November Heralds Dramatic News

Three months absent from my website signifies some dramatic events in our lives.  That short space of time, though, has ensured that things for husband Olivier and myself are going to be vastly different from how we imagined our retirement life together would be.

There’s a good reason for the adage that moving is as stressful as a divorce, but it was exhilarating, too,  to move finally from Hindmarsh Island back to Belair on September 27.  Olivier would agree that our stylish new retirement home has been a source of great joy to us. We have wallowed in a wonderful sense of achievement, unpacking countless boxes and finding a place for everything we love.  Many hours have been spent pondering on where to hang our art, especially my favourite pieces which have been stored since our marriage almost four years ago! The new kitchen is a dream, the lounge a stylish home theatre with window walls giving the appearance of living among the tall gums. My study is a work in progress and so I write in Olivier’s “bureau’’ with its high angled ceiling, defined with Oregon beams.

However, a sadness surrounds us like a heavy morning mist that descends upon our hilly suburb in Autumn. We cannot get away from it, even as we watch young blokes with wheelbarrows, picks, shovels and myriad other tools shape the remnants of the old garden into a lovely new and different landscape.

Last week, Olivier  returned home from a long stay in Ashford Hospital and together we have struggled with the news that the chemotherapy which seemed to show promise in July has become ineffective.   It happened on the day he was scheduled to have his last chemotherapy treatment and we had planned to stay in a hotel in the evening to celebrate. Instead, he didn’t have the treatment and he was hospitalised. Intense pain heralded this turn-around and instead of strolling along one of Adelaide’s glorious beaches hand in hand as we had planned, I have had to learn how to give my lovely Frenchman morphine injections.  It is amazing how easily I have slipped into the unfamiliar role of carer.

Now it is November, “Movember month’’ the Cancer Council of Australia’s initiative to raise funds for prostate cancer and my son Tyson is growing a black, bushy  moustache to support the cause.  The least I can do is return to the keyboard and tell you how this deadly disease has invaded our lives over  the last three months .

Friday last week, Olivier was discharged from hospital after four days of radiotherapy and we celebrated with afternoon tea at the home of good friends Danny and Helena Kotazek.  They have a strong connection to the situation as their son, Dushan is the head oncologist at Tennyson Centre for cancer treatment, but he is not treating Olivier because he does not treat family or friends.

We sat together and I listened as the old friends spoke in French and we dined on pumpkin soup spiced with ginger and helped ourselves to a plate filled with delicious French pastries from The Red Door bakery down the road in Croydon.

“He is a French patissiere,’’ Helena told us proudly.

It was a delicious event, shared with their daughter Eva, who came to visit Olivier.

Yet,  Monday began with a home visit from “prof’’ the palliative care expert, Professor Ian Maddocks, who had seen Olivier in hospital.   Had we wanted to dwell in the land of denial, he was not the right audience. Instead, he ordered RDNS services to the house to help continue the pain management forged in hospital.  Olivier could not be in kinder hands. Professor Maddocks is the architect of palliative care, pain management for life limiting disease, and has devoted his life to alleviating suffering.

Ten months after husband Olivier was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer – we have  been faced with the reality of planning for his palliative care.

So this is the week Donna, the RDNS nurse begins to call and the week the occupational therapist comes and assesses the home recommending independent living aids for Olivier. This is the week, he has become more disabled on his left side and it is the week he decides to use a walking stick.

“Well, they say I’m a chalkie, so I can’t fall, can I?’’ he says.

It is now four months since we were first told darling Oli was dying and we are so thankful for the medical technology – the chemotherapy – which has scrounged enough time for us to move (on September 27) and settle so comfortably into our new home.

Today we entertain another eminent professor – Ross McClelland, who is the newly-appointed head of prostate cancer research at the Flinders University’s $200 million Cancer education and Training unit,  which will open in 2012. He is married to former Advertiser Newspapers colleague and journalist friend, Jill Pengelley and he pops a bottle of Chandon Brut to toast our new home. However,  in retrospect, we should have also “cracked a coldie’’  for a cure for cancer from the research laboratories of the new facility.

Which brings us to the future.  Like Jimmy Stynes, who is also facing secondary bone cancer, Oli may not win this battle. But on Monday,  Olivier begins the next round. . . another regime of a different chemotherapy to try and stem the cancer once more.  It is not a cure, but, around the corner, with generous donations for research into the cause and treatment of prostate cancer, there will be a cure.

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