Monday, November 24, 2008
From my viewpoint, in Germany, Medicine decides and Insurance pays whatever's decided, which is the way it should be, of course. Breast conserving surgery requires a week's stay in hospital, and that was paid 100% by my insurance. All of the other bills - surgeon's fees, anestheologist's, pathologist's fees, out-patient medications, examinations, tests, doctor's fees, were billed to me directly, which I paid, and I'm hoping to recoup from my insurance.
The day before surgery, my dear daughter arrived at my house in the morning, in spite of living over 100 kilometers away, in spite of her three children to ready for school, she insisted she take me to the hospital. I was grateful. Required to check in the morning of the day before surgery, once through the paper work, we were directed to a Ward, or Station, in the enormous sprawling Frauenklinik. I was shown my bed, and my cupboard of drawers to unpack my stuff. I was relieved to see, above the bed, a place where I could plug in my iPod charger, cell phone charger, and laptop. So - this was to be my home for a week. My daughter left, to return the next day - and I was now a cancer patient in a German hospital awaiting surgery.
I was sent to various areas thoroughout the hospital for tests, XRay of lungs, CT scan of liver, and a photograph of my breasts (chest, no face, ID# only). And eventaully, I settled in for the night. They gave me no dinner, no water. I was not especially worried. All had been explained to me. It was what it was. It was manageable. I watched some of the second season of "Closers" on my laptop, and prayed a rosary after I turned off my lights and laptop. Was I afraid? Yes. But it was manageable.
Early the next morning, I was woken by a nurse giving me gauze panties and white compression stockings, and telling me to take a shower, and then put the panties and stockings on, and get back in bed. Little did I realize that was the last completely normal, satisfying shower I would have in many months! I donned the required compression stockings and strange gauze panties and slid back into bed under the white hospital quilt. I was rolled in my bed to surgery. What a strange sensation, being rolled along flat on one's back. Interesting perspective, not wished to ever be repeated.
Once in the Operating Room, I was told to shift myself from bed to the operating table along side. At some point (no pun intended) I was given a shot. So smooth. They were so good. They gave me a shower cap and said, "Please put this on." I don't remember putting the cap on. The next thing I remembered, I was in a room with many people moving about wearing blue gowns. I had no idea where I was, or who they were. I had absolutely no idea who I was.
But a young man began pushing my bed and said - "It's OK. I'm taking you back to your room. You will see, we're going back to your room." And, as we arrived on my station I began to recognize it, and I told him - "Oh, this is familiar." "Of course," he said.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Cancer cells are present in our bodies in increasing numbers as we grow older. But our immune systems usually zap them and there is no problem. We count on that, we figure we will be among the greater percentage who are cancer-free. If it doesn't work that way, we might believe our bodies have betrayed us, or we had lived incorrectly and caused our cancer. Bad mixture, betrayal and guilt. For awhile, waiting my for my surgery date, I was in that place - feeling guilty for what I might have done to cause it, yet feeling betrayed by my body for no justifiable reason.
I had two weeks to prepare for hospitalization and surgery. I cancelled my plane tickets, hotel reservations, workshops, plans to visit with friends and relatives. I would not be leaving Germany for the States this summer. I tried to organize my home, but didn't manage. I appointed a medical power of attorney, and a general power of attorney. I made a Will. (As DOD civilians living overseas - we know we have to do these things.) I watched MASH from the beginning to the end. Eleven years of Comfort TV, watching from my good bed every night until I fell asleep.
July 15, I checked into the Frauenklinik. I was beginning a journey that, strangely, did not frighten me as much as I expected it would.