It started with solo trips to the hospital for my monthly chemo port cleaning – I realised that if I went in the evening it was less busy and I could be in & out in about ten minutes. The first time I taxied there and back and the whole thing took less than an hour, which I thought was pretty good. It also felt good not to have to ask someone to come with me – thought it best to save that favour for scarier appointments like seeing the oncologist and going for PET scans. And so I started planning the port cleaning trips for evenings that Nog had a class nearby – we’d meet up after we’d both finished, go for a tapa and then walk home together (same price as taxi fare, but much more pleasant!). From there I started getting braver and braver…

First of all, you have to understand that I’ve always had problems with hospitals. Even when I was teaching there it would sometimes be very difficult for me – I’d get panic attacks on my way there, sometimes would actually have to cancel or postpone classes. So imagine how much worse it became after getting cancer and having to be there for the worst of reasons.

This is why I felt so proud of myself for finding a way of handling the monthly port-cleaning thing better. But the real test came a couple of weeks ago when I suddenly found myself without a hospital buddy for my latest oncology appointment. I managed that one by spending most of the waiting time downstairs with The Team in Nuclear Medicine (one of the places I used to teach), which made things much easier. And of course having a nice lunch with Pilar & Isabel afterwards helped. So I didn’t actually do this one one my own, though I did end up having to talk to the oncologist by myself. Trust me, that was brave!

Then on Tuesday I had to go back to the hospital for an appointment with Internal Medicine, which was about the four-hour tachycardia episode, and once again I had no hospital buddy to go with me. But somehow I didn’t feel nervous about this. I had an image of me all safe in the taxi, going to this new section of the hospital, seeing a new doctor that had nothing to do with cancer … and that felt like it would be okay. And it was!

My appointment was quite long – about 45 minutes – because the doctor had to “get my story straight”. When she first checked my history on the computer she was a bit taken aback, not having known anything about the whole cancer ordeal. In the end she said that, compared with everything I’ve been through, the tachycardia was probably the least of my worries, but she still wants me to have more tests and get to find out why I’ve had this problem for almost half my life and what can be done to alleviate it. So I’ll be having more specific blood tests done, an ultrasound, some other EKG stuff and – this is going to be awful – I’m going to have to wear a Holter monitor for a couple of days. Arrgh. I told her I’d done all this about 5-6 years ago and they never found out what the source of the problem was, to which she replied that I hadn’t had it done THERE, and that after all the operations and chemo it was a good idea to make sure no damage was done to my heart. I was also informed that there are several types of tachycardia that can be treated in various ways, so it is important to find out which type I have.

Of course my main issue about all of this is that I was hoping to have a complete hospital break until my next oncology appointment at the end of November. I even found out that as of next month I’ll be able to get the port cleaning done at my health centre (a ten minute walk from my house!). But it looks like I’ll be back-and-forthing to the hospital like crazy for all this heart stuff. But it’s more of a bother than a worry. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m not afraid anymore. On Tuesday I even had my wits about me enough to remember to bring my chemo card so I could also get my port cleaned while I was there (eliminating next week’s hospital trip) and was feeling quite chuffed. And so I asked the doctor if we could at least postpone all this testing until September. No problem. And I reckon it won’t be a problem for me either … who knows, I might even start cycling instead of taking taxis.

That photo above is an old olive tree that was transplanted to a small green area next to the hospital, in appreciation of the fine work done by everyone there. I have to say that, cranky oncs aside, I have been very pleased with the treatment I have received at Virgen de Rocio … and especially for that time they saved my life.

The plaque in front of the olive tree is part of a poem by Antonio Casares…

Yo quisiera estar siempre como tú, viejo olivo,
enhiesto bajo el cielo azul de Andalucía,
como un dios que se siente eternamente vivo,
heraldo de una tierra que anuncia la alegría.
– Antonio Casares

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