Scammy ploys

Beware of free events – you always pay!

Last week, a free event advertised on Instagram penetrated my early morning fog. It was about how to become a mega speaker/coach/author and make money. I won’t lie—it intrigued the hell out of me. No details were given as to where the event was going to be held, except for… in Johannesburg.  I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw, after signing up, that it was at Gallagher Estate. Not so far away.

I enticed my daughter to sign up too. We discussed the event, fully aware that it would involve a lot of bullshitty selling pitches but we’d learn as much as we could. We both don’t have issues with public speaking but it’s the how to get out there that stumps us.

I envisage giving talks about my experience with melanoma last year and maybe selling some copies of my book—Out Damned Spot—along the way. After all, according to CAN/SA South Africa has the 2nd highest incidence of skin cancer in the world after Australia and in particular one of the highest incidences of melanoma worldwide, as far as Caucasians are concerned.

People should care and be aware, shouldn’t they?

My ex-boss once told me that if you learn ten per cent at a workshop, seminar or conference, you’ve done well for yourself. I was planning on snatching at least that or more.

We got the odd email with snippets of information about the event. One of them said we were to dress for success. I pondered… heels? Did that mean heels? I’m not a heel-type of person.

Then a ticket for the event magically winged its way into my inbox. I briefly scrolled through it, looking for the exact venue. Gallagher Estate is huge: there are five halls, each with their own little (I use the term loosely) seminar rooms. There was no exact information. I figured it would be divulged closer to the time.

Nothing.

The night before, I consulted Google—it would most certainly shed some light on the exact location of the venue.

But it turned out to be an Eskom moment; no light was shed at all.

My lovely husband took pity and agreed to help with my search for the exact venue. He started with the ticket, “Scroll down, Gin. Scroll down,” he commanded.

I scrolled.

There was bloody nothing and I knew it but my eye hooked on a bit of information in small print. Roughly summarized, thou shalt say nothing afterwards about the event. Hmmm… why would that be? Wouldn’t they want a person to rave about it on social media—at least? Or is it that they don’t want you to rant?

Now Mr Foxx, I don’t want to be an author, I am one. One of the things that writers do is research. I also happen to be married to a physicist and they are professional researchers.

Suffice to say we uncovered enough information to dull the edge of my enthusiasm for the event.

Then, only after reading the enlightening stuff, I watched a snippet of the video that accompanied the event advert. The camel’s back broke. Sent my daughter a text and told her not to bother getting up at the crack of dawn, we were not going.

Spent more time pondering… if people have so much money to throw away on being coached, what are they actually trying to achieve in the first place? Call me naïve, but I was also slightly shocked that he’d pay celebrities mega-bucks to appear on his shows and then ambush them. Or pay them to say how great he was.

I was slightly disappointed but vastly relieved at the same time. At least nobody was going to brainwash me into buying stuff.

My daughter scoffed, saying that she’d have been with me and would have kept a tight rein on my credit card.

I’ll have to find another way to up my marketing skills.


The same day, I was trawling through my junk mail, checking that there wasn’t anything important when I came across one of those nasty threatening emails

I am a hacker who has access to your operating system.
I also have full access to your account.
I’ve been watching you for a few months now.
The fact is that you were infected with malware through an adult site that you visited.
If you are not familiar with this, I will explain.
Trojan Virus gives me full access and control over a computer or other device.
This means that I can see everything on your screen, turn on the camera and microphone, but you do not know about it.
I also have access to all your contacts and all your correspondence.
Why your antivirus did not detect malware?
Answer: My malware uses the driver, I update its signatures every 4 hours so that your antivirus is silent.
I made a video showing how you satisfy yourself in the left half of the screen, and in the right half you see the video that you watched.
With one click of the mouse, I can send this video to all your emails and contacts on social networks.
I can also post access to all your e-mail correspondence and messengers that you use.
If you want to prevent this, transfer the amount of $500 to my bitcoin address (if you do not know how to do this, write to Google: “Buy Bitcoin”).

Blah ad nauseam blah…

After I’d picked myself up off the floor laughing (remember I have a writer’s imagination), I felt a bit miffed that sick weasels waste time trying to threaten people with ridiculous shit like this. How many people do they catch? Are people really so paranoid and stupid? I suppose if you’ve been “satisfying yourself” you might be a bit worried though. 

Was further amused to read a blog on the very same topic this morning—Tom Kane hits the nail on the head. The only problem is, I don’t think our police would be very interested. They have bigger crooks to catch.

How many times do we have to tell you? Don’t fuck with us writers.

Marvelous Magoebaskloof

2018 was a tad tough and when December rolled around once again we woke up too late, knowing that we needed to get away for a few days to recharge, but had not booked to go anywhere. We realised we’d have to wait until early January. We live in a house with extended family and a bit of down time is necessary every now and then.

Chris grovelled around on the internet and came up with a couple of places. He called me to come and look when I was busy hefting rocks in the garden. I sighed. Really. Now?

They all seemed very attractive and we settled on The Birders’ Cottages in Magoebaskloof for two days. To be honest, I’d only looked with half an eye and was later somewhat horrified when Chris proudly announced that he’d booked the highest cottage on that bit of the mountain and forwarded me the instructions of how to get there.

Aaaargh! I hate high mountain roads. I’m not a 4×4 fan and my last experience of the rolling , lush Limpopo hills was just nasty. Nico and I got lost on the way to Penge during the roll-out phase of the heat-stress mining game and we ended up on a teensy back road with spiders and baboons.

To my credit, I said not a word to my lovely husband. Thought I’d pull up my big girl broekies and deal with it all in an adult manner when the time arrived.

We left bright an early on Sunday morning. Chris had wanted to take the byways instead of the highways, but we ended up taking the N4 anyway. Fortunately for us, the other side of the road was filled with end-of-holiday cars and our side was mostly open, apart from plenty of big ass trucks.

We stopped for breakfast in Haenertsburg, thinking we might also find a deli and stock up on some interesting goodies—sadly not, although Chris did find a little gem in the book store – a genealogy dictionary!

We drove past the turn off and decided to continue on to Tzaneen to fill up with petrol. We still had an hour to kill before the two o’clock check-in time. I peered through the driver’s window trying to get an idea of where we were going to be staying and gasped when I noticed some cottages perched precariously on the mountainside.

“Holy crap! Is that where we’re going?” I screeched in alarm.

“Um… no… I don’t think so,” responded my lovely husband calmly, negotiating the twisty turny bends of the twentieth steepest pass in South Africa.

“Hope we don’t bump into Lynne and Neil—they’d kill us if they knew we were in their dorpie and didn’t let them know,” I said to Chris as we filled up, shiftily eyeing out the people in the petrol station. I had no clue where my long-time friend stayed but Tzaneen did not look like a very big place. We had made plans to visit them for a night after our stay in Magoebaskloof.

We did our business in Tzaneen, laughed hysterically at the ‘Beware of Hippo’ sign on the outskirts and trekked back up the mountain, stopping here and there because we’d realised we only had one very tiny loaf of bread, since the deli thing had not panned out. Turned out none of the farm stalls along the road had interesting bread, but there was a place right opposite the turn off that we needed to take and we thought we’d try that.

We parked and climbed out of the car. The sound of two million six hundred and ninety seven cicada’s echoed around the farm stall, assaulting our ears. It was like hearing crickets on crack.

The place was more or less closed due to a power outage, but we did check out the most delightful little nursery attached to the farm stall. I longingly eyed out a carnation pot, but realised it was not the time to be buying plants.

“Come back and have the best coffee on the mountain!” were the dude’s parting words.

Chris sped across the highway and turned into the road leading to The Birders’ Cottages. It was nicely tarred and I heaved a huge sigh of relief—a tad prematurely. It quickly turned into a winding, twisty, grass-verged dirt road, not quite a track, but close. Gulping, as I checked out the steep inclines on the passenger’s side, I quickly fumbled in my bag for my cell phone and glued my eyes firmly to the screen.

Panoramic view that does not do this wonderful place justice!

But the scenery was so incredibly beautiful I had to look anyway.

It had been raining and the road was a bit squishy. There were some steepish inclines and once Chris misjudged and had to roll back down and start again. We’d been warned not to go anywhere near the owner of A45.3 as they had absolutely nothing to do with The Birders’ Cottages.

Chris was a bit confused. He’d originally worked out that it was around two and a half kilometres from the main road to the cottages, but we saw a sign for 4.5 km quite early on and my heart sank further into the foot well.

The road…

The cottages were well signposted and eventually we crept our way to Narina’s parking spot.  It was all green and lush, freshly washed with rain. We weren’t entirely sure how the whole key thing worked, but it turned out to be pretty simple, the sliding door slid open; the keys were on the table. We raced around the cottage like big kids, delighting in everything we saw.

