Day 50, 51: Farewell Xian, for now (Sat 17 and Sun 18 December)

The long trip home commenced with a fairly streamlined checkout and departure process. We were all packed and ready to go when Allison and the hospital car came to collect us and take us to the airport.

Despite my exhaustion I only slept for an hour last night.

The plane ride through to Hong Kong was pretty easy but we were very disappointed with the quality of the expensive airport hotel. We stayed there so we wouldn’t have to travel in a cab at the crack of dawn to get our plane the following day. The last time I stayed at the airport hotel in HK was in 2002 and to me it hadn’t had a touch of TLC since then. Great location – poor quality and grossly overpriced.

I flaked out in the hotel on Saturday night while Brad navigated public transport to find the Catholic Church in Kowloon. The post-HiFU pain started so the night wasn’t very comfortable.

Cathay Pacific looked after me very well at check in when I was really starting to struggle post HiFU. I was offered a wheelchair and an escort and so the emigration process was far better than I could have hoped. I was very grateful.

We got the same excellent treatment when we arrived at Changi in Singapore. It took seven, yes count them, seven minutes between getting off the plane, going through customs and migration and getting into a cab to see some friends for our five hour stopover. What amazing service. Thank you Changi.

It was great to meet up with Jules, Matt, Elaine, Tamara, Paul and Jany during our short visit to Singapore. Thanks everyone for coming out to see us – we really appreciated it.

I was very uncomfortable on the flight from Singapore to Perth but at least it was short. Not short enough for me not to get annoyed though… Business class was about 90% men, a couple of women and a screaming baby. I was made to feel oh, so special when the hosts on Qantas introduced themselves to all the blokes on the plane then later asked Mr Nordstrom, Mr Smith, Mr Maguire etc etc what they would like for dinner. After the hostess took Brad’s order she said, “and….” at which time she looked at me blankly. So perhaps I had become invisible and had lost my name as well. Unbelievable. Later on it happened again, and Brad said, my partner’s name is Jaye. We’re not sure if the point was lost on her or not.

Of course it got even better when we arrived at Perth airport in the wee hours. I might as well have asked for a tooth extraction mid-flight as much as a wheelchair – it really looked like I was putting the staff out. Finally they brought me a wheelchair, got me off the plane and parked me at the top of the walkway. Then the assistant told me to wait there (in the chair) because she had to get another wheelchair and another passenger? What? How exactly was she supposed to push both of us? Brad agreed to push me just to get out of there which was fine until we got to picking up our baggage. Noone was interested in helping so Brad piled all the bags on a trolley and pushed it with one hand and me with the other. It was a total joke. Finally one young woman who was a Qantas employee offered assistance. It was quite obvious it wasn’t part of her job description but she cared and wanted to do the right thing. As always, it only takes one person to make change and have impact. She did – thank you. Ordinarily I would have asked for her name and sent a letter of commendation but at nearly 2am and overcome with pain I couldn’t do it.

It was great to see Dad when he picked me up and I cried most of the way home.

Day 49: Last day of treatment (Friday 16 December)

It’s hard to believe that after all these weeks the last day of treatment for this tour of duty is finally here.

The day turned out to be quite peaceful. I was all ready to go to SPDT first up but I was sent back to the room to have P53 first. Then I had a surprise visit from doctors Yan and Yia. We had quite an amiable discussion and they assured me they remain positive and optimistic about my condition. Unfortunately the language barrier stopped me from finding out how they formed that view. We chatted about what treatment I would have while I was home in Perth and a few other bits and bobs. I just couldn’t resist dispensing some advice of my own to Dr Yan. I suggested that perhaps he might like to consider giving up smoking, given that it can give you cancer, after all… I mean really, what doctor wants to be their own patient?

We had a long list of things to finalise and sort out before the end of the day. The list was do-able but we were relying on a range of other people to bring it all to fruition. But, just like a uni assignment (well, like mine at least) everything came together in the nick of time.

After SPDT I had to go straight to HiFU – a sequence of treatment which is never fun. I had an hour and ten minutes of HiFU on one tumour and 45 minutes on the other. Not only was it draining, but I knew I’d be wearing the consequences of the zapping for days to come.

During the day Brad went off to finalise a few things outside of the hospital and have a coffee with Gary. The cover story for the coffee was so that they could swap notes on cancer treatment options, but I think they both needed to let of some steam about the trials and tribulations of caring for their sick female partners – fair enough!

When the treatment was all over and we were back in the hotel we were bailed up by the staff who demanded payment for an extra night’s accommodation for Mum. The only trouble was that the night they wanted the payment for, Mum was back in Australia. I just can’t bring myself to type out the whole, tortuous argument that ensued but the short version is that Mum requested and was granted late checkout, the staff helped with her bags, put her in a taxi, had custody of her room key and customer feedback form, and knew that she did not occupy the room on the night in question – but they wanted extra payment because they didn’t know she was checking out. Oh boy. Brad took up the cudgel and after 45 minutes plus of arguing the matter was settled.

After this ordeal we figured we’d better sort out our own hotel bill that night, because we didn’t have an hour or two to waste sorting things out in the morning. After waiting, waiting then some more waiting we got a printout of our bill which was more or less above board. There was a small amount of argy bargy but we’ve learned to pick our battles and the matter was finalised almost in record time.

A note that I wrote on Friday 16th:

Now it’s 3.47 am. I was really tired and ready for sleep but have had pain since nine or 10pm. I’ve had Nurofen Plus and Panadol but it hasn’t been enough. I took Oxycontin a while ago and the pain seems to have subsided a little so might be time to see if I can get back to sleep. Definitely don’t want to miss the plane in the morning!

Emily

I was very pleased to hear from an old classmate from high school today. The only trouble is that Emily didn’t have great news to share. She also has advanced cancer which is now in her brain and she’s on tough chemotherapy drugs. Emily is staying incredibly positive despite her arduous treatment regime. I wish you all the best Emily, and also send my best wishes to your husband and son.