Day 1: Saturday 29 October, 2011
November 4, 2011 1 Comment
This is the first day in my search for a cure.
We arrived in Hong Kong tired and tetchy from our overnight flight and managed to waste several hours at the HK Intl airport sorting out the basics of immigration, checking in to the China flight, and baggage storage. Finally we made it out of there on the excellent train service that runs express from the Airport. I was very excited about being able to get wifi access on the train on my iPad.
On Thursday before I left Perth I agreed to an interview with Amanda Banks from the West Australian newspaper to talk about the latest status of my disease, and my plans for going to China etc. We saw this opportunity as a good way to let other cancer patients know that there are more cancer treatment options out there around the globe than just the surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy that we get offered in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, these treatments appear to have worked well for me in the past, and for many others, but now they just don’t cut the mustard. It was really lovely to turn on my phone on Saturday morning when we’d landed in Hong Kong and find all sorts of messages of good wishes and support from all sorts of people. While I was at the airport I even got a call from a lady in Perth whose father was having a similar treatment to the one I am going to try and who is very keen to “spread the word” about less conventional treatment options. I look forward to helping to get the word out there when I can.
I don’t really know how I am doing this as I’m sort of on autopilot. All I know is that I can’t just accept chemo, then die. Brad asked me how I’m going last night and I said that it is probably the knowledge that so many people are on my side and are batting for me that makes me able to go on. I thank each and every one of you who has sent me cards, flowers, texts, Facebook and LinkedIn messages and made other gestures of support. It makes a difference to know that I am not alone, and that I have a huge cheer squad. I sure do need it.
Several of my friends have said to me that they haven’t really worried each time I’ve gotten sick because they just assumed that I’d easily conquer it. This time, like me, they’re scared. This time there isn’t another kidney that can be removed or some other bit of surgery that can be done to just cut out the disease. It is everywhere, and it is growing fast. One friend said:
“JJ, I have been thinking a lot about our conversation when you told me you were sick, and that we agreed there really isn’t anything to say. There’s nothing that can be said. It’s true, but inadequate, this hits us in ways beyond what we can say. What I have realised is that this is one we need to feel. We need to ride its waves and live through it. I want you to know that although I haven’t said much, that I am also feeling this one with you, and I am right alongside you through it. Take care on your travels to China, you’re in my thoughts often and you’re not alone.”
I am so lucky to have friends that care and are willing to roll their sleeves up and get involved in this ride with me – which I am sure will have many bad times and hopefully some good ones.
Now, back to something less emotional and more mundane… Brad had sussed out all the exchange rates that were being offered at the airport and we decided to take up Rachel’s dad’s advice and go to his man in Kowloon. We felt pretty ridiculous after leaving the currency exchange place as Brad was padded up under his clothes with cash and my handbag was full of RMB notes. Apparently the private hospital where I am getting treatment in Xian doesn’t take credit card, travellers’ cheques or much else other than cold hard cash. Rather than relying on what exchange rate the hospital might’ve given us for our Aussie dollars we swapped them to RMB in Hong Kong. It felt very strange to have $20K worth of RMB on us. Even though Brad was convinced that we would get robbed and lose the lot, I had a little more faith.
I suppose it is not surprising that Brad thought we might lose the cash, since he had already lost his brand new wallet and eight credit cards somewhere between the Perth airport and the Hong Kong airport! I put it down to the fact that he forgot to bring his little St Christopher badge that my aunty had given to each of us to protect us on our travels. We will have to ask Mum to send it over to us to make sure the return journey goes more smoothly.
With our cash in hand (and under clothes and in handbag) we made it in the nick of time for our China Eastern flight to Xian, China. As usual, I fell asleep before takeoff and Brad was left to amuse himself for the two and a half hour flight. Sometime during the flight I woke up because I started to feel unwell and got the shivers. It is hard to tell whether this was a result of jetlag, a cold or the cancer but either way it wasn’t pleasant. The shivers passed and I made it to Xian in one piece, albeit completely buggered.
The interpreter from the hospital was due to pick us up from the airport but she wasn’t there. After waiting for an hour or so we decided that was enough and just got a taxi to the hotel. Of course, English isn’t very common here and we don’t speak any Mandarin, so even getting a taxi was more difficult than we had anticipated. Fortunately, I had the booking form for the hotel on my iPad and it had the name and address of the hotel written in characters so the taxi driver could read it and easily got us to where we needed to go.
Checking in at the hotel was another challenge. Note to self: learn Mandarin…. But, we got there in the end. After we had a delicious Chinese set box for dinner (similar to the Japanese ones that we’re used to in Australia) we called it a very early night and turned in.