seat sofas were around $1,000 but mine was marked down to under $500. A 70's style was obviously not popular

Monday, June 15, 2020

Wired up

Ralph the electrician came over to set up a power point and a TV aerial outlet for the new TV.  He also set up the TV and the computer connection so he was here for a few hours. It all now works well

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

A new TV

With Joe's help I bought a new 40" TV from JB HiFi at Oxley.  I don't watch TV but I wanted it as part of my new living room setup.  Up until that point, my living room was in use as a computer museum.  I transferred that down into the garage. I intended the new TV to be used to play DVDs and to watch music videos on YouTube.  I had an old computer that I hooked up to put YouTube onto the TV

Saturday, June 6, 2020

A busy day

The day started out well with Anne joining me for breakfast at our favourite haunt for the first time in many weeks.  The place has just been allowed to re-open.

Then for lunch I met a lady from Chapel Hill (posh) who is a mad-keen bridge player.  We lunched at a very good Turkish restaurant in Brunswick st., Valley.

The conversation between us flowed very easily so I had some hopes of her but she decided we did not have enough in common.  A pity as I quite liked her

Then that afternon I had an excision on my forehead which seemed to go well. Excisions on my face really bug me.

Then that evening Jenny gave me a good dinner

Friday, May 22, 2020

Radiation aftermath

My experience with radiation oncology was not a happy one.

Its practitioners are devoted to it and  can see no fault in it. When my throat was badly burnt by the radiation, they still wanted to carry on with the treatment and damage my throat even more.  Their only solution to the continuing pain was to bomb me out with morphine, which is no solution  at all. The damage is still there and has to be confronted eventually, generally through a couple of months of severe unremitting pain during healing.  The damage to the throat is so severe that some people have to be fed via a naso-gastric tube while healing

As my pain was so great as to disturb my sleep that was crazy - a case of the solution being much worse than the disease.  Getting  a cancer ripped out surgically results in very little pain and only a few days in hospital.  That calculus  was very apparent to me so I abandoned the treatment.  I will get 6 monthly PET scans to detect cancers anywhere in my body and get them removed surgically.

There were other side effects of the treatment too.  You sleep  a lot, lose your taste to some extent and develop scaly patches on your skin.  No fun at all.

It took me all of 7 days to get my throat better so I am pleased to be able to eat with no pain now and into the future.

UPDATE of 25th

I look into the mirror only when I have to brush my hair.  I try not to notice the raddled face staring back at me. 

I did however notice that, in the last days of my radiotherapy treatment, my face on one side was swollen and rather red, a predictable effect of radiation. 

I checked that in the mirror this morning and found that both sides of my face were the same colour and the same shape.  I am now back to normal and no longer have a misshapen face. So the treatment did have a bad effect on my appearance but those effects have now  healed.  Lucky I'm a good healer.  A woman would have been distraught by the effect on her appearance

Friday, May 15, 2020


After my last big cancer surgery, I was recommended to undergo radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells. There was a good chance it was not needed but you never know.

The radiation was primarily to my neck area. You have 20 brief sessions during which you are immobilized with a plastic mask over your face while the machine does its work.  It sounded horrible but the chief of the Radiation Oncology Centre at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Prof. Foote, talked me into trying it.  It is bulk billed so costs me nothing.

I started on it a couple of weeks ago and found that their system was immaculately run.  Queensland Health must have put a lot of money into it as there were heaps of staff: 18 radiation oncology specialist doctors and over 100 technical, allied health and administrative personnel. Result: Almost zero waiting time for patients. Not like Queensland health generally.

I took to the therapy well enough but the big problem is side effects.  You sleep a lot and it gives you a sore throat. The sore throat got agonizing for me on Thursday night after my pizza dinner with Anne and it is still bad.  The radiation has clearly damaged it substantially.  I am a good healer so expect to get over it in a few days but it has put the kybosh on the radiation treatment.  I am withdrawing from it.  I will take my chances with any stray cancer cells.

