September 28, 2007


I had an appointment with the doc on Tuesday morning but when I got out of bed my left leg was decidely uncooperative, about as supportive as a soggy salami. I limped onto a bus nonetheless and arrived on time at the designated waiting room, bothered and bewildered by this latest contretemps (stop showing off, Natalie: this thing?) Could it be DVT? You do know this stands for deep vein thrombosis? That which  sometimes affects limbs which have been cramped/crammed during long flights? So I worried about it while waiting, way past my appointment time. If you want to get in touch with your inner fears and also wake up your compassion for the whole of frail humanity, all you have to do is spend a few hours in a hospital waiting room, especially an oncology unit. The less said the better about some of the faces you see there.

Finally I was called to my esteemed Mr. Surgeon's room and we had a pleasant chat but not really about the scan results because he was going to have a meeting the next day with his colleagues and they would all look at them together. So why did he want to see me today? Because he thought I wanted to see him, to talk about the operation. So he tells me about the risks, mainly age-related (oldishness) and (as we already knew) include emerging with "lopsided face" which would probably straighten out in three or four months but, occasionally, is permanent. What does "lopsided face" look like, I ask reasonably. He pulls his mouth to one side. Oh, I see; what else? Well, it's a three hour operation and anaesthesia for all that time can be hard on, er, oldishness but of course we would do an EEG beforehand etc. So I'm thinking: what if I said let's forget the whole thing? I ask him: what would you do if you were in my place? He says, that's a very personal question - I would bite the bullet because the risk of possible cancer is greater than the surgery risks. Reasonably, I have to agree with this. Gently he shows me the area around my ear where he would cut, going towards the back so as to avoid a scar down the neck. Are you concerned about aesthetics? he says. Of course, I reply, I'm an artist.

There doesn't seem to be a lot more to chat about but I think I'd better bring up the leg pain. He knows I've just flown to and from New York and instantly suspects DVT. He gets me up on the bench-couch and examines the painful part around the knee and calf and then gets on the phone to a colleague in the x-ray department and asks him, as a special favour, if he can fit me in this afternoon. During the conversation explaining the circumstances, I catch the words "wonderful lady" and I guess he means me. Bit of a boost there. So it's all arranged but I will have to wait in the other building until they can see me. I don't mind, I'm impressed with this efficient response and Mr. Surgeon says that no way will he operate on me Saturday since it could make the leg problem worse. He'll wait for a report of the x-ray and then get in touch with me.

I wobble drunkenly trying to walk without putting pressure on the wonky leg and arrive at the main hospital to sit in another waiting room for about three hours, uncomfortable, bemused, but strangely pleased. Finally, the helpful X-ray chap calls me in and runs the all-seeing thingy up and down my left leg and pronounces it free of blood clots. Not DVT but something is amiss and he will report to Mr. Esteemed Surgeon. I thank him and hobble home to an ice pack around the knee. On Wednesday I get a phone call from Mr.E.S. giving me the following news, which I think you'll agree can be interpreted as good news:

a) The scans were examined and discussed intensively at the multi-disciplinary meeting. No problems were found in the chest CAT scan but the MRI of the face is inconclusive and the consensus is that another Fine Needle Aspiration test should be done in two weeks, to re-analyze the results and then make a decision.

b) The leg x-ray shows swelling but not DVT. Best to wait and see how this goes.

Whew and voila. I am immensely relieved to be free of this Saturday's sword of Damocles. It may be back again in a couple of weeks but for now, a pain in the leg has saved me. I'm sure that all those good thoughts, prayers, offerings, love, music and chocolates coming my way created such intense vibrations that some sparks must have hit my leg, cunningly making it necessary to re-evaluate the whole shebang. Do you think that's far-fetched? Do you believe in miracles? Either way, I'm very very grateful. My wonky leg is somewhat better and I think it's probably just strain from going up and down lots of subway stairs in New York. The New York report is next.