River walk

Must confess I had delusions that because it was high up in the mountains it would have scary bits of woodwork with spiders lurking in crevices, waiting to pounce. Not a single one of either. There were platoons of mozzies, armed and ready to bite, but the excellent cottage owners had that one covered—tins of Peaceful Sleep stood sentry, waiting to annihilate those pesky little critters.

One of the features that had appealed to Chris in the first place, apart from the obvious attraction of remoteness and the lovely hiking opportunities, was the outside bath. My husband is a fan of baths. He can wallow for hours in our shitty little bathroom.

We both stood at the door and gaped; lying grandly in a bed of frothy greenery, open to the skies, yet surrounded by an unobtrusive wooden fence for total privacy, was a magnificently huge bath. There were bottles of Radox perched on the side and the whole thing looked like it had escaped from a magazine page.

Looks like Radox advert

We had bite to eat, then decided to go for an exploratory walk. Chris had looked at the map, but you know what it’s like with a new place, it does not always make too much sense when you don’t quite have the lay of the land. We headed off to the Waterfalls. That took two seconds (unless we took the wrong path) and so we turned tail and headed off towards the river walk. It’s like a tropical rain forest walk (not that I’ve been on one of those—but I imagine that must be similar).

We gaily traipsed up hill and down dale, delighting in the waterfall and hopping back and forth over the river. We discovered, to our mirth, when we got back to the cottage sweaty and gasping an hour later, that we had pretty much done the longest walk! A dip in the splash pool restored our body temperatures and we decided to have an early braai to avoid yours truly falling asleep at the table like I did the last time we went away.

Waterfall on the River Walk

We had a choice of braaing in the little rondavel attached to the cottage, but opted to have our fire outside. True, the mozzies did try to make off with our ankles, but I discovered some citronella incense sticks stashed in the kitchen that kept them at bay. The attention to detail in the cottages is truly amazing.

We spent most of that evening ogling the most enormous pine tree.  Okay, it’s not so big but it is immensely tall. We wondered how old it was. Chris hauled his physics brain out and dusted off the holiday cobwebs. He paced around a bit and decided it was probably not more than sixty or seventy years old. But sneakily we both figured it was really a hundred years or more.

By the time we’d eaten it was thinking about raining again.

We didn’t wait for total darkness; we ran that bath and hopped in, giggling like children at the sheer luxury of being all warm and toasty under the water, whilst it drizzled on our faces. The steam kept the mosquitoes away, although we could see clouds of pesky creatures hovering, they did not bother us in the slightest. We could see the same tall tree and resumed our pondering, accompanied by waterfall music and other night sounds. Eventually the water cooled down and it started to rain in earnest. Reluctantly we went inside.

It rained all night. I can vouch for that because I’m a terrible sleeper and despite the fact we’d had a long day, a bracing hike, good food and a fabulous relaxing bath—sleep eluded me. Chris, on the other hand, slept like a log.

It was still raining the next morning, but that did not deter the birdy choir from serenading us. I leapt up, yanked open all the blinds and generally made a fair bit of noise thinking it was time to get up. Chis blearily asked what time it was.

I snorted out laughing when I discovered it was only 05h15. We went back to sleep for an hour.

 I’m not a good gas person, so Chris figured out how the stove worked and boiled the kettle, although I pointed out later that we were a bit stupid because there was indeed an electric kettle.

“Nope!” exclaimed Chris. “They are trying to get these cottages off the grid as much as possible and we’ll go along with that.”  Apart from using the lights and one power point to charge our cell phones and Chris’s lap top we did exactly that.

Chris figured out how to get the wood-burning fire inside going and we hung around the cottage all morning, congratulating ourselves on having done the river walk the day before, just in case it never stopped raining. It wasn’t really cold but the fire added atmosphere.  We’d decided, if it stopped, that we’d walk to the main road and have some of that ‘best-on-the-mountain-coffee’ that the dude had boasted about. Plus maybe he’d have some bread. 

The drizzle finally abated around midday and we took off, fully expecting that the road would be a five kilometer hike. The air was crisp and the scenery simply majestic.  I soon realised that the road was not half as scary as I’d imagined the day before. We also gathered that it definitely was a lot less than five kilometers, more like the original two and a half.  We figured those signs were for something else, the Warrior camp maybe?

Some monkeys and a lone buck entertained us along the way.

It turned out the farm stall was closed on a Monday, but we’d thoroughly enjoyed our walk and were not the least bit disappointed—there was plenty of coffee at the cottage. Chris fried up some chops for a late lunch and we sat outside enjoying the bird life.

They are not called The Birders’ Cottages for nothing. There are literally hundreds of birds flitting around.

I had a nap. The rain held off and we had another braai for dinner

The next morning I giggled wildly when I saw all the paraphernalia on the sink in the bathroom. Ice-cube tray, the whisk and a wooden spatula!

“Sheesh Chris, if anybody saw this they’d think we’d had some kinky session last night.”

In actual fact, I’d used the spatula to mix the hot water with the cold in the bath—the wood-burning geyser is extremely effective. Chris had whisked up the water to make bubbles, and we’d thrown ice-cubes into the bath to try and cool it down enough to get in. This time we’d also taken a bottle of ice-cold wine, instead of the red wine from the night before.

We’d lain there scheming how we could possibly have such a thing at home. Eventually the prognosis was not bloody likely—if the family didn’t spot us, the neighbours would, or the birds would poop on us for sure.

I’d posted a pic of the outside bath on Instagram the day before, an author friend, Julia Blake, had commented “That is something I’ve never ever done and I’m so British I’m not sure I ever could bath outside. Or is it just I know my luck. I’d be lying there and some tourist will blunder in who took a wrong turn back down the road, oh, and they’ll also know my mother.” I tried to explain that was not very likely in this particular place. By the way, her latest novel, The Forest, would be the perfect book to read in such a place.

It was one of those clear crisp gorgeous days, and for the first time, we saw the sun. We decided to go for a pre-breakfast walk and took the Valley View path first, a steepish hike through a majestic Yellow Wood forest, but doable for a city dweller like myself. The view was totally worth it.  Chris and I are not big selfie takers—as you can see —but we did have a go at taking one up there.

Then we trekked along the Yellowwood path. It was wet, squishy and a tad spooky in places with sun glinting on mossy boughs and spider webs. As a keen amateur gardener I kept pointing out plants to Chris that we have in our garden, but they are about a tenth of the size. The lushness of the vegetation has to be seen to be believed.

On our way back to the cottage for breakfast and a shower, we were treated to the brilliant sight of a Knysna Loerie pecking away at the top of a tree.  I must add, my lovely husband has since downloaded the Roberts Birds multimedia app for android and is becoming a bit of a birder in our own tree-filled garden!

We left our lovely cottage on Dragonswyck Farm just before 10h00 and had an interesting episode on the drive to the R71. Coming around a bend we encountered a dude in a smallish truck—probably on his way to stock up with avocados, seeing as it is avo country. Chris hugged the side as much as possible. The dude kept on driving, making ‘get-out-of-the-way’ motions with his finger, indicating that we should climb further up the side of the road. Chris tried, he really did, but it a steep bank and we only have a Tucson not a freaking tractor. With not a glimmer of a smile, the dude inched his way past us, so close that Chris had to twist the side mirror in to avoid it being snapped off. Not the friendliest of locals—we assumed he belonged to A46.3.

On our way down to Tzaneen we took a slight detour to the Debageni Falls and dunked our feet in the crystal clear pools. There were very few people around, but there was evidence that the place had been heavily populated over the holiday season. I damn near had a heart attack when I stood on a long green water snake on the way in, and thereafter kept a wary eye out on everything in case it wiggled. We later found out that they are not very common little critters and we were lucky to see it.

A lovely relaxing afternoon and evening was spent with our long-time friends, Lynne and Neil, in Tzaneen. They were most impressed that we had finally managed to visit, after empty promises for more than five years. They live on a beautiful smallholding and their litchi trees were dripping with fat juicy litchis. We did not hold back—they’re my favourite fruit in the whole world and I’d never eaten them straight off the tree before. Our timing was perfect because the fruit pickers came the next day and stripped every last dangly bit of fruit from the trees.

Funny how small the world is, we discovered that one of their sons was friends with the owners of The Birders’ Cottages and he had just made a charming video for them.

After plundering Lynne’s stunning garden—snippets of exotic stuff like air plants, bromeliads, ferns and lilies—early the next morning we hit the road and took the long way home via the Blyde River Canyon and God’s Window. Three provinces in one day: Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng!

We left home early Sunday morning and returned at sunset on Wednesday, only three days away, but our souls and spirits were restored, ready to tackle a new year.

Must say I was a tad disappointed when Chris sent me an email a few days later with info pilfered from his new bird detection app. I’d been envisioning that Trogon and Narina were dragony names, seeing as the farm’s name is Dragonswyck. Being a writer with way too much imagination, was busy plotting and planning a story based on the farm involving fiery beasties.