Jenny made me a very smooth dinner on Friday night consisting of grilled fish plus mashed potato so that was easy to get down but it still hurt a bit.  The hospital gave me a Xylocaine gel to help with swallowing but it did little.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

An amusing episode

When Anne found herself a new bloke, I started to look for a new lady.  I put myself down on a couple of computer dating sites. As a result I have corresponded with about a dozen ladies and met 5 of them.  None went anywhere however. None of them were bright enough for me.

An exception was L**.  I could tell from the way she wrote that she was very bright.  So I definitely wanted to meet her.  But where she lives is about a 2 hour drive from me, and not over the best roads either.  I did however talk her into coming to see me at my house.  But she was rightly cautious and did not want to step into the house of someone  she did not know. She would normally have arranged to meet me in a coffee shop but they are all closed down at the moment

So I organized a cafe on the concrete footpath in front of my house.  I got out a foldup picnic table and two dining chairs and put on the table a full set of tea things, tealeaf strainer and all.  I used my second-best teaset and my green-striped teapot.  And I had Portuguese custard tarts for nibbles.

She arrived in a fully dolled-up state so there we were drinking tea and chatting on the footpath.  It would have been an unusual sight.  What would a fancy lady be doing taking tea on a footpath?  My tenants were agog.

She relented after a while, however and I gave her a tour of the house.  We related to one-another pretty well but she decided that the drive was too long to sustain a relationship. I had to agree.

Friday, April 24, 2020

The end of a new beginning

When in late March I found that I no longer had an exclusive relationship with Anne, it was a big shock to me.  After 13 years together and with both of us in our mid-70s, I had hoped that we were together for good.  But there were things that were important to Anne which I was not giving her so I did not for a moment blame her for looking elsewhere for those things. And getting them has drawn her very close to G., her new bloke.

She told G. from the beginning that I would remain important in her life so he has accepted that, apparently not without some reluctance.  And Anne has remained true to her word. We have continued to have evenings together, though less frequently than before.  And we enjoyed those evenings, just as we always did

I was however rather depressed and upset about the new realities for some time.  I felt alone.  I was not of course alone and both Jenny and Joe were very supportive of me, mainly by having me over for dinners on nights when I was not seeing Anne.

Gradually, however, the new situation between Anne and myself became clear to me.  Despite her engrossing times with G. it was clear that Anne really did want as much as possible of our old relationship to continue.  I give her things that she treasures that G. cannot give her.

So we had a big discussion last Thursday night in which we both agreed that our relationship was permanent, which was what I wanted. Because of her engrossing relationship with G. however, we will dine together only once a week until the lockdown ends.

I am now at peace and in good spirits with the situation between us and expect to remain so.  The transition in my relationship with Anne is complete. Our new arrangements do include me seeking the company of other old ladies if I can find any interesting enough.

Plastic surgery

I had a rather big slice taken out of the skin on my lower left leg by a plastic surgeon.  It did not go well. As soon as I got home it started to bleed.  The surgeon eventualy had to come back to fix it up. 

The surgeon prescribed Augmentin to deal with any resultant infection.  I took it and it did seem to kill any bugs but it made me chuck late that night.  So not a good day.

Thursday, April 9, 2020


Relationships between Anne and myself have been rather "up in the air" recently, largely because of Anne being too embarrassed to tell me much about what has been going on in her life. We have however just had a frank discussion about that so we now both have clarity about one-another's feeings and intentions

It turns out that Anne is in love with G., wants him in her bed every night and looks forward to many years with him.  Marvellous what can happen in your 70s!

In those circumstances, it is surprising that she still has any time for me in her life but she does. She describes our relationship as "precious" to her and that she wants to continue it in a reduced way.  We have agreed that we will continue to spend one night of the week together, and probably more after the shutdown.

So the fact that she continues to have affection for me amid her new life is very pleasing to me.  It would have upset me greatly to lose her altogether after 13 years.  I will however have to find others to give me company on other nights of the week.

