Everything unfolded without fear or drama. After I made the final decision, I felt at peace again, a deep peace, and a beautiful glow of alegria (happiness).
Quite a lot happened yesterday before the 10 o’clock meeting with the oncologist.
‘I’d advise you to keep driving till the gear box actually packs up.’ says Fran. It’s 815am. I’m inside his workshop, he’s just examined my gearbox.
‘I’ll cost 4 to 500€ to replace it. Not worth it,’ he continues. He doesn’t know what Emalina (my 20 year old, faithful, multi-coloured car) means to me.
He shows me his sisters car parked nearby. It’s for sale he says. Only 13.000 kms on the clock.
I freeze with horror at the thought of Emalina making a final journey to the scrap merchant. In some ways I think that’s maybe how I feel about the PET scan !
Thanks for all the info I say, and head for a the bar where I will meet Maria at 9am.
8.45. Maria and I sip coffee and go over the questions for the oncologist. She is coming as my support/angel. She is super intelligent, calm, and experienced in dealing with hospital matters.
9.15. We set off for Motril hospital. I’m praying the gearbox will not pack up this morning.
10.03. We arrive outside the oncologist office. I still have no clear idea of what my decision is. I want more info. Five minutes later my name is called.
We’ve practised in the car how I will introduce Maria to the lady doctor. I say this is Maria who has come to help me explain ‘las cosas,’ literally, to explain the things. I want to add she speaks 5 languages, but, the conversation has slipped already into top gear .
How are you ? asks Doctor Delgado directly.
One long strand of dark brown hair falls down the left side of her face, the rest is stylishly clasped at the back of her head. Her broad silver Aztec like necklace has two parts to it. Her nails are polished immaculately, and later I notice she’s wearing princess like, silver, heeled sandals. My granddaughter Romy would be envious of these.
Ten minutes later I’m sitting on the examination couch and the Doctora is examining me. With hands in blue golves, she expertly prods the area I’m concerned about, and says: I feel nothing, absolutely nothing there.
I am so relieved I almost cry. She tweaks both my checks as you would a toddler, and inside a Tower of Babylon collapses with relief. I did not want a series of mammograms, as well. Phew. Double and triple PHEW.
Maria asks if we can have ten minutes outside to discuss the new info before making the final decision about the PET scan, which I have read up about on the Internet. I now have additional info.
There has been no rush or pressure in this interview. There has been honesty, smiles, a few laughs and a feeling of being in the presence of a real person.
The PET scan will mean I will emit radiation for 24 hours and mustn’t have contact with babies young children or pregnant women. Having it or not having it feels like one of the biggest decisions of my life.
10.45. Maria and I go to the Chemo ward for the next item on today’s to do list. They need to clean the small implant in my chest. It will take 10 mins. It’ll be a simple injection of fluid, nothing more. The nurses are manically busy. They ask us to go and have a coffee and come back in half an hour.
The café is jam packed with LIFE. We drink more coffee and have yummy thick toast covered in chopped tomato . I feel like I’m on a ride in a fairground.
11.30. As Reyes the head nurse works hard to find the right spot to inject the whatever it is… I ask her opinion about the PET scan. She hints that it is protocol because if the blood tests are all clear, which they are, and I can have a CAT scan instead in October, why bother? These of course were not her exact words .
That’s it. All of a sudden my intuition lights up and a real knowing floods my body.
We go back to the oncologist with the news: Thank you but no thank you . I would be very grateful for the CAT scan in October though, I add.
I’m concerned the doc will be angry if I don’t accept the Scan, but quite the reverse happens. She is respectful, gentle, business-like, and whatever happens in the future, I now feel we have established a real connection.
We drive towards home. As a passenger it’s a journey so familiar to me but now, this time, I’m driving. No more chemo. A summer without more hospital visits. A CAT scan in October which isn’t pleasant, but it’s familiar.
2pm. I drop Maria off at the Seven Eye Bridge. I am more grateful than I can express for her support. She has truly been a beautiful angel and a wise guide at my side.
After a short siesta , gearbox willing, I’ll drive an hour to Los Olivos, a small ecumenical retreat farmhouse in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s on the way to Granada. I will spend six days here.
5.30. The heat is intense. The relief is intense. The tranquillity of the mountains is also intense. Dani welcomes me to Los Olivos with a huge hug. Welcome home he says. How did it go? Dani is an Anglican priest, co/owner of Los Olivos. He and his husband Guy run this beautiful small centre. People of all faiths and no faith come here.
At 8.30 this morning, I’m sitting in a circle under a pergola with 9 other people. It’s their outside chapel. On the small round table in front of us sits a lighted candle in large Indian Lantern. We sit in silence waiting for one more guest to arrive. Maybe she’s decided on a lie in ? The silence is exquisite. The sun has not quite peeped over the mountain ridge. The cool morning air is delicious.
Dani greets us and begins our shared day by reading some words from the Iona Community prayer book.
Breakfast then really feels like breaking the fast from supper last night.
I drift into the morning with a sense of spaciousness and awe. 4 months ago when I came here first I was having chemo. I was a cancer patient. Now I'm a free spirt in a new world. I’m grateful, more grateful than words can ever say for the love and support that’s been showered on me. I can honestly say thank you to the cancer for coming to stay for a while, and thank to it for going well before it stayed too long.
If the cancer comes back it will not be at my invitation, but I will treat it as before, as a visitor ( not an enemy) who has come to teach me something extremely important.
May we all be blessed by wonderful teachers and loving friends, and find the strength not to be diminished, or defeated, by any kind of fear.