Turns out that a Narina Trogon is a very pretty bird!

Fuel for my dragon imagination!

You CAN see THE FOREST for the trees!

The Forest by Julia Blake.

Often, while reading a book, one fondly imagines that you’ll write a review the moment you’ve finished, because it’s so damn good and you know you’ll be sorry that there are no more pages to turn – you want to let the author know that you simply loved their book. You’ve been living in their world for the past few days and when you close the cover, harsh reality kicks in and you think Well holy shit! I don’t want to go home yet.

But then somehow days pass, you start reading something else and all good intentions fly out of the window. Shameful really, because we all know that reviews are very important to writers.

So this time I thought – why not start writing the review whilst I’m actually still reading The Forest.

One of the things I adore about social media is that you get to know fellow indie authors as people, and so their books seem more real, if you know what I mean.

I’ve read quite a few of Julia Blake’s books – except the poetry – I’m not really a poetry fan (which is a tad bizarre seeing as most of my Sibo books are written in rhyme). I loved Becoming Lili – could related to that story on so many levels, except for having pots of money that is. Lost and Found had interesting twists and turns  as did the Book of Eve.  In fact, my far-away friend Marie aka Mum the Owl is currently slumming it in Jamaica as we speak, which is where Eve starts and finishes.

If we did not have our own divine beaches and booze in South Africa, I’d be sorely tempted to hive off to Jamaica and I know my lovely husband would not mind sampling their rum.

What I’m saying here people, is that if you have not read Julia Blake – get up off your ass and go find her books because they are fabulous reads. (Oh. Wait. No need to get up – just click the links.)

Back to The Forest… it’s one of those ye olde thyme tales that you can’t help  reading to yourself in a spooky voice. A measured, even-toned, mysterious voice, if you get my drift.  It just begs to be an audio book (not that I’ve ever read… erm…. listened to an audio book but I can imagine this as one).

You know something shitty is going to happen, but she’s drawing it out and making you wait. But not in a boring oh for sucksfake get on with it way. Definitely not.

Am desperately hoping that nothing happens to Ruben, but then I feel sorry that Jack has had such a crappy life.  I want to shake the shit out of his moping father.  As for that bitch that works in the store… I’d cheerfully wring her smug little neck.

Crap – I’ve just realised I won’t be able to post this whole thing on Amazon – so will have to write a blog instead.

Am supposed to be working, have a million conference-related things to do, stories to compile in the gratitude anthology, not to mention my own book ‘Out Damned Spot’ that is sitting sighing in my laptop, waiting patiently to be fixed after the lovely EditElle knocked it into shape and gave me such positive feedback. But instead, I’m about to sneak off to the loo with my kindle and get further engrossed in  The Forest.

Blake is so darn good at describing her characters. After a few pages they become real people in your head. None of those wishy-washy dudes that lurk around some pages- those ones that irritate the living pooh out of a person, and not in a good way.

The other night I saw the name Sally on one of my social media sites and thought ‘Oh yes! I must be friends with Sally.’ Then realised what a wally was I  because the Sally I was thinking of lived in a book. Felt rather flat because Sally is actually somebody I would enjoy being friends with.

Okay – I’ve finished the book now and it was a fabulous read. Can’t tell you any more otherwise I’ll be spoiling things. Just know that it’s one of those holy shit ones that I talked about right in the beginning. Go read it. Okay!

 

Flirting with Cancer – Part III

This was the little blob that started it all.

If you’ve started the journey on this blog – you might want to start at the beginning – otherwise it might not make sense.

By now my nervous levels were amped and darting all over the place. Was in full  corny joke mode and started chatting to my ward neighbours. Did not get to torture everybody for too long because another dude pitched up.

Show time.

Said good-bye to Chris and watched nervously as we tootled off into the lift and ascended into a part of the hospital I’d never seen before.

Pre-op. It was chilly as hell in there. A nice dude came and tucked a warm blankie-type thing around me. Stopped me shivvering – not sure if it was from the cold or with fear.

Several other people popped up waving forms around, checking my signature, was this mine? Was I sane and of sound mind… huh? Was I ever? Asking questions about nail polish and false teeth and when I last ate. Was I wearing the sexy undies? They gave me another pair of bloomers (okay not really but looked a lot like them) to put on my head.

The anaesthetist was running late and had not pitched up yet. 13h00 came and went. There was a giant-sized clock on the wall so I could see each minute ticking away. At some stage I pulled the bloomers down over my nose and shut the shitty world out.

I so badly wanted to get this whole freaking thing over with.

Eventually the dude pitched up, apologized for being late and the show got on the road. Apparently they like to double check that you are not talking shite and have not lied to the nursing staff. Really? I mean if you do something stupid like eat – it’s your life on the line. Who does that?

A beefy orderly wheeled me into the upstairs bowels of the operating area. Chilly as hell became even chillier.  We arrived at the venue. I had to scoot onto an icy slab and feel that I was in the middle – I guess they did not want me rolling around and falling off mid-op now – did they?

There were three bright lights above and it was fucking scary.

My doctor loomed into view. I’d already had a jab of something to make me drowsy and the dude had said sometimes people got truthful. Not me. I just started bitching about how his useless receptionist had booked me for a boob job…

Next thing I knew a nurse was tapping me telling me to wake up.

OHMYGODITWASSORE!!

Everything throbbed and burned and hurt like shit. Tilted my head to check that I still had my whole arm and hand. (Yes really – I had been very worried that they might chop it off in my sleep – stupid hey? Chris laughed like a drain when I told him.)

She asked if I was in pain. Fuck yeah. Took a million years for her to scome back. She rolled me over and jabbed me in the bum. That was sore too.

Lay there looking at the same big clock and realised I’d just lost more than an hour and a half of my life, as well as bits and bobs of body.

Eventually they wheeled me back to the ward. When my eyes lit on my lovely husband they filled with tears and leaked down my face.

My mouth felt like a thousand camels had trekked through it – was finally allowed a sip of water – 17 hours later.

Every little movement hurt like hell. Chris sat there and held my good hand – beaming love and support into my bod.  Feeding me with sips of water every so often – it’s a shite feeling when your teeth stick together!

Eventually they brought me supper – at some ungodly early hour of the afternoon. I took one look and decided perhaps not but slurped down some  shitty hospital coffee though that tasted fabulous.  We waited eagerly for the doctor to appear and give me the all clear to go home.

He arrived, greeting me with “How are you. Sore? I supposed that’s a silly question!” I replied – Fucking silly question! Can I go home now – with some industrial strength pain killers and a sleeping tablet please??

But noooo…. he thought it would be a much better idea for me to stay the night in hospital and my ridiculous husband agreed with him. Better pain control and the nurses could monitor stuff.

Did you ever!

Did not have the strength to argue. Besides I was attached to those voluminous blue knickers – was not ready to hand them over yet. Okay – I lie – was too sore to even contemplate putting clothes on and walking any distance. So I wimped and agreed to stay the night.

Chris went home, promising to bring me pizza (which I had bizarrely been lusting after) for supper later.

I dozed. The pain was quite interesting – and I have a very high threshold for pain. There was a feisty old lady in the corner bed – who was a survivor from the camps in the Second World War. She kept telling the nurses interesting stories and the other two ladies in the ward and I eavesdropped unashamedly.

Chris Whatsapped  later and said he was on his way back to the hospital. I texted furiously back and nixed the pizza- a ham and cheese homemade sandwich would be just lovely. True, I’d been lying there in bed, drooling for pizza, but could not for the life of me figure out how I was going to actually sit up and eat it without dripping greasy stuff all over the bed – besides – both arms were sort of incapacitated. One with a drip and the other with a chopped out forearm section and goodness only knows what was going on under my arm. I had yet to see. There was a drain too with an interesting looking concertina type thing attached to some tubing… attached to me.

In fact – I had no arms for the blood pressure thingy – they had to use my leg.

It should go on record – that was THE most delicious sarmie I have ever eaten.

I finally convinced Chris to go home and sleep. He’d had a horrendous day just sitting around worrying about his pain-in-the-ass wife. He was beyond exhausted.

Got doled out two pain killers and a half a sleeping pill around 22h00. Thought yay me – for once in my life I will sleep. Not so. Was awake again at 01h30. Mind you – it’s not very peaceful in hospital. They are always waking you up to poke and prod you and stick things in your ear.

Next morning finally arrived –  woofed down the breakfast that the other two ladies looked disparagingly at. It was totally delicious. Chris pitched up bright an early – after all the doctor had said that he’d release me when he did his early morning rounds.  Early my backside! He took his own sweet time.

Everything was still sore but bearable. The drain was removed, the hole covered up and I saw that there was an enormous track that had been cobbled up under my arm. I later found out – when the doctor removed the stitches, that they had removed the entire lymph node under my arm. That part of the operation was very much bigger than the excising of the melanoma bit.

