What Just Happened?

The story of a surprise brain tumor diagnosis Symptoms and Diagnosis Three years ago I was giving a slide presentation which included some pictures from my time volunteering in Africa. There were pictures of some of the disadvantaged and malnourished HIV orphan kids I worked with in the highlands of Ethiopia and Cameroon. I suddenly felt uncontrollably emotional. Bit odd I thought, must be getting older, or maybe the effect of now being a real family man with kids? I skipped the next section of those slides, took and breath and continued on with the show.

One year ago I went to unclip my foot from the pedals of my mountain bike on a difficult section of the sidle track along the Port Hills. I couldn’t get the little ankle action quite right on the left foot and promptly toppled over. My good friend Nic and I diagnosed rusty pedal cleats and I carried on with the ride with a bit of a bruise on my hip.

Six months ago I had just had a long soak in the spa pool at our local leisure centr…

Post Surgery Update from Elodie Mazoyer

From Elodie on behalf of Richard. Richard's surgeon just let me know the operation went well. Four and a half hours. Richard is now in recovery and I will see him in an hour or so. They took most of the tumor out as was planned (they couldn't take out the attachment to the meninge as it is too close to the big vein but they were able to cauterise it) which makes it a grade 2 (for the doctors out there), and for the non doctors, it is as good a result as you can get! And a very good prognosis.
Anyway, RIchard is now in recovery moving all 4 limbs. Lower limbs are slow but that is expected after the surgery as the brain reexpands (the surgeon also said Richard's brain was well compressed and edematous). Richard should recuperate most of his lower limbs motricity within the next 48 hours to be back where he was before surgery.
All for now
Love from us.

Five Millimeters by Five Millimeters... No Centimeters

“Five millimeters by five millimeters, that’s not too big” I said. “No, that’s centimeters” replied the neurosurgeon. I was a about to retort that surely neurosurgeons should talk in smaller units than centimeters… but then thought twice about criticising the guy who was going to be rummaging around in my brain in a few days time.

I’d been having some odd little symptoms down my left side, like catching my left ski while turning in fresh powder, so instead of an extra ski lesson, I got an MRI scan. A big humming machine and glowing computer monitors. To cut a long story short, we were sort of expecting maybe a very early stage degenerative diagnoses like motor neuron disease or MS. So I was focused on practicing my best Stephen Hawking impersonation.

Instead I got a call at work the next morning to walk directly to the front door of the hospital emergency department and the neuro team would be there to chat about options for getting me skiing better. Turns out I have a meningioma, a …

Christchurch in Ruins

"Wow, I think I've got a blown tire... in fact two front tires... maybe all my tires...?!?!"

I was driving along Moorhouse Avenue in Christchurch, New Zealand, at 12:51pm on Tuesday 22nd February 2011, when the city's future was changed forever. It took me quite some seconds though to figure out what was happening when my car went suddenly out of control, lurching from side to side, the steering wheel with a mind of its own, and many thoughts kept racing through my head:

"...I can't have blown all my tires?!... in fact I'm stationary now... but the car is still shaking... the hydraulic power steering pump must be faulty... cars all seem to have on board computers don't they... maybe the car has come alive like in a science fiction movie...".

I was brought back into focus from my crazy theories by bricks crashing into the footpath on the other side of the road.

"...ah... earthquake... big earthquake... "

I was in the wrong place at the w…

Red Tape

Visa renewal in Cameroon is a perfect example of this countries insanity. Visa to enter the country are expensive, but the cost and process of renewing a visa while in the country is like something out of a bad movie.
First you need to get a small pile of papers prepared for your 'file'. A copy of your passport, a letter from your employing organisation requesting an extension, the registration of that organisation, etc. Then when handing in the papers you might be requested for a copy of someone else's ID, maybe a letter from you previous employer before coming to Cameroon - the more irrelevant the better.
The office of course defies belief. Crowed and dirty, with huge sacks of paper lining the walls, broken doors and windows, various people milling around the corridors. The person I was to see today had a Che Guevara T-shirt on and surprisingly spoke excellent english. He explained how in Cameroon there was only yes or no, that there was no way my friend from Belo could …

Judith's Cameroon Visit

Christmas this year was spent in Yaounde with some friends putting on a great feed at their house on the other side of town. Elodie and I then headed to Kirbi, with its wonderful long deserted stretches of white sand and some quiet beach time. We hoped to track down some rare turtles laying their eggs on the beach under the cover of darkness, but after two nights out walking and sleeping on the beaches we will have to try again another day for that experience.

My sister Judith arrrived in Cameroon to visit our African outpost just before the year ended. We headed with her for the hills and spent New Years Eve beside a beautiful lake at the top of the Mananguba Mountains, about half way between the coast and where I work in Belo. The 'guide' turned out to be a right pain, but we got there in the end and enjoyed a swim, fresh fish, and christmas pudding all the way from New Zealand. My mate Andy also joined us for this little camping trip.

Cameroon has featured in the movies it tu…


In Cameroon there is quite a large amount of hunting for what is known as 'bushmeat'. Basically anything that moves in the forest is considered fair game for the dinner table. Now that the larger animals in most parts of the country are gone ('got finished' in the local pigion english) the main targets are smaller.
Around Belo children hunt for rats and small types of cats. On my visit to Gabon many months ago there were teenage boys on the side of the road offering up their latest catches for sale.
So I guess there is not too much hope for conservation in these parts until the poverty levels are raised above just subsistence living?