October 16, 2005

October 16, 2005
It has been a busy past week. There were visits to the Horizon Cancer Treatment Center of Bumrungrad Hosp. for lab tests and neupogen injections to bring up low neutrophils (immature white blood cells). There were lots of highs and lows for Mark this week.
The lows have included feeling awful at times and fighting nausea and thinking about the cost of the nausea pills which are $10 each one (cash out of pocket), but I am told that these pills cost much more in the states.
The highs include a party we threw at his friend John's place, for friends and some ex patriots especially some with Texas ties. I had brought a suitcase full of smoked brisket which John had professionally sliced. Mark's friend Jin and I made a mountain of cole slaw with a vinegrette dressing. John baked home made bread and made home frys. We served over 60 people...started out to be 35 or 40. Mark was so happy and profusely thanked me for the brisket and for making this possible. At first he wanted his cole slaw with mayo...and was bad mouthing the idea of vinegrette dressing but then all of a sudden he decided it was great. It is made with an old recipe from a restaurant in Calhoun County Illinois. It keeps for days but we did not have to worry about that as it was eaten before before the night passed.
Thanks to those 10 dollar nausea pills, Mark has been eating brisket every day. His other favorite right now is a thin hamburger patty cooked well done with some pickles and tomatoes. I brought the pickles from Austin since you really can not buy good pickles in Thailand . My back pack had a gallon of pickles in it. Two checked suitcases and two carry ons and none contained much in the way of clothes....mostly food and books.
Mark and I have had some serious talks as he is dealing with many important decisions about life and death and how to get what he needs from the medical profession which is not easy and could be termed "the impossible dream" . Most of us deal with that on a small scale. People with cancer are playing for higher stakes.
Each day becomes more important. Mark's world is so small in some ways right now: the cancer center and his balcony and the condo and a rare trip elsewhere. But it is big in other ways. He reads a lot and is curious about the world and tries to figure so many things out and shares with me those he has figured out. Some we are not quite so sure about like could we really fry an egg on the hot Bangkok sidewalk, but it is fun to think about such things. We are both more and more interested in the history and present day happenings in the countries around Thailand as well as Thailand itself. Mark is also interested in the happenings around him. From his balcony before dawn each day he watches the Hindus gathering accross the street and listens to their chants and music. Sometimes he thinks he recognizes an old late 60's or 70's tune in what is really some Indian music. He watched two storm fronts come together two days ago. He saw the lightening strike the Sheraton Hotel lightening rod and some other ones as well and yelled at me to come join him to see it. It was a fantastic show of nature. There was a beautiful rainbow after the storm. Mark seems so finely tuned in to so many nuances of nature but then again he always has been.
We are going to try to go this week to a village near the mountains. On the way we will stop at a large "farm" with a dairy herd and cowboys. I saw it on Thai TV. There are Thai cowboys there complete with outfit, hat, guns that they twirl just like on old cowboy movies and they rope the steers. Visitors can milk a cow and have lunch of T-bone steak. We will also stop at a Thai winnery. Sounds just like what tourists in Austin might do....go out to a ranch and a hill country winnery. One difference, we will be near a jungle full of orchids, mushrooms, and other wild things when we are in the village. Mark was resistent to going at first but now he is getting real excited about this excursion. This is going to be our big adventure this week if all goes well. Mark , his sister, and I send hugs to you. Miss Betty the mom

October 10, 2005

October 11, 2005
I arrrived in bangkok on Oct 3 one week ago at 11:30 pm which is the most usual time for flights from USA via Tokyo to arrive. The trip was long and I spent the long leg of it caring for a woman who fainted and vomited all over everything (including herself) in the rear galley of the plane. What a challenge. No end of adventures to be had. Mark was overnighting in the hospital for chemotherapy. I made my way to his condo in a taxi. It is all familiar to me. I slept a few hours and went to the hospital. where I found Mr Maark as they call him here (he calls himself "Chemo Man") , looking great; the best I have seen him in the past six months after the cancer diagnosis. Mark has a tan from lying on his balcony and he has been eating a lot. Do you have to worry about getting cancer from sun exposure when you already have cancer? My guess is "no" and anyway Mark enjoys this sun bathing.

I went to Mark's eye doc appointment with him and he got a thumbs up on his eye that had received the surgeries. On the way to the eye appointment, he walked the last two blocks after our taxi got stalled in heavy traffic and then we climbed two flights of stairs at the hospital on our way to the Laser Eye Department. This was remarkable . Mark was in the very best shape I have seen him in for months. The roller coaster was climbing high. We began planning a trip to the mountain village of our friend Jin and yesterday the driver was coming for us when we learned Marks WBCs were very low and he began vomiting so he was side-lined by the doc...got neupogen and to return for repeat CBC wed...The roller coaster has taken a low dip after going up high. Our driver was cancelled and our trip postponed.

Today I am up at at 4:30 am working on Mark's computer. Mark is up at 5 am to listen to the city and watch it from his balcony. Below on the street the garbage men sort through all the sacks of garbage from the condo and take out cans and glass. This is the way we recycle here...We toss it all in and men sort it out. Accross the street the vegetable and fruit and meat and fish market stalls are dark...the Buddist retreat center is a bee hive of activity as eating and singing goes on at dawn and then the many many Buddists in white turbans and robes...leave in their cars and busses..Behind the Buddist retreat is the Baptist Retreat...dark at this hour and beyond that the Westin Hotel and we can see a number of tall buildings including Times Square Building which Mark loves...he tells me he loves the colors of it as sun reflects off it. We can see the sky train start up the day...It has been dark but it comes to life and begins to run...I love to watch the sky train. We can see the river...so much to hear and see from the balcony where mark has chairs and his recliner and his plants which he tends until they are perfect. What a place to be. i love Bangkok almost as much as Mark.

So much to see and do in Bangkok. I have spent a fair amount of time this week while Mark slept, at Pontip Plaza a huge techological building with many stores and booths within it. I have a young technician i trust and he lets me sit on a stool for hours watching him work on Mark's computer which is now perfect after correcting various problems which the computer had. I have met some of the customers who are international and multilingual..and helped sell a separate fan for laptops to some young Italians.

Mark is reading again. He is reading Bangkok Tatoo which is a detective story and mentions the corner where we live...I am reading the Thai Amulet which tells of many places I have visited. We saw the movie about Stephen Hocking who discovered the big bang therory..and Mark is fascinated by Hocking and wants to read the book. We have played with a game that Clift and Sue Price Sent. It is a lot of fun. Mark has counted his money you all sent and has counted his Kool-aide packages and enjoyed the book tapes and the candy and pudding and other things that people sent These are all reminders to him that people do care. and have made his low points in the roller coaster ride bearable. Mark has made a list of everyone who sent anything and wants me to thank each and every one. He is greatly touched by your kind words and your reaching out to him in hopes of pulling him back to health or easing his time of dying. Cancer is a terrible companion... uncertainty and unpredictability the only things that seem predictable, certain, and constant about it. My thanks and Mark's thanks and love to all of you. Miss Betty the Mom in Bangkok, Thailand