Later that night, when I stripped and got into bed, I found this was still attached to my back. We had a good laugh and Chris peeled it off. The wound under my arm was incredibly uncomfortable. The next morning when I showered, I was horrified to discover that the whole of the back of my shoulder and arm was completely numb. Except for the bit  above my elbow where it felt like it had pins and needles – sort of.

Apparently this is normal and it takes 3 to 4 months to get the feeling back. A bit of warning would have been nice.

Waiting for the results was just horrible. Everybody was telling me to be positive – but it had not occurred to me that the mole could have been a melanoma in the first place – and I’d been incredibly complacent. So I was not going to make that same mistake. Was cautiously optimistic.

We’d been told he’d give me a call on the Wednesday or Thursday. Life went on and I started driving on Tuesday (the op was the Friday before). Mom needed pills. I do confess, that when I had to go back to the shops on Wednesday because Clicks had messed up mom’s pills and she’d not checked – I had a meltdown. Stomped into my GP’s rooms and demanded to know what had happened to the histology report – who had screwed up and then promptly laid my head on the desk and wept. Then fled . (Called Chris and told him that there should be a support group for people who had to live with their 84 year old mothers, damn near broke my cell phone with all the snot and tears.) It’s not always easy. For any of us. But mom not having her license makes it a little harder. Had to take her a PS- I’m sorry choccy the week after and apologize. At least the waiting room had been empty because I had let rip with some choice words.

On Thursday – 6 days after the op, I emailed Miss Thang at “My doctors” office, reminding her to remind him that he was supposed to call me with the results. Par for the course there was no nice little reply back. She has absolutely no people skills at all.

The doctor called a few hours later and gave me the all clear.

Chris brought home champers that night and we all celebrated. Well not quite. It had been very stressful on everybody – tippy-toeing around a person who was branded with the dreaded C. Once I got the all clear, Emma fell to pieces and had a hissy fit. I could understand it.

On the 4th of June (3 days late because the dude went on holiday – check out the lovely professional emails). I had the stitches out of both places. My arm looks pretty good – specially if you look at it from above. From the side it looks a bit like a lop-sided camel.

8cm of cut!

The place under my arm is not half as neat. Think whoever sewed that up was practicing to be an upholsterer. In fact, I’m sure they used the opportunity to check out the insides of my elbow with the gamma camera whilst they were grovelling under my arm. Or that’s what it feels like, anyway.

The entire month of May 2018 was filled with stitches, worry, panic, more worry, jubilation, pissed-offness and being incredibly thankful that that I got the all clear – well – put it this way – that particular node was clear.

 

 

 

Flirting with cancer – Part II

If you missed the first bit of this dastardly cancer journey – start here.

The 18th May finally arrived. D day.  I’d set about 6 alarms because I’d been sleeping unbelievably badly and sometimes fell dead asleep around 5ish. We had to be at the hospital at 07h30.

Not being allowed anything to eat or drink meant no coffee. But the furries still needed to be fed.

It was one of those crisp wintery mornings where everything smells of a brand new day – with a hint of exhaust fumes.

There were only a couple of people at reception and so the booking-in process was a doddle… except for the fact that I noticed – after they had already printed 60 stickers – that the Medical Aid member code was for Chris and not myself. We groaned – perfectly sure that this was going to cause plenty of hassles later on.

Turns out all my doctor’s patients get put in the gynaecology slash urology ward. We were given directions how to get there.

Fuckydoodle! I thought to myself as I saw what number bed I had been assigned to – really – number 13?  You’ve got to be kidding. I want another bed.

But no – 13 it was. Seemed pathetic to make a fuss and ask for the bed by the window. (Those are the best spots – by the way… if you ever do have a choice.)

The nice sister pitched up with a gajillion forms and a receptacle covered with a crackling baggie. She pointed to the bathroom – samples were needed. It’s hard widdling into a bottle when your hands are shaking.  I got weighed and measured. The nurse oohed and aahed over my lovely weight.

Chris sat next to my bed feeling very much like the odd man out in the ladies ward. I offered him the choice of breakfast at Wiesenhof but he declined.  It was warm in the ward after the brisk chill of the morning outside and I shed layers of clothing including my boots and made myself comfy sitting cross-legged on the bed. It was going to be a freaking long time to 13h00 when the op was scheduled.

Two seconds later a dude pitched up with a wheelchair. I was needed in nuclear meds.  Somehow I had fondly imagined that another nice nurse was going to pitch up with a needled full of toxic stuff that would be injected into my veins… not so.

No really… I protested – I can walk. It was, however, not an option. Hopped back into my boots and into the chair. We were half way down the corridor when I asked if I could take my book. He sighed – yes – I could have my book. So I leapt out of the chair before he could object and started running back… a few steps away I stopped and said – well could I have my phone too – else how was I going to be in contact with Chris. Double sigh – clearly he realised this was going to be a high maintenance patient.

Chris saved the day and dumped my entire handbag on my lap and the journey began again.

Down the passage (back the way we’d just come) and into double doors marked “nuclear medicine”.  My trustworthy driver parked me in an empty section and departed. I gave my name to the receptionist and pointed out that the number on the sticker was wrong. She rectified it – for their section anyway.

I sat, heart thumping. Not knowing what to expect.

I should mention here – the answers that I had gotten from “my doctor” were sketchy and not really satisfactory – but I’d decided it wasn’t important – I could surely find all the information I needed on the internet. Turned out this was not the case. I was frantically messaging my friends from iThemba LABS days – asking how it all worked – and trying to figure out what the procedure exactly entailed.  How did removing or biopsying a sentinel node work. What did it involve?  There was loads of info on certain things and absolutely nothing on others. The best I could come up with was this really scary video the night before the op. Then I really panicked. Have no clue if I was just  a crappy Googler or if people don’t tag with the correct keywords – but I was unprepared to say the least.

A nice lady came out and introduced herself. She asked me either when, or where, I’d had the mammogram.

THE MAMMOGRAM???

My chin dropped onto my knees. Gobsmacked! Really? I was supposed to have had a mammogram for this op? WTF? Nobody told me.

Never – was my reply.

She crossed her arms – a bit shocked.

Well… how do you know you’ve got breast cancer then?

The receptionist nodded. Yes – you’ve been booked in for breast cancer nuclear meds.

I exploded – that bloody woman had fucked up again. Seriously! (According to the receptionist it was not the first time either. Apparently she was new.) I didn’t care what she was – I was really miffed.

The nice lady had to go off and recalibrate her machine or whatever it is they do – with the correct dosage of nuclear meds. I sat there fuming. Imagine if they had not had the right meds available and the whole thing had to be postponed again because of one person’s stupidity.

A few minutes later I was ushered into the inner sanctum. A snazzy white gamma ray camera was the focal point.

Oh. Right. Fabulous. Nowhere in any of my googling had this little baby shown up. (I snitched this pic off the internet – leave a message below if you recognise it and want some credit – I’ll happily give it.)

She explained that she was going to inject either side of the now-non-existent mole. The meds would travel up my arm and land up in the sentinel node – or something like that.  I dutifully handed over my arm.

She foofled and fiddled and rearranged things for about 10 or 15 minutes. Then positioned me under the gamma camera. The box like plate with the camera came down close to my face – actually it touched my nose at one stage but I objected and it went back up a few millimeters.  She was really sweet and kept checking that I was comfortable. I had a fluffy thick blanket covering most of me – thought it was a bit over the top in the beginning but turned out it was necessary in the end.

I’m going to leave you here for 30 minutes – she said.

OMG! Really – 30 minutes – lying still. What happens if my nose itches or I want to sneeze. Sneakily slid my eyes over to the monitor to see if I could interpret anything on the screen. Nada. Wickedly wiggled my fingers on the injected arm to see if it made a difference. There was a little star burst on the screen a few seconds later. Tried it out again – but then there was nothing – must have been a coincidence. Got eye ache after a while and retreated into my head. This whole episode was going to be blogged. I started then.

The 30 minutes passed in… well… 30 long minutes. Time does not fly when you are not having fun. It drags.  My jersey sleeve was all wrinkled and was pressing on my elbow bone – it had started to hurt like hell. Was a relief to be able to move again.

The relief was short lived.

She wiggled me around some more and horror of horrors – zooted me further under the camera. My whole head was now under the plate-like box thing. It was even closer to my head. Thought about panicking… then gave myself a strict talking to. How old are you Virginia? 12? Buck the fuck up!

Closed my eyes. It made the claustrophobia worse. So opened them again. The floaters in my eyes drifted off to the side of the plate – out of sight. Hey! Come back – I thought. Play with me. But no – they disappeared. Meanies.

Blinked a few times to see if I could conjure up any more. Nothing. Ho hum… what to do?  I am not a person who likes just lying around doing nothing.