Thursday, April 2, 2020


I am rather surprised to find myself still alive in 2020 but I am not quite at death's door.  Yes. I am very feeble but I get by fairly well.  At age 76, I think I now qualify as one of the "frail elderly" but, with care, I can still enjoy my version of a normal life.  I deteriorated quite a lot after my recent major surgeries on my neck. That was a real watershed.

I have taken a number of preautions to cope with my weakened state.  My doctor has signed me up for a disabled driver permit so I don't have to walk far in carparks and I have taken a number of precautions in that big danger area for the elderly, the bathroom.  I now have a waterproof warning gadget that I can take into the shower.  If I fall over I can use it to ring someone to help me up.  I also have  a grab rail above the bath with which I may  be able to save myself if I slip. And I also have a steel armchair by "Evacare" around the toilet to help me up and down.  I am a great believer in precautions.

$59.35 at Bunnings

Because I don't get out much these days, Anne has another bloke with whom she goes on outings.  I met him recently.  He seems a decent bloke.  She wants to keep seeing me but only on Tuesday and Thursday nights during the virus shutdowns. I am very glad of some continuation.  She and I have just had a discussion about it.

And the Coronavirus restrictions  haven't had too big an impact on me -- mainly because I live a pretty reclusive life anyway these days.  I mainly get out to go shopping these days and that is still allowed. And a gathering of two people is still allowed.  So when Anne and Jenny separately come to visit me that qualifies.  In terms of the regulations, they are making a compassionate call on the frail elderly.

The current restrictions do bother me in one way, however.  I have a lifelong habit of dining out, particularly for breakfast in recent years.  Now that dining out is forbidden, that does affect me

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

An erudite dinner

I have just had lunch at "The Sunny Doll" (Japanese) with old friends Henningham and Croucher. For nearly two hours the very lively conversation ranged widely over the Western intellectual tradition -- from Aristotle, though Aquinas to Wittgenstein.  All three of us take an interest in such arcana. 

The depth of our knowledge on each varies but we all knew enough about them to find them interesting and discussable  I did a major in philosophy in my student days so I was at something of an advantage.

There were even discursions into theology, with one of my favorite doctrines -- the Trinity -- coming under critical scrutiny.  I guess it would all be impossibly obscure to many but we enjoyed it

Thursday, March 5, 2020

In the hostable

I have just got out of Brisbane Private hospital after some cancer surgery on my neck.  The surgery at no point put me into pain and the hospital staff were at all times obliging so I should not be too grumpy.  They even gave me some good porridge for breakfast, which I always enjoy

But I still hated it. It was the boredom that got to me.  I was able to get up and walk around but that was the best of the available entertainment.  Otherwise I had to lie in bed and watch TV -- something I almost never do.  Some programs were mildly interesting but the news was the only program I took any real interest in.  I was pleased to hear that Netanyahu had got back in as Prime Minister of Israel

So why was I so bored? I know it sounds pompous but my life is a life of the mind. My life could be taken as extremely uneventful but to me all sorts of things are happening all the time -- in my head. So while in hospital I missed being actively involved with the debate about all the big questions

I did take along a famous book to read -- "Dr Zhivago" by Boris Pasternak. I had read in when it first come out in 1957 but had forgotten the story totally so it should have been new to me. It was but I somehow could not get interested in it for long.  It was a good yarn but I just could not concentrate on it.

The book is about pre-revolutionary Russia (c. 1905) so the political scenes were of interest to me.  I did gather that they were realistic. One passage which told me that revolutionary politics  had not changed much was a description of the conversation of two Leftists of the day. Their remarks were described (on p. 49 of the first edition) as: "So imbued with contempt for everything in the world that they could quite safely have been replaced by a growling noise".  The politics of hate again. Quite reminiscent of current Leftist remarks about Mr Trump.  CNN on Trump is mostly a just a growling noise

I did make one useful discovery in hospital.  The staff always elevate the head of the bed.  That is useful for sitting up in bed and watching TV but I found it no good for sleeping. I didn't get a good sleep until I had the bed completely flat -- as at home