A Scanner Darkly

I am back! If you have been following me (and it’s okay if you are not), you know that Tim and I made a decision to go on vacation to Iceland despite a lot of uncertainty. Yes, I wore a surgical mask, which actually made me feel calmer in the presence of so many people at the airport–I was terrified by the crush of people. I also had antibacterial wipes and hand wash and we wiped every surface down in sight. Once in Iceland it was not so crowded and we could sit privately at restaurants and in the way back of buses, away from others. Lots of hand washing people! Turned out this was good idea! My blood count came out on Monday and I was neutropenic ( my white count crashed). My doctor stopped the chemo (not the letrazole) and asked me to get a another CBC. Whoops! That wasn’t happening.

Anyway, moving on, Iceland was fantastic–beautiful, rustic, unearthly–I can’t really describe it adequately. Parts of it were like the Lord of the Rings crossed with Game of Thrones, other parts were moon like. Every day was  a lesson in geology, tectonic plates, geothermal heating, agriculture, volcanic ash and lava……we walked across the  bridge between the Eurasian and North American plates, which are splitting, walked on a glacier, visited the geyser and the waterfalls, a volcano, the cathedral and The Harpa, the site of the first parliament 900 years ago, the Black Beach at the southern most point, and swam in the Blue Lagoon. The food and people were great, the hotel was lovely and we had a blast. I would not hesitate to go there, ever. I won’t go on about this since I have been posting video diaries on social media and everyone is surely sick of me by now (all except Jack–he never tires of me).

Bridget meanwhile, continues with Marissa on their grand tour of Ireland, due back tomorrow.

Okay, now back to reality. We arrived home late Friday night–sore throat, constant bloody nose, lip blisters–you get the picture–chemo was taking its ugly toll. Yesterday was spent in the ER. It sucked! Kelsey, Tim and I thought we could slip through urgent care in Stoughton and get my CBC done and a chest X-Ray for chest pain. Yeah, not so simple. The risk of a pulmonary embolism was too great in addition to being neutropenic. We made a game time decision to go to the ER at Boston Medical where Kelsey is an ER nurse. Poor Kels–her day off and she gets to spend it with me having quality bonding time (not so much) in her place of employment! Kelsey managed to get me into the ER via the ambulance bay and directly into an ER isolation room on precautions. Then began the constant round of masked doctors  and nurses and the endless loop of repeating my story which Tim and Kelsey really enjoyed. Although the docs were impressed that I had an actual binder with my medical records and a CD of my chest X-Ray, they were not going to let me go anytime soon. Kelsey put in my IV herself and rushed my blood work while they debated the risk of a contrast dye Cat scan on my solo kidney. Ultimately they decided not to go that route and called in a poor nuclear med tech from home to do a V/Q lung scan. This involved a lot of waiting and watching Tim and Kelsey eat. Yup. That was special.

Finally Kelsey took/pushed me to nuclear medicine where I had to inhale radioactive mist through a snorkel tube. When they took out the tube, the now radioactive saliva dumped all over my aproned chest and they warned me not to direct this at Kelsey who was sitting on the gurney with me. Yup, family bonding time. Then it was into a very claustrophobic tube for an hour and a half that rotated around me while Kelsey held my hands over my head and talked me off the ledge. I was there with no time to build up my usual anticipatory dread or take a sedative so I was going to do it no matter what!!!  Poor Tim was left waiting and waiting until we returned and waited some more. His phone battery died so he had to resort to watching the drunk and disorderly fighting in the ER, welcome to Saturday night in the inner city. Finally, close to midnight we were freed!!! No pulmonary embolism and my blood count was rebounding after being off the meds for a few days!!!The chest pain appears to be muscular and I was shown the door which I gladly ran through. Hospitals are for sick people, not me!

My song this week: “Make It Rain” by Ed Sheeran from the Sons of Anarchy sound track–why not?


Barb (my name in Icelandic would be Barbara Jamesdottier Thomasson), the nurse and the ladybug


  1. Wow! Welcome home! Sounds like a night from hell, but glad things are better in your body! No embolism! Yippee! 😊


  2. Sounds like a ball. What’s up for today- stick some needles in your eye? Perhaps throw yourself down the cellar stairs?


  3. Your trip looked amazing and it sounds like you had a wonderful time!! I’m glad you’re safely home now and doing better after the scare. Your daughter Kelsey is remarkable.


    1. Love your writing Barbara. So glad u went. On some level our stars are crossed, on a lesser scale, I took a travel gamble April break and took my dad, with mid stage Alzheimer’s, to his homeland in Azores. Risky with his wandering but if all else failed would serve purpose of giving my mom a break. Visited relatives, saw magical places , craters, lakes, and sunsets. Not all paradise….as nothing is…. Fell flat on his face first day there….managed night in ER despite no ability to speak Portuguese . Left with a cast on his broken arm and a swaddled face. Peed every morning in the hamper (so what). Pictures look tough except for huge smile on his face in every one. Made lots of memories, I’ll treasure when he can’t. Glad I went despite accident, glad u went despite risks. We can’t learn anything playing it safe. Came back Friday night also…..no chance to sort it out….sick little grandson in ER for chest. X-ray…junky lungs, no pneumonia ..phew. All said and done ….so sorry you were the patient, so happy you were the traveller . Love and luck today. Anyone who can work with teenagers can do anything.


  4. Hey there. Mario from not your average joes here. I came onto your site and saw this posting and was glad to see that you went away and visited iceland. Glad to hear things got better in the end when you came back. Kels is awesome (which we already know) being by your side and I so want to ask Tim about this fight in the ER! Miss you guys!


  5. An amazing trip for an amazing lady–I’m sorry you had to come home to that experience. Your posts are so candid and beautifully written. XO Jen


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