Picked a spot on the plate and disappeared into my head again. The blog blanked – so I retreated to my happy space – a Chris De Berg Concert that my lovely husband had treated us to earlier this year – the one where he touched my hair (no really – he did – but you’d have to read the blog to find out how it happened).  Replayed every single song that I could remember in my head – bitching to myself when I could not remember the words.

That bout thankfully did not last 30 minutes. I was told to go and sit in the reception for 40 minutes and rub my arm a lot – so that the nuclear meds could reach the node under my arm pit. (Don’t think my circulation was that fabulous at that stage.)

I scuttled off on shaking legs and texted my man. He’d come and find me as soon as he’d finished his breakfast.

Breakfast! Jeez – was not hungry but would have killed for coffee.

In the process of the nuclear meds imaging, I had gleaned another little gem of information. The gamma probe that my doctor was going to use to grovel in my lymph node was broken (that could also have been why the op was postponed – but why the hell didn’t the dilly woman tell me that) and so the rep was coming out with a new probe and was going to demonstrate to my doctor how to use it… ON ME!

Holy shite! Was starting to feel very nervous about this whole operation. Chris and I agreed we might need a discount if this was going to be a learning operation. Literally.

The second bout in nuclear meds was not too bad – or too long – thankfully. She drew under my arm and stuck plasters on the blobs – apparently this would enable my doctor to find the node – somewhere in that region. She also told me that she would be there – during the operation to provide information or help interpret the scans… or something. I was relieved – at least they would not be lopping off my boob or anything.

Chris and I grabbed the blanket off the wheelchair and opted to walk back to bed number 13. By now it was around 11h30.

I’d been handed the pictures. In a sealed envelope – with my doctor’s name on it.

Back in the ward I was given the hospital garb to don. That sexy gown with the open back and the ever sexier knickers. Went off to the loo and stripped.

comparisons…

Bit crazy really because the ward’s warm but the toilet’s freezing.

Put the gown on – wrapped the ties completely around me and considered tying them under my boobs. Refrained.  Put the knickers on.  Clearly the wrong way round. Took them off again and put them on the other way.  Took them off yet again and gave them a shake. Maybe I’d used a leg hole for the waist… hmmmm…  fell around giggling in the loo – WTF?  Could have fitted three of me in that one pair of bloomers.

Zooted back to No. 13 and leapt in. More forms needed to be filled in.

After the nurse had departed, Chris picked up the envelope and held it up to the light. We could not see much. But my lovely  husband is not a genius for nothing – he hauled out his cell phone, flipped on the light and positioned it behind the envelope. We could read everything. Of course, it didn’t make much sense to us, but at least we stopped feeling excluded.

By now my nervous level was sky-high and darting all over the place. Was full into corny joke mode and started chatting to my ward neighbours. Poor Chris was doing the cringy thing again.  Did not get to torture everybody for too long because another dude pitched up.

Show time.

Read how it all works out

Going Nuts!

Jack, Gemma and I swished through the carpet of fallen leaves this morning, on our way to the bottom of the garden.

Our destination…  the pecan nut tree.

Off to gather nuts.

Round about this time last year we started looking at houses. The very first house we went to see had a gorgeous garden. Having lived in a complex for more than nine years, after a cursory look inside my lovely husband and I made a bee line for the leafy green area outside.

Crunch crunch went something underfoot. I raised an eyebrow at the estate agent.

Pecan nuts, she replied.

I looked at my man… we must have this house.  And so we bought a pecan nut tree!

Of course, by the time we moved in a few months later, most of the pecan nuts were finished – just the odd solitary one clinging to the bare branches above.

We watched and waited with baited breath. Slowly, but indeed surely, the bare branches turned to leafy green boughs. Teensy green bud-like things eventually appeared. These  too grew slowly, oh so very very slowly.

The first few nuts fell early in April. We pounced on them. However,  green nuts do not taste so fabulous. After a few weeks the quality of the nuts that dropped improved – they ripened to perfection. Fresh off-the-tree pecan nuts taste beyond divine.

The washing line is down by the pecan nut tree and I had this stupid little OCD thing going on in my head – every time I went down there – I needed to come back with a nut, or three, or maybe even four.

Slowly the coffee tins in the kitchen overflowed and bags of nuts were dispensed to people deemed worthy of sharing in our bounty.

This week, the end of May 2018, we had rain – twice – not really what you’d expect when it’s almost winter in Pretoria.

It rained nuts too. Literally. Not one, but two 500ml tubs were filled to overflowing on one single gathering.

This morning Jack, Gemma and I braved the elements and went down to the tree to do a nut inspection.  Gemma immediately snagged a pecan nut and weaseled her “worsie” way under the Wendy house to crunch her loot. (We inherited Gemma the sausage dog with the house. She’s fond of pecan nuts – although unlike her previous owners, we don’t feed her vegan food – so she’s not as hungry as she was last year.)

Jack and I were in mortal danger – the nuts were crashing down around us as we gathered. Jack, in his usual catly fashion, was leaping around trying to catch them as they bounced around on the ground.

We’ve had conversations before about being smacked on the head by a plummeting nut. In fact Luan (aka vetboy) offered to hurl one at me, which I not-so-politely declined. Am sure one would feel a bit like Chicken-Licken when the sky fell on his head.

Spot the nut?

Collecting nuts is a bit like spotting wildlife in the bush. They lie nicely nestled amongst the leaves – camouflaged. Often a bump underfoot indicates that you’re standing on one that’s been sneakily lurking in plain sight.

Isn’t that enough to crunch it – you ask?

No. It’s my test for the ones that feel suspiciously light (usually indicates they’re bad).  A healthy nut does not crunch under my weight on the soil.

Of course it’s compulsive and one’s eyes search further and further afield. This resulted in my getting a boot full of Gemma poop the other day – also camouflaged amongst the leaves.

This cold, wet morning I piled our muddy bounty onto the garden bench.

Really?

Jack jumped up and looked at me. Like really? You’re just going to leave them there? Alone? He started pawing at the nuts – sending them zooting around the wet planks, whizzing back down to earth!

One can always count on Jack to assist – no matter what the task.

And all the while we were supervised by our four resident hadedas at the other end of the garden.

Hadedas supervising.

A tad frozen, we returned inside to write this blog. Once again Jack pitched in. He jumped onto my desk, tracked muddy paw-prints all over the place (the mouse is still making nasty scrunchy noises as I move it). He then proceeded to note his comments on a piece of paper next to my laptop.

Jack’s contribution to the blog.

He washed himself, ordered pizza from Domino’s, then curled up and went to sleep in his usual spot… my “In tray”.

Every now and then the cracking sound of a pecan nut hitting the corrugated iron roof of the Wendy house has him extracting his head from his bushy tail and sleepily starting at me – wondering if he should go off and investigate or not.

 

Jack orders pizza.

It’s just the pecan nuts Jack, I tell him. Nothing to worry your furry little knickers about.

He tucks his head under his tail again and goes back to his twitchy slumber.

Ode to Emma – her 21st (5th August 2011)

 

I wrote this blog for Emma (aka Igz) for her 21st birthday – this year she will be 28! It is an account of the day she was born. Reason I am posting it here again is because (a) blog.com where I originally posted it has long since died and (b) it was the last time I was in hospital for myself. Let’s face it – I went to hospital and came out with exciting new stuff (little did I know quite how exciting that stuff would be – lol)… tomorrow will be a bit different.

The 21st key I made Em

How it all began – hmmm…. you probably wouldn’t want to know those nitty gritty details so let’s skip along to the day you were born 5th August 1990.

I woke up. Erk. Had a fat whinge to myself that my tum was so full of baby there was no space left for me. Decided to rearrange the piano a bit. A little shove to the left. Nope. That did not look great – put it back where it was in the first place.

Your dad sold cars. Thank goodness he also bought cars. Three days before you were born we had a beach buggy with no roof. It was the middle of winter.  He’d put Markie in charge of looking after me during the day when he went off somewhere and was not readily available around the corner to dash me off to hospital. I said I’d rather knuip, thanks very much.

It was a Saturday. There was a car to be seen. I said I’d go with him. Was a bit worried I might have started something by moving the piano. (The same piano had done a pretty good job with Lauren 10 years earlier.) Plus we were being hounded by bastardly estate agents. Were renting the house in Myburgh Street with an option to buy, but the owner of the house decided he wanted to sell then, right then. We didn’t really have the money to buy it right then, so I was busy sabotaging all the prospective buyers.  Being a pregnant knitting needle (that wretched Faithy’s description, when she was not calling me a pregnant grasshopper) I managed to get away with all sorts of beastly hormonal crap. Think they were a tad terrified of me.

So we went off to Milnerton and checked out the car.  Uneventful.

Perhaps I should mention here that I was only eight months preggy. Was not exactly time for you to arrive yet.

In all honesty, can’t much remember what happened for the next few hours, but I do know that some dude was boxing that night at Sun City and your dad thought he was tops. Markie was coming over and they were going to watch the match. Then we were having a braai.

