Four days on another planet. Only four days, three long nights. R picked me up in his space ship and I slowly came back to Earth as he drove along the river in the rain.
During the day and when not examined under clouds of midozolam and various other anaesthetics, I walk the long hallways, those shiny yellow linoleum floors, meeting other patients. Strange, how we all recognise each other here as if we have met before. A young man with many piercings and tattoos tells me he will have surgery tonight. He almost runs from me to hide his tears. A Turkish woman walks beside me for a while, she has no German but uses her fingers and smiles to tell me that she has three daughters and two sons. And with the thumb of her other hand, she introduces her grandchild. She lifts her top to show me the two massive scars near her kidneys and gently pats my belly when I indicate why I am here. When I tell her my age, she lifts her arms and shakes her head and I realise she does not know her date of birth, her age and probably cannot read or write. One of her sons steps out of the elevator and she quickly covers her beautiful long hair with a large embroidered scarf.
My compulsory insurance cover stipulates room sharing. This time, we are three. Which is nice, all in all, and not only because it enables food swapping. I feel very grand giving away everything from my tray except the clear broth I am allowed.
At night, we talk, tucked into our identical bed clothes, with the lights down and the gurgling noises from the oxygen masks of my two room mates. First, the usual stuff, children, work, homes, family and so on. And then of course, being ill, the treatments, the doctors, the future, the past, the pain, the heart, and so many worries. And before you know it, K talks about her three year old girl, who died of cancer 44 years ago, back in Greece while she was working here sending money home to pay for treatment and M bursts into tears telling us about her horrible horrible marriage to a man who died 27 years ago. Outside the church bells ring, two o'clock.
Later on, we lie in this strange silence, drifting from sleep into thinking and back again. Tomorrow K will be told that the cancer has spread to her liver. M's granddaughter will promise to look after her when she gets better, please please please. And one of the doctors with a friendly but worried smile will explain procedures to me. Which include a most horrid disgusting 12 hrs of you don't want to know (mainly spent gagging etc. on toilets) and something like 5000 biopsies taken here and there and suddenly it is all over.
Take it easy for the next 48 hrs, they tell me. No lifting etc. Eat what you can handle. Results asap, they promise.