So my dear friends and readers – I believe I left you on the edge of your seats in my dramatic description of how I came to be left alone on a hospital stretcher bed in a corridor of a large emptyish hospital in Neu Brandenberg whilst I seemingly bled to death – apologies for that. To make up let me share the next instalment.
I watched a couple of beds with elderly confused patients get wheeled past me and wondered what was up with my stationary status. Finally some invisible clock chimed the hour of my reckoning and I was wheeled through more empty sterile corridors and a couple of lifts until arriving at a more sunlit unit – though still being in a large sterile corridor – where I was parked in well yes the large sterile corridor. Some one came and spoke to me and said ‘you should be seen soon. We have to wait for the English speaking doctor.’
Twenty minutes later I was wheeled into a room and had The Strangest Experience – reminding me of the day I got diagnosed all those years ago – me and a room full of medical staff, doctors, nurses, auxiliaries all looking at me like I was the elephant man not a guinea pig. One kindly older nurse grasped my hand, her eyes brimming with tears – I looked enquiringly into them and she said in halting English ‘I’m a woman too.’
The doctor strode in. Adjusted his glasses. I greeted him. By this time my blue trousers were covered in dried blood my top half was just covered with red and black bloody dressings, but I had loosened some of them for dramatic effect and to check the blood flow – which had kinda stopped. The doctor said, ‘there is only one thing we can do for this and that is give you radiotherapy.’ Radiotherapy! RADIOTHERAPY! I echoed IN DISBELIEF. Oh come on surely not – what about a vitamin K injection to clot the blood. (I had made the nice doctor in the ambulance go through my hospital options in English and German as a conversation piece so I was prepared)
Herr Doctor : No vitamin K – it would be useless.
GP : Um okay. Can you cauterise the part where the bleed is.
Herr Doktor : Emphatically No.
GP: Why not? I thought cauteristation was a very viable option.
Herr Doktor: Nein. absolutely not. Look radiotherapy is the only thing that we can try in your situation – which is very very serious.
At this point I realised to myself that no one had actually looked at the tumour, looked at the bleed, asked me anything like – had this happened before and what normally happens if it does. I mean it does happen very occasionally and has done over the years – though admittedly never like this, but this time even though I knew exactly where it was bleeding from – and it was in a very difficult place to access – radiotherapy felt like a totally counterproductive option.
GP: No! I am not having radiotherapy again. The last time it was hell, and made the cancer grow back worse, though I have heard of radiotherapy being used successfully for bleeds, I added as a peace offering.
He adjusted his glasses.
Look he said – a bit more kindly – do you want to bleed to death? Because you will if you don’t do this.
Of course not I squeeked indignantly, but I am not bleeding to death – the irony of being covered in bloody dressings not escaping me or anyone else. And it’s stopped now I added.
Well he said – it’s your call but we have to let the radiotherapy staff know soon.
GP: Okay let me think for half an hour while I grapple with this quandary.
And what a quandary that was. I had radiotherapy in 2011 ostensibly to dry up a tumour that I was dealing with by applying mud and bloodroot topically. I was freaking out the professionals around me who nudged me into the arms of one of the best and personable radiologists in the country. Unfortunately this well meaning silver fox of a radiologist broke our mutually consensual agreement of what I was happy for him to do and what I felt that my body could handle and blitzed me from here to high heaven daily for 5 weeks in a valiant attempt to save me from the evil C word. I ended up with severe burns, a severely restricted right arm for a year, most of my breast vanished and a faster growing tumour grew back in its place. Kinda predictable really – as Bernie Siegel points out in his fantastic book Love Medicine and Miracles – it’s always best to work in tandem with the patients’ belief systems. But readers, I gained compassion, so all was not lost, but that is another story. Anyways….
My reference points not being so fine I had some quick work to do. Both my human and guineapig brains weighed up the options and decided on the side of the radiotherapy. I mean I couldn’t handle another bleed. I had lost too much blood – by my reckoning about half a litre – I am very happy they did not suggest a blood transfusion – and I needed somehow to get home. I could live with this decision.
My afternoon then consisted of being wheeled to the radiotherapy department. My doctor came to see me whilst I was waiting and explained that as far as he was concerned I could stay here for one night two nights or three nights my decision, the radiotherapy wouldn’t have side effects as a one off and that he wished me the best and would see me tomorrow. I had a CAT scan – though I don’t recall being asked or told I was having one – was inked up and then wheeled to a room on the 4th floor cancer ward. A beautiful light airy room with just me in it and a bed by the window overlooking the town. Wow. My lovely male nurse sorted me out with a phone card to use the phone by my bed, television access, a bottle of fizzy mineral water – while google gleefully informed me I was staying on the site of a prisoner of war concentration camp. Imagine if we had a similar thing going on here – you google the National Portrait Gallery and the first thing it says is ‘formerly a cruel workhouse for the destitute’ (thanks Bird la Bird) – BUT apologies dear reader I digress. I was told I would be having radiotherapy at 7pm.