I sat on the stoep – had a nice relaxing brandy and soda (sorry people – yes I had the odd drink when I was preggy – so shoot me) and made fire whilst they watched. Big fire.  The match didn’t last long – two rounds I think. Can remember that we had ribs. They smelled delicious and there was still no space in my tum.

Went to bed. Woke up around midnight with cramps. Bugger. Should not have eaten anything at all. Was very tired. Tried to go back to sleep.

Wait a bit – these are odd cramps.

Nah… can’t do this now.

Tried to go back to sleep.

Sighed… oh crap. Baby time!

Poked your father in the ribs. Oi! Wake up. Baby’s coming!  He leapt up and dashed off to wake Lauren.

Lolla thought she was late for school and promptly climbed into her uniform. We only noticed that later – on our way to drop her off at Gran’s house. Lucky we had a car with a roof by then. Was a chilly early middle of the winter morning.

Of course, we’d never been to HH hospital before so we went to the wrong entrance. This dude sat at reception. Not sure his lift went all the way to the top floor. He totally failed to see any urgency in the situation.

Started filling out a form… uh duh name?  Address?  I kept doubling over with contractions. Your dad and I could not stop giggling. Eventually he gave up and said we could fill it in later.

We had about two miles of corridors to sneak down to the maternity ward. Every few steps I’d stop, grunt, top it off with some stifled giggles and we’d carry on sneaking.

They slapped me into a bed, did their measuring to see how dilated I was and said oh oh – better call your doctor.

Par for the course, the bastard was out.

So they tried somebody else who was standing in for him. Hmmm… unavailable too. (Remember kiddo – there were no cell phones 21 years ago.)  Could hear the nurses mumbling in the doorway, getting a little worried. I piped up between ever increasing contractions – just get any friggin’ doctor wouldcha!

In the mean time, your father, who knows half of the Helderberg basin, was wandering around the maternity ward chatting. Of course he’d bumped into an old friend of his who’d eaten something nasty and had food poisoning. They were worried about the baby so she was waiting to have a C-section.

The pain was getting quite interesting by this time. Could manage it if I lay on my side and your dad rubbed my back – hard.  The nurse came along and put a stop to that. Apparently you were in a bit of distress – I should lie on my back instead.

Not surprising – really had gotten to the stage where I was knuiping, waiting for the wretched doctor.

They hauled the resident dude out of bed – luckily he lives just across the road – and he came skidding into the operating room, literally just in time to catch you. Your dad, who had been quite a star whilst I pushed and grunted, took one look at his little blue smurfie and promptly keeled over in a dead faint. On his way down he knocked over the stool – kadoef – making one hell of a noise in the relatively silent hospital.

Oh shit! Thought I – he’s died.

Promptly tried to get off the bed to check him out. Many hands held me down. A nurse took over and dealt with the last gory bits, whilst the doctor checked your dad was still alive. Not really dead after all, merely a bit overwhelmed. A lot overwhelmed actually.  He came round a while later and sheepishly sloped off with the nurse to get a drink of water.

By this time it was around threeish. They put me in a clean bed – I fell into an exhausted achy slumber. Your dad went home to catch a few hours sleep. He was back by eight the next morning.  At ten the doctor (the one I’d never seen in my life before up to a few hours ago) pitched up to see us.

We were pronounced fine.

That’s great, I said… then I can go home! The nurse stood smugly in the doorway. She’d been telling me how I’d have to stay at least a day or so. Stressed the hell out of me.  Think he read the fire flashing in my eyes and erred on the side of safety – his safety. He let us go.

We went home. You were very very tiny. I climbed into my own bed and snuggled you on my chest under the duvet.  A thousand people came to meet you.

On Monday morning that fuckwitty estate agent called up bright and early wanting to bring prospective clients around to view the house.

See! She said. You’re still at home – you have not had your baby yet!

Hah! I retorted. I’m home yes, but I’ve had my baby!

Flirting with Cancer

Funny how life changes in the blink of an eye. Three weeks ago I was a bit neurotic about going to the dermatologist to check out a mole. This Friday I go for surgery…

Part I – Eating the Frog

Eating the frog!

A few years ago my thyroid blew. This meant that I was on chronic meds and had to go see the GP every 6 months to get my prescription renewed. The first time she saw my arm she freaked… “That has to go!”

I was a tad nonplussed because she’d just told me that I had to have a pap smear at the same time. Seriously – this Dr thing sucks. So I pitched up on the designated day – ready to have the mole on my arm obliterated as well as being checked out for cervical cancer.

By my GP took a second look at my arm and declared that it did not actually look so bad – and decided we should rather just keep an eye on it. I did not get away with the pap smear thing so lightly – but all was good.

This continued for a couple of years – each year she’d check out the mole and go hmmmm…. Looks okay.

This year she looked at the mole and freaked. OMG!!! When did that get so large?

Whaaaaatttt – I replied. It’s not so big. Think a few freckles joined hands – that’s all. But she persisted. It must go.

So take it out – I re-joined.

But no… it turned out that said mole was a tad too large for my GP to comfortably remove. A dermatologist was the order of the day. Or we could let her hubby loose on my arm – he’s a surgeon. But I figured that it was stupid hacking out the whole thing if it was not necessary – rather check it out first.

My GP looked at me sadly and said that their tame dermatologist dude had just died. They would have to find me somebody else. They did too. I was informed that I was really lucky- everybody else was fully booked until August but I had a date booked for the 24th April – a couple of weeks away. I smiled and nodded gratefully, muttering under my breath that I would not mind waiting until August.

So I ate the frog. Let it be known that there are other froggies that have hopped away… the mammogram, the bone density… like I said – I am not fond of this stuff. Let sleeping dogs snooze and all that.

Fast forward to the 24th April. I figured the dermatologist would refer to me to a surgeon if necessary. I was fully expecting to leave intact. I arrived at the place – breathless and a bit late because I had taken a few wrong turns – despite my lovely husband having shown me the way the previous Saturday.

The dermatologist was really awesome. Lovely, cool, calm and collected. She checked out my arm and recommended that we remove the middle section of the mark on my arm – the bit that had the dodgy looking mole. Swift and simple – she needle numbed the spot and removed it chop chop – deftly stitching it up thereafter. I was beyond impressed.

She also had fabulous art work on her walls that I, without my glasses, fondly imagined looked like a fairy tale tree. Turned out it was actually a picture of a follicle.

Fairytale tree… not!

Dr Carpenter (hahahah – my lovely husband pointed out the irony of this later) would send the bit of flesh off to be analysed and would call me if there was anything to worry about. Because there were a spate of public holidays approaching – she’d probably only get the results in just over a week. I was to have my 3 little stitches out in two weeks. If she had nothing to report I would get my results when I had them out.

D-Day arrived and I approached the day with butterflies fluttering around my tum. But no ominous calls were received, despite the fact I eyed out my phone carefully. No calls the next day. Nor the next…  Then it was weekend. On Monday I noticed that I missed a call from the dermatologists. Truly – I did not give it a second thought. They were calling to remind me about my appointment for the next day to have my stitches removed. I did not even bother to  return the call.

Shit gets real – time to face the music.

After lunch on Monday Dr Carpenter called and told me that the news was not that fabulous. A melanoma. But I should not panic or anything because we had caught it early and it was not deep. However – protocol demanded that a surgeon remove more of the said spot.

Feh! I brooded on the news for a couple of hours and then decided I needed to share. My lovely husband came dashing home. Was a bit of a blow to say the least. I had become complacent because I had not heard from Dr C in the designated time. So I assumed all was well.

Tootled off the following day to get my stitches out.. Turned out the lady who was supposed to do this task was not at work that day and Dr C herself took them out. Painless! She exclaimed that the scar she had given me was negligible… but sadly that was not going to last. She gave me letters for my GP and the potential surgeon.

I admit to procrastinating on the way to deliver those letters.

A few hours later my GP called me back – commiserating on the shitty outcome. We agreed that she would get her receptionist to make an appointment with her husband, the surgeon for me. But only after the 10th – we had a fancy awards ceremony for Chris on that day. I needed to be whole.  Also mentioned in passing that the dermatologist had said it would not be a big deal – could probably be done with local anaesthetic.

My GP laughed uproariously. No, probably not, she said. There are lymph nodes involved and centimetres that need to be removed.

My spirits plummeted.

Said appointment was duly made for the 11th May at 09h30.  We got there – a lot of minutes early. I filled out the form. Wrongly.

Chris gently removed the clipboard from my shaking hands and filled it out correctly.

The receptionist or whatever you call that person was jabbering on the phone. She kept saying “My doctor this, my doctor that…”

I admit – my evil twin sister emerged and I mimicked her irritating voice saying “My doctor, my doctor… I’ve also got a doctor… but he’s not a proper doctor.”

Chris cringed. I waited expectantly for a laugh… nothing. Not a peep. Stony silence. Ooopsie.

