A Skippers Tale XVI

First Rate

Today Dad got a surprise from some of his Navy chums that really put the twinkle back in his eye, which was a glad improvement on what we had experienced yesterday.

Since Wednesday Dad has been taking only 3mg of the steroid Dexamethadone that is designed to keep any additional swelling around his tumours down.  It is the swelling that causes most of the problems with the brain as the head is designed basically to keep everything in and the inter-cranial pressure builds up and puts undue stress on the little grey cells.

Dr Gill did warn us that there is a pretty fine juggling act that comes along with this type of illness and that we would need to take things day by day to see what changes occurred.  Mum and I had deliberately gotten Dad to do tasks over the past few days that required a reasonable amount of cognition, reading out loud, co-ordination based things, etc… we needed to keep a baseline of how he was performing so that we would be able to notice any change.

Yesterday there was a change.  Dad woke with a headache – something he told us about for the first time, and he found that his legs were aching and he was constantly sleepy.  Watching Dad move really brought home to me the difference in Dad, before he was like a frickin gazelle and trying to keep up with him was nigh on impossible.  Yesterday I was having to slow for him.  There were other little changes like the fact he had to be reminded to put his seatbelt on, or the fact he had gone out without his wallet… all these started to worry Mum and I.  We attempted to contact his Dr but missed them by about half a hour.  The Cancer Centre of course was closed for the weekend, so I did the only other thing I could think of – phoned Ward G52 where Dad had been in HDU.  When I raised my concerns and wondered if I should bump Dad’s Dexies back up to 4mg the shift coordinator agreed, but suggested that I call Dr Gill on Monday, something I had intended to do anyway.

This morning, having now had two 4mg doses, Dad was feeling quite a bit better.  Which was good, because he had been invited down to the WA Submarine Association meeting in Rockingham.  Mum and I knew why people wanted him to come, but at the end of the day it was would Dad be ‘able’ to make it.  Thankfully he was.

Shortly after this had all happened I had a call from the Secretary of the Association, Paul, who told me that the committee had decided to present Dad with a set of medallions representing all the Oberon Class Submarines that served in the RAN.  Dad had been a chief petty officer when the Ovens (now dry docked at Fremantle) was commissioned and was one of the crew who brought her home.

The medallions are beautiful as you can see in the photo below and Dad was really chuffed to receive them.  We didn’t stay too long after the presentation, because Dad was starting to tire, but I think it did him the world of good to catch up with his buddies.


This, plus a visit from one of his workmates Lance this afternoon has made the end of the weekend all rather good.  And at the moment that’s all we ask for!


A Skippers Tale Part XV

Choppy Waters

It has been a few days since my last update, so I thought I would fill you in on what has been happening in the Lawrence household.

Last week was a veritable frenzy of activity with appointments to be had, masks to be made and visitors to chat to.

After our initial consult with Dr Gill and the gang at the mould making room, Dad and I had to return to Sir Charlies for the final fit and adjustment to make sure that everything was already for any radiation treatment.  During our debrief we received a breakdown of Dad’s schedule, radiation every week day (excluding public holidays) for 30 treatments starting 26th March 2015.  That should take things through until the 11th of May, after which he will start his Chemo in June (will explain shortly).

It is expected that Dad will lose some hair during the radiation, more patches than the all over job, so it will be dependent on how much as to whether he starts sporting the Daddy Warbucks look or not.  The treatments take only about 15 minutes, but someone will have to accompany him each time to make sure all goes according to plan.

We had an appointment today with Chris Lammas who is the Medical Oncologist who advised that to give Dad the best chance that the Chemo will be administered AFTER the radiation so as not to wear the body down too much.  Unlike conventional chemo, this is delivered in tablet form for only the first 5 days of a 28 day cycle.  It is a much easier way to get the chemicals into his body.  Side effects might include some nausea but they have anti-up-chuck drugs for that part.  We asked how long he would be on this, and Dr Chris said indefinitely until one of two things happen… 1) they are no longer effective, 2) the body reaches maximum toxicity levels.  When Mum once again raised the question of prognosis, Mum said the Dr was unable to meet her eye to eye and then was very cagey about giving time frames.  So we really don’t know what to read into that…

Off the Medical and onto other news…

The weekend was full of visitors as I said, first up was Brian and Leanne who affectionately call Mum and Dad, P’ma and P’da (Perth Mum and Dad).  Lea and I first met down in PCYC in Albany and along with my other friend Julie have been my “Besties” since about 1989.  Actually my knowing Lea predates this by about 5 years earlier when we worked out that one Anzac Day down in Albany I had decided to pass out during the parade and Leanne’s Dad had been the attending Ambulance officer.  Leanne at the time was a cadet and had done her darnedest to find my Mum in the crowd, because Dad was marching with the Navy at the time… strange old world…  Anyway, Brian and Lea came around and we spent a nice morning chatting about all sorts of odds and sods.

Tony and Lyn, our next door neighbours until a couple of a years ago dropped around in the afternoon to catch up with us.  We discussed the fires that had been started down around their area and the chaos that it had caused for people trying to get home… we’ve all come to the conclusion that it is ‘interesting’ that within about 18 months of fire ripping through ‘bushland’ around the Perth suburbs that suddenly that area springs up as a new housing development site…

As Monday was a public holiday, we had a visit from Loui, Dad’s most recent boss, and Mark, one of the project leaders to do with the Gorgon Gas field up north.  Mark is a US import whom Dad worked closely with when he was at OMSA as Port Captain and is a really lovely guy.  Until this all blew up, I knew OF Loui, but I hadn’t actually met him.  I was pleasantly pleased to find the image I had in my minds-eye was correct and I am glad now to consider him real friend.  It was great to put a face to the name, and see Dad so happy to be chatting with them.

Sid (sub mate) came by around lunchtime, and I have to admit I have little memory of this as I had managed to flake out down the back on my bed for about three hours…

This next week we don’t have any medical appointments for Dad… at this moment, but we do have rehab people who will be dropping by.

I’m in for a CT scan tomorrow morning… as I have turned 40 this is where I expect the wheels to start coming off… or wobbling at the very least… time to get a pre-emptive ‘service’.  Speaking of which 100,000km services on cars are damned expensive!!! (my car had hers today).  I also have an appointment tomorrow to speak with my bosses again to work out what my plan of attack is next on that front.   I am at the point where leave without pay is almost a certainty until at least Dad’s daily visits to the hospital are finished.

So, that’s about it… stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment.