Fellow patients

Because of the hot weather many patients have their doors onto the corridor open. So I hear glimpses of conversation, but don’t get to meet other patients. Most are firmly in bed; just a few, like me, pace the corridors. One of these is the woman in the room opposite, and we have become friendly, though I still don’t know her name.

She is perhaps in her fifties and works as a documentaliste in a research institute for development, so knows a lot about Africa and has travelled there a bit. I don’t think there is an English word for documentaliste. The dictionary says librarian but I would opt rather for information officer, working with and producing reports on documents rather than managing book collections.

Another coincidence: I’m currently reading Suite Francaise by irène Némirovsky and she finished another book by her yesterday.

She too leaves tomorrow, but will be back in a month to have her ovaries out. Her mother had ovarian cancer and there is a chance the current inflammation could go the same way.

Well, I’ve got through the weekend. I hope I will hear tomorrow morning whether I’m going to the Chataigniers or home.


Surviving the weekend

I have developed a routine to get me through the day.

The highlights of course are meals. Breakfast has always been my favourite time of day; here it is a pale imitation of the real thing: ginger tea (thank you Deborah) and two little biscottes or dried toasts with jam and butter. At lunch and supper I fall upon the food partly out of greed and partly as another activity. As hospital food goes it is not bad – better than last year in le Vigan. But sad that all hospitals churn out plastic portions of cheese and little pots of processed deserts. The afternoon is also broke up by the ‘gouter’ at four, in my case more ginger tea and a couple of little biscuits.

Then there are the walks – so much easier now I no longer have to drag a drip around. Before and after each meal I try to walk back and forth, along our corridor and the main one on this floor, at least three times.

After each walk I lie flat on my bed for 30 minutes or so, with my feet raised to encourage my swollen feet to drain.

Then I usually reward myself with an episode of a film. I have tried reading, and indeed finished Travelling to infinity, by Jane Hawking. But it is difficult to concentrate (very hot in my room) and anyhow I can’t download some lighter stuff onto my kindle in the absence of wifi. it is easier to concentrate on listening (thank you Radio Four) and watching. I have re-watched Casablanca, To Have and to Have not, A Late Quartet, The Theory of Everything, and have just downloaded Citizen Kane. Apart from revisiting old classics, all suggestions for future viewing are welcome.

Sounds a cushy life doesn’t it?

Bored – and getting out

The memories of some of the most unpleasant days of my life are fading. They are being replaced by boredom. I suppose this is the final proof that I have recovered from the operation and its nasty side effects.

There is a limit to how long one can sit reading in a not very comfy seat (not helped by the corset digging in my ribs). So I alternate sitting with walking up and down the corridor, and then lying flat on my back with my feet raised, to drain my swollen feet. (A week ago I couldn’t have done that without my lungs filling up and choking. )

Still no news of a vacancy in the Maison de repos so with the approval of the medical staff I have decided to go home on Monday. (If by chance on Monday les Chataigniers say they can take me the next day, I can always revert to the original plan.). I had always thought I would be nearly a month in hospital and/or convalescence. It just so happens that I have spent over three times longer than expected in hospital.

The hysterectomy op itself was followed by remarkably little discomfort; it has been the problems with the digestive system, the cough and now the swollen legs which have made things difficult.

Florence, the intern, has prepared my dossier to be ready for a Monday departure.  This will include all sorts of things like prescriptions for visits by the district nurse and physio. I think I also have the right to some daily help in the house.  Meals are not a problem because Peter, my brother in law, has filled the freezer with tasty treats. And various friends have offered to shop.

So I plan to spend June regaining my strength, but not doing anything daft.   Florence says hang on to the hated corset for a few more weeks and also she is optimistic that in that time the swollen legs will be sorted by a combination of physio, lying with my feet up (alternating with exercise but not standing still), and the body finding alternative routes to replace the lymph glands removed. Let’s hope so – I don’t fancy a long term future in tension stockings!

Two irritating hitches

It appears the Maison de repos is full at present and I may have to spend another weekend here. Can’t wait to get out.