So right then and there I shot my own self in the foot. (Aaahhhhh – say those of you who might have read my Facebook posts from the past two days. No wonder her op got so screwed up! Never mess with the receptionist.)

The Dr emerged and ushered me into his room.

What can I do for you? he politely inquired? I was completely thrown. WTF? He was supposed to have gotten all the grizzly details from my GP – his very own wife. They had told me they’d already given them to him…

So I explained. Feeling like a bit of a tit – because said dodgy spot had now been removed, the stitches had healed really well and it just looked like a bit as though I’d scratched myself.

He eyed the mark out suspiciously. When did all this happen? Two and a half weeks ago was my reply.

Hmmm… he needed to see the histology report. He excused himself and went out of his room. My heart pounded a bit more.

He came back and did all the doctory thing like… tapping my tum (WTF?), listening to my innards, checking that I could swallow.

Then explained patiently how the whole thing worked. He even drew me a picture. It was like an ellipse – if the spot was so big – then 2cm would removed – but obviously they cannot close up a circle without a skin graft – so for every 2cm width – they need to cut 3 x that in length so they could yank it all together (my words- not his). But because he had not seen the histology report he did not know if it would be 2cm or 4cm… I told him that it was early stage, but he just stared at me. He’d wait and see.

That dastardly evil twin kept rearing her head and I cracked one joke after the other… about old arms… and yay for me – I was finally going to sample some nuclear medicine after working at iThemba LABS all those years…

Turns out the man has no sense of humour. Not a shred. Not a blip. I did not raise a single lip curl. Clearly he and his receptionist get on well.

He told me he operated Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Let’s do it, I replied and chose the first available day.

His lovely lady handed me a form – in Afrikaans nogal – with all the descriptions and codes that we needed to go and pre-book into hospital for the following week. She had the last laugh because she gave us a wrong code which caused havoc and much to-ing and fro-ing.

Eventually I emailed her and got a terse little very unprofessional one-liner back in response.

“0311 should not be used.”

Chris later told me that she took a private phone call when she was supposed to be finding out what happened to the histology report. He was sitting listening and getting more and more pissed off with the length of time she took to get around to the simple little task of providing “my doctor” with the information he should have had before I ever saw him. Not sure what went down there but I sure as hell will ask my GP.

The date was set for the following Wednesday (16th May). In addition to having my arm excavated, I would need to have the lymph nodes investigated – hence the nuclear meds – to check that the cancer has not relocated itself to other parts of my skanky bod!

The day before the op at 10h49 I get an SMS from the anaesthetic dudes which went like this… :

“Ur anaesthetics tomorrow code 1439×60 min(avg time)= R3981.06. Arrange with your m/aid for PMB auth Celliersstr. Narkose Dienste.”

I dutifully emailed this info off to the medical aid. Also tried to call but after waiting for 5 minutes (no really) I got chucked off the system each time.

Then I get a call from the lovely Dr’s receptionist – Due to “unforeseen circumstances” the operation needs to be postponed to Friday.

I freaked. I want to get this over with. ASAP! There was no apology, no niceness, no freaking eff all. Just would this work for me? I asked what bloody choice did I have? Will this work for me? She repeated with an edge to her voice.

Inquired what needed to be done to sort this out with the medical aid – she said she’d do it for me. Like it was a huge favour!

A few minutes later I get an email from the medical aid saying…

Thank you for the email. We kindly require the following clinical information regarding the lesions:

  • Size of the lesions, how long have they been there, are they changing in colour, texture or size, are they painful/sensitive, are they bleeding, which area of the body are lesions on.

Upon receipt of this information the request for authorisation will be referred to our medical advisor for review.

I zapped off a scathing letter – including some photos saying I hoped the medical adviser found that the lesion looked suitably cancerous, and that I was not in the habit of having myself chopped up for fun. Really – I was beyond pissed off. Copied Chris and he phoned to commiserate.

Still utterly bedonered the day drew to a close with nothing really resolved – except for the fact that the operation had been moved to Friday and I would be lumped with another freaking 3 nights of even less sleep than usual.

The next morning the lady from the medical aid phoned – turns out she thought this anaesthetist cost was going to be x 60 instead of figuring out it was the total cost for 60 minutes and she had called the Dr. to find out what exactly what procedures they were going to do.

The stupid blah blah fishpaste receptionist at the Dr said she did not know what they were talking about and instead of involving me in the conversation – the whole operation got postponed from Wednesday to Friday.

I know this does not seem a very long delay in the great scheme of things- but it’s shit enough finding out that you have a melanoma (even if it is an early stage one) and knowing that you have to have an operation – whereby your arm is going to undergo another cut that is going to take weeks to heal again… as well as biopsies on lymph glands to check that it has not spread without being jerked around by a shitty unhelpful receptionist.

She could have avoided the whole delay.

Note to self… NEVER EVER rip off a silly receptionist again.

Note to all receptionists… Don’t fuck with a person who writes.

Finish the Saga

Lucky knickers

Sometimes being the mom in this boomerang house of ours is not all that bad…

The other day Emma – aka Igz – asked if I had any scarves that I do not use.

Ummm… nope. I replied very quickly.

Since the big kids came to live with us – nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is safe anymore. Things get borne off to various parts of the house never to be seen again.

Aaahhhh come on mom – you used to have all those little ones that you NEVER use.

Begrudgingly got up to go and look. Had a plastic bag in my cupboard that I vaguely remember stuffing things into when we moved – things that I no longer wore or did not fit.

We emptied The Bag onto the bed… knickers of all varieties and a couple of saggy old bras. One or two new ones as well – of the boobtube variety that had sliced my body unattractively in half. I’d buried them in disgust rather than return them. Those were the days when my thyroid was busy attacking me and I had no idea – was just packing on weight and could not understand it.

We sifted through the stuff… not a single scarf.

She eyed the bras, What are you going to do with those?

I’d gone from too fat to too thin – so they were not likely to fit me now anyway…

What are you going to do with them?  I enquired.

She’d use bits of them for other things… the underwire, the fastners and stuff. I tossed them onto the Em pile.

We ruffled through the heap and found some undies – never worns that I passed on to my skinny daughter, and some others that I had thought would never fit me again found their way back into my top drawer.

I spotted and pounced on my lucky knickers… green lacy ones that I had loved so much they had holes in the crotch in a very unsexy way. They became unlucky when I was wearing them and my suitcase went missing on a visit to the USA, only to be found 5 days into my 10 day trip.

Hot trip tip people – never pack HIS and HERS suitcases – mix your stuff up!

Hadn’t worn those knickers for years – not since I got divorced back in 2003 but could never bear to ditch them completely, so they had languished in a corner of my top drawer and then been relegated to The Bag.

Give those to me, said Em, snatching them out of my hand and stuffing them into her pocket.

Noooo… I started to howl – then realized I was being pathetic – she’d use the lace for some arty project.  We shoveled the rest of the stuff  into The Bag and stashed it back in the cupboard.

Early next morning, Chris and I were on our way to fetch my older daughter and her family from the Lanseria. They were coming from Cape Town and would be spending Easter with us, then going onto Sun City for a friend’s wedding.  I encountered Em in the passage.

I blinked… What are you doing up and out of your flat so early?

Here. She said – grabbing my hand and filling it with something slinky. It’s your lucky bracelet.

She’d made me the most gorgeous charm bracelet – turning bits of lucky knicker lace into beads.  This is the sort of thing my creative, quirky, tempremental, pain-in-the-ass Em does for a living.   So if anybody wants something creatively recycled – give her a shout.

He makes it a better world

 

Have been wanting to write a blog about the Chris de Burgh concert ever since we went on the 2nd of March – I mean FFS – The Man touched my hair!

No really he did. He was walking up the aisle – Lady in Red blaring and all these ladies in red kept leaping out and accosting him. I’d considered wearing something red but then thought that was beyond lame – so was secretly sniggering at all the dames in their fancy red dresses – thinking yah right – like that’s going to help. Hah! They knew something that I did not.

Let me back track a bit… Chris – my Chris that is – flipped open his cell phone one night just before Christmas, when we were parked off on our lovely bench outside, enjoying a glass of wine and trying to ignore the whine of those bastardly mozzies intent on chomping any exposed bits of flesh. He casually mentioned that he’d heard on Radio 702 on the way home that Chris de Burgh was coming to South Africa – did I want to go? Stupid question! Of course I wanted to go but what with us having boomerang kids, aged mothers and a new (old) house making us a tad financially challenged – no ways.

Let’s just have a look, he said… already looking.

Turned out that not only was there only going to be one concert in South Africa (at that stage –although he actually ended up having one in Cape Town too) but it was going to be right here in Pretoria at Menlyn Maine, Times Square – only ten minutes away from our house.