I set about letting a handful of loved ones know my situation. I texted my life research assistant and pt lab rat who I had instructed to fly back to London without me – despite her loud protestations – the previous day to get me some stats on the efficacity of radiotherapy for bleeds on previous sites of radiotherapy. My erstwhile business partner got to work and two hours later told me she had arranged through her fiancé for a distant healing circle from Fishguard to Birmingham conducted by trans and queer Reiki practitioners to kick in at 7pm to help me with the radiotherapy. I spoke to another young loved one, my sister was on the phone, my friends from the festival also in the loop.
I felt calm and simply not alone, yet having the luxury of solitude to go deep inside myself and use my inner resources. I also felt protected in some invisible way.
At around 7pm I was still comfortably sitting in the hospital bed waiting to be taken to radiotherapy when I just felt this incredible energy surrounding me and becoming me, like a switch had gone on. IT WAS INCREDIBLE. I realised that this was the distant healing energy kicking in from the UK. I mean as a Reiki practitioner at master level since the late nineties I have done much distant Reiki for others, and received it myself as well, but this was truly something else. I was so grateful and happy and deeply touched. If you happen to be reading this and you were one of those healers – the power of the one is the power of the many (to quote Ippy D) – and THANKYOU. Healing circles Rock!
A brisk brusque no nonsense doctor had come and tapped and poked my ribs and chest earlier in the the day saying GUT as she did. When my time came to be wheeled to the radiotherapy department – which I note is always in basements – she was the doctor in front of the computer screen that had my CAT scan results on. I had insisted, dear readers, that I would only have the radio if I could see the results of the scan myself. ‘So can you just direct the radiotherapy on the site of the bleed’ I asked – ‘or the surface tumour’. She snorted with disgust and pointed to the massive mass on the screen. ‘We Do All, Alle.’ Um okay I started trying to argue but could simply get no purchase due to the language barrier. ‘It will help with the pain/schmerz,’ she said. ‘But I don’t have any schmerz,’ I said, ‘kein schmerz not now, not before.’ She snorted again and tapped on the screen. ‘You will in the future,’ she said, ‘you need this radiotherapy to stop having pain in the future.’ I could immediately see the flaws and self fulfilling prophesy of her proclamation but, as I said, my words had no effect as no one could understand them. I decided to stop arguing the toss and just get on with it. ‘I habe Angst,’ I heard myself pitifully proclaiming, a proclamation that was accompanied by a sense of liberation. ‘Ich Habe Angst,’ I repeated. It felt good. I would NEVER in a million years articulate a sense of fear in a British hospital or institution – it would feel like a debasement, a capitulation a betrayal of myself – but here, in my shonky German, it just felt good.
One of the nurses held my hand sweetly as they wheeled me into the room of the RadioRays and then scarpered inna quick stick fashion. Have you ever noticed that strange phenomenon within these hospital departments, dear reader? I was blitzed with a high dose of radio rays for 3 minutes and then taken back to my room. I felt strangely calm.
The rest of the evening was spent talking to fam and friends on the phone. I slept well. I woke with a jolt – the jolt of my bed being wheeled out of my room at 7am and into the dark corner of a room with two older ladies having breakfast. We all pretended I wasn’t there until I was compos mentis. One of them was attached to a drip of chemotherapeutic agents (who she gaily called her dancing partner Hermann) from 4pm until 8am daily. I settled in. Normalising. Started to switch off and get lulled into a false sense of security of being a passive bedridden patient. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that is super necessary and healing of itself but I was aware that I was starting to believe the medical mantra that was being repeated all the time around me – surgery, chemo and radiotherapy are the ONLY way to get rid of this – when I’ve seen that it isn’t. Doctors are the saviours (actually some of them are – big up to all the doctors and nurses I know). But for cancer it is this prevailing message that nothing else works except these big hitters of the global pharmaceutical companies – a holistic approach is frippery, nutrition is child’s play. The message that I needed to get home and get chemo and hardcore invasive surgery was starting to get an imprint in my brain. I started flirting with the idea in the same way I flirted with the radiotherapy in 2010, seduced by the promise of a silver fox man in a white coat making it all better for me if I handed my agency over ….
The phone rang by my bed making everyone jump. I answered it:
Calliope. It’s agents Coost and Gabba. How are you doing? We are gonna bust you out of there. We are getting a car with agents Chiara and Diogo and will do it today. We have sorted somewhere to take you to. Bis spaters. Ten Four Over and Out.
Operation Rehabilitation CGP was underway.
Tune in for the next instalment same time next week readers – and thank you for listening to my story so far
Much Love Calliope x