At least the nurse has just removed the drip from my neck. So for the first time in over three weeks I’m not connected to drips and so can wear my own nightie rather than the backless number.

Just as irritating, wordpress, which I use to write my blog, has ceased to function on my iPad (connected – illegally – by wifi to the internet). So now I’m writing on my iPhone which is too small for my big fingers. I may be less garrulous.

update: my internet host has sorted out the WordPress problem. So I can continue to blather.


It is amazing that for over two weeks I ate nothing and had no desire to eat.  I ought to be much thinner but as usual I think it is just my face which has lost weight.

The transition over the weekend was difficult, but now – unfortunately – I have fully recovered my appetite. I ate yesterday’s lunch with gusto and would have done the same in the evening had it not been disgusting.  The main dish was a piece of dried, tasteless veal accompanied by ‘des pâtes’ (pasta). I have never understood the French habit of eating unflavoured pasta with meat.

Desserts and cheese are disappointing and invariably processed, so I rather depend on the main dish.

You can see that I’m getting better because I can moan about the food.

Next stage imminent

Today it is three weeks since my operation.  It looks as if my days at Beau Soleil are now numbered! I have to say this period includes some of the most unpleasant moments of my life, but I do feel I’m emerging from the nightmare.

I’ve just had a visit from Dr Courtieu, Florence the intern and the senior nurse. Dr Courtieu said that although all medication finished yesterday they will keep the drip in my neck for another night as a precaution and take it out tomorrow morning. Hurray!

They will now contact Les Chataigniers, the convalescent home near Le Vigan, to see if they can take me on Friday. Dr Courtieu said I can expect at least another month of problems with all abdominal organs, but hopefully nothing serious. As to the swollen legs and feet, there can be no physiotherapy until my innards have recovered from the op.

It is still not clear what radiotherapy I will have, when and for how long. Dr Courtieu said that because it was such a rare tumour my case has to be referred to a national committee or centre for rare cancers and they will decide on the treatment.  I will meet with the radio therapists here in two-three weeks to hear what is planned.

When the doctors arrived I was listening to the UK news on the Today programme. Dr Courtieu already knows my views on Cameron and on the dangers of the EU referendum . Today he said: Europe can’t lose a country that gave us Monty Python.


Phoning me

Initially I asked for no phone calls, but now I can talk again the ban is lifted (though no morning calls) However several of you have had a frustrating time trying to call me.

My room phone is to the right of the bed, out of reach because my drip tubes are too short. So I have disconnected the room phone.

My mobile has developed an annoying feature: it only rings about one in ten calls. This is not the time or place to do battle with Orange. Or with Apple (the speakers on my iPhone are packing up).   If you leave a message I will call back.

Mobile phone now rings!

I have just solved the problem. Somehow ‘do not disturb’ had switched on in settings, which meant the phone only rang when I was already using it.

Swollen foot

I could hear Florence the intern approach my room; she wears unbelievably high and elegant red heels. She confirmed that I would be having a Doppler scan today before being given physiotherapy for my swollen right foot. When I asked why the right foot and leg are more swollen than the left, she explained that it was linked to the removal of the lymphatic glands in the groin and this had been more difficult on the right side. I cannot get a clear picture as to whether there will be a long term problem.

Similarly I cannot get much information as to why I keep getting these headaches, always on the left side. Very debilitating.

Transition period

Still waiting for my bladder and bowels to recover from their trauma and adjust to their new space. I am in what they call the transition period. Being me it is of course taking longer than normal, but I’m definitely feeling better today, not least because I have no headache.

My only new problem is swollen legs and feet (not something I have had in the past). Tomorrow I will get an echography to check there is no phlebitis. Slightly worryingly the doctor hinted there might just be ongoing problems following the removal of lymphatic glands in the groin.

Proper food

I have been promoted to proper food. Being France you get the full complement of courses: soup (which I passed on), artichokes (sadly tinned), roast beef and new potatoes garnished with parsley, some disgusting pocketed cheese and an equally unappealing pot of vanilla something.  If only hospitals didn’t use so much processed food….  Still, I enjoyed the main course, ate well, and equally important, so far no side effects.