We looked at the prices… I havered – just long enough for Chris to pounce.  Come on, he said – it can be your Christmas, anniversary and birthday pressies all wrapped in one. I slugged down half a glass, mentally pulled up my big girl broekies and happily acquiesced.  We moved on to the seating plan… we had our pick of seats – within our price range that is.  Chris has been known, on the odd occasion, to get the front and the back of a venue mixed up before so we did some very careful checking before finally settling on seats on the aisle – in the middle of the stage – Block AA; Row MM; No’s 49 & 50. (Oh shit shit and double shit – I just hauled the tickets out of the bakkie next to my desk to check the numbers and dropped one of them into the dregs of my cup of coffee – frantic mopping up operation.)

I casually mentioned at the dinner table just a few nights before the event, that we were going to a Chris de Burgh concert. My 84 year old mom gasped and nearly choked on her supper. (Yes – okay – I’d felt bad that only Chris and I were going and we were not taking my mom, who is also a huge fan, so had not mentioned it at the time we’d booked).

Luan looked up from his dinner and said… Chris de WHO?

I snorted in disgust – the youth of today!

Quite funny actually – a few days before the concert I’d gotten new glasses – twice because the first time the frame had broken and I’d just received them for the second time. Thought briefly to myself as we were leaving for the concert, better wear my old glasses in case I get caught in a stampede and they fall off and get stomped.  We left early – as the official web page suggested we should do – in order to avoid any lengthy parking queue snafus.  I scanned the occupants of the cars surrounding us and screeched out laughing – caught in a stampede my ass – everybody was as old as we are – or older.

I have found in life, that getting wildly excited about something usually leads to intense disappointment – a bit of a jaded, somewhat cynical, outlook I know, but it works for me. The less I expect – the more I tend to enjoy an event or situation.

After parking, we wandered around the place and acquainted ourselves with what was where. We checked into the Arena and I splurged on a programme. We ambled downstairs and found our door. Then backtracked and went into the casino for an excruciatingly disgusting bite to eat.  One would think that all the restaurants in the place would be clued in as to when something exciting is happening in the arena and are, therefore, maybe somewhat prepared for an influx of people on a Friday night.

Not so.

Luckily we had ordered before the hordes arrived. We still waited 25 minutes and honestly, I think cold cardboard would have been warmer and more delicious.  I’d name and shame but can’t remember what the place is called – friendly staff but shite food – that sushi / burger joint on the ground floor. Chris had a beer, but I stuck to soda water – no ways was I going to risk falling asleep in the concert. (You laugh – I’m famous for falling asleep in important things… The Lion King, an Elton John Concert…) We choked down our unappetizing, rather revolting burgers and headed for the arena.

By now it was around 19h00. The concert was due to start at 20h00. Originally the tickets had said 20h30 but during the previous weeks, we’d had email notifications that this had changed.

We were led to our seats.

Hmmmm… my Chris pondered… are these really the seats we booked?

By then the usher had already moved on and the seat numbers clearly aligned to the numbers on the tickets. Stress levels kicked in. Was my lovely husband going to make a scene and demand that the right seating position be allocated to our tickets? Luckily he had his own slight doubts and kept his ponderings to himself. Secretly I knew they probably had stuffed up – seats do not go from 50 – 1 and then start on the other side at 51 – but I hugged that sneaky knowledge to my chest and declared myself perfectly happy with our places.

A group of people trouped in. They walked up and down a bit. Clearly confused as all hell. Turned out their entire row was missing – no Q. Fortunately for the event organizers – their blocks of seating had a little break between the A and the AA blocks and so they quietly, quickly and incredibly efficiently inserted an entire row with the minimum of fuss.  I briefly wondered if the people got a rebate because they were then sitting 9 rows further back.

I had been to a Chris de Burgh concert in a previous life… years ago  at the Spier, close to Stellenbosch. I’d booked the tickets – second row from the front – but it turned out we were seated right on the side behind an enormous speaker and could see almost diddly squat without dislocating our necks. The seating plan was very misleading.  I was beyond devastated because I’d had a choice of just about anywhere – could have sat a few rows back, right in the middle. It was winter and rather chilly in the amphitheater. After the show – which was seriously awesome (the Riding on a Rainbow tour in 1998) Chris de Burgh said He was going to have a shower – and never in his life before had he had to have a shower after a show… to warm up!  As we filed out of the venue I spotted the glass that he had been swigging water from during the show. My hand snaked out to pilfer the glass and to my eternal disgust, my (now ex) husband slapped it down and frowned at me. Nice people did not steal mega performer’s drinking glasses.  Who said I was a nice person?

So you can maybe understand why my Chris was feeling a bit dejected that we were once again stuck on the side of the stage and not in the middle where he had booked. But it did not matter in the least.

There was a buzz in the arena. Most of the people were obviously huge fans and greatly looking forward to the event. Having said that – I was totally gobsmacked that people had the audacity to arrive late (after 20h30 – yes – that’s when it finally did start) when the fabulous man himself was already on the stage – and still chattered loudly causing a huge disturbance getting to their seats in the middle of the row… prompting me to hiss shut the fuck up at them to my poor husband’s mortification. (Upon reflection – they had probably been waiting for their food!)

I was further outraged to notice (hard not to when they keep passing in your line of vision) that people came and went the entire performance, getting drinks and snacks from the stands outside. Seriously… is this the new norm at concerts? Can people not last for two hours without feeding their faces? How rude – to the artist and other people. I can remember when doors were locked and if you were late – tough shits – you missed the first act.

One of the things I love best about Chris de Burgh is that his songs have the most memorable lyrics. You can lose yourself in them. They are deep, meaningful and melodious. He cares about what is going on in the world and it shows in his music. “A Better World” – his current tour – consists of many songs that I had never heard before – and yet this did not diminish a single bit of enjoyment.

Yes – we all know that we adore it when well-loved songs are belted out at a concert and you can sing along –  your heart swelling with joy and feeling  like you want to bust because you are actually listening to the real person singing the song – LIVE!

He sang those too – lots of them.

So back to the beginning bit… Lady in Red was serenading from the speakers and Chris de Burgh left the stage and started bonding with his audience. He walked up the very same aisle we were sitting on, high-fiving people and shaking hands. Picking out ladies in red and giving hugs or twirling them in the aisle. Truly I am not one of those people that goes … pick me, pick me – but as he got level with my chair  – I was about to stick my hand out, when an elderly lady dressed in red dashed down from the side seats and accosted my man… which meant he had his back to me. My wicked twin sister’s hand snaked out and coochied him in the ribs (yeah yeah – over his jacket – which was sooo soft but I could still feel bod underneath) as he walked past me. The few seconds it took had me dying of mortification at my absolute cheek of pawing the poor dude – and also wondering if one of his bouncers was going to rap my knuckles and toss me out the door.

The next moment I felt my head being coochied back.

Holyfuckeroni! Sat still as a statue and blushed beetroot – luckily it was darkish. Then stole a look at my lovely husband sitting next to me…

YES! He affirmed with a not altogether friendly look on his face. IT WAS HIM… and I nearly bliksem’d him!

I giggled wildly – my head would never be the same again.

The concert was beyond fabulous and exceeded every single expectation but that magic touch was totally the cherry on the top. Did not wash my hair for days. Now – more than a month later, can still conjure up that feeling – light, warm fingers on that particular bit of my head. Igz, my daughter, googled and came up with some waffle about if a famous person you really like touches you – a bit of their magic rubs off. It sure felt like it.

Chris de Burgh is the utmost professional. Don’t think they make artists that perform and entertain like that anymore. Those people who scoff and say… Who? That old dude… can just feck right off because he is still a magical artist to watch and listen too. I’ve been a fan for more than 40 years – ever since we used to listen to Spanish Train in our back room in Malawi.  Can’t for one moment imagine that Justin Bieber fans will be saying the same in 40 years!

He entertained us on that stage for more than two hours, gave his band a break but he himself did not take one. He really looked like he  appreciated his adoring fans (of which there were many of varied ages) and finally ended his concert with a rousing rendition of Patricia the Stripper – which nearly had my husband creeping  under his seat because his usually well-behaved (okay – not always) wife was leaping around, bellowing out the words, along with everybody else.

The foreword of the programme reads like this: “Hello and welcome to the concert! The band and I are delighted to be here tonight to perform for you. We look forward to giving you the best show that we possibly can, with many of your favourite songs, and to you leaving the show happy! That’s my hope and our intention, now and always. Thank you for coming. Chris de Burgh

He certainly succeeded. I felt genuinely happy (okay – I’m mostly a happy person anyway – but this was an extra bubbly feeling floating around my system) for the next three days.

Thank you Chris de Burgh for the lovely concert and for performing from the heart. And a million thanks to my own Chris – for being such a lovely husband.

P.S.  You’ll be glad to note that vet-boy Luan (aged 22) now knows exactly who Chris de Burgh is and frequently plays his music whilst studying body bits and their ghastly Latin names on our bone-strewed dining room table!