September 24, 2007


Magnetic Resonance Imaging

I brought my own CD since the instruction sheet said I could. What it didn't say was just how loud the magnetic noises would be, reducing Bach to tinny sounds far, far away in the stratosphere. A different coloured liquid was injected in my arm - the bottle is purely imaginary but I can't swear that the ancient Egyptian character was not there, performing an ancient ritual designed to remind me of where I came from and reassuring me that it's not time to go yet.

Why don't they employ some ordinary DIY enthusiasts to solve the noise problem in these state-of-the-art scanners? I'm sure they'd come up with something - wouldn't you, if you lived next door to one of these with no chance of moving elsewhere? Pure technology, like pure magic and pure art, often lacks common sense. Big noise is big problem to most humans and so are confined claustrophobic spaces. You need a touch of the common to deal with human problems.


September 23, 2007



Part Two, the MRI scan, will probably be posted tomorrow and then a report of the American trip.


September 20, 2007


from New York but jet-lagged and sleepy so I'll save the long report for later. This is just to say thank you very much to all you wonderful people, whoever and wherever, who left messages for me here. You are in my heart, truly you are.Tomorrow I go for an MRI and a CAT scan and hope to find the whole experience as hilarious as it is unreal. Keep me in mind and offer up sweet scents, fatted calves, goblets of wine or whatever you think will work magic to make everything be hunky and dory.


September 4, 2007



The results of the latest biopsy, analysed by a pathologist who happens to be, apparently, the best in Europe, are that the lump might be cancerous. But also might not be. The only way they can know for sure which of those two possibilities is correct is to take it out.

Simple, right? Wrong. Not simple. Because taking it out has the risk (as we already knew) of possible damage to facial nerves, a risk increased by the, er, old-ishness of the patient and therefore also slower healing process. But leaving it in carries the risk of the thing being, in fact the Big C. Or if it isn't now, of its becoming so at a later date and then spreading and.....well, you get my drift.

So. I could choose to do nothing. But that would (probably) be daft. So I don't have a choice. The wheels have been set in motion. The week after I get back from New York, I'm booked to have an MRI scan of head and neck and then the operation. Two or three days in hospital, if no complications. I don't even want to say the words:  Hospital Superbugs. There, I didn't say it.

Do I want my face cut up? Do I want a scar around my ear and neck? Do I want risks? No no and no. I am not upset. I don't actually believe any of this. I was listening to the calm, rational, considerate explanations of the two tall, handsome, competent, urbane surgeons who are going to be wielding the scalpels on my innocent little face and it was like being in a movie. The chief surgeon called me Natalie and ran his soft hand around my neck and jaw in such a warm caressing way. Quite sexy actually. And his registrar, the other surgeon who will be assisting him, was talking to me in such a frank, conversational, normal manner. I was wondering when the drinks would be passed round and I wanted to ask if they were bloggers in their spare time. But this is not a movie. It's real life and real life is serious. Isn't it?

Not a pipe


September 3, 2007


Dave of the famed and well-travelled Via Negativa declared September 2nd International Rock Flipping Day and I was all set to post my own flip but somehow yesterday vanished and now it's the next day. Anyway here is my contribution to this excellent interactive project. Go and check out the entries and why not find your own rock to roll over?

I cheated since it was September 1st when I walked up to Parliament Hill, the nearest bit of wildlife in my area, eyes firmly focused on the ground. I was astonished that not a single rock reared its head in such a vast expanse of grass and bushes and trees and the few small stones on footpaths were so deeply embedded that there was no way to pry them loose since I had not thought of bringing any rock-flipping equipment, believing that my foot would be sufficient. I refused to give up without leaving at least one stone turned and finally an unremarkable pinkish-grey object about four inches wide presented itself and allowed me to flip - or, more accurately, kick it - out of its comfortable hole for the necessary photographic evidence. I could not detect any activity underneath but I suppose if I had poked around the hole a bit deeper there might have been the odd worm or ant but by that time I was hungry and the cafés at the top of Swains Lane beckoned.

Flipped rock, Parliament Hill, London

I did take a few shots of gnarled trees and this of a completely hollowed out one.

Hollow tree, Parliament Hill, London