February 26, 2016
This week flew by quickly and as I sit in my flat tonight, I am longing for the remainder of the three weeks to pass equally as rapid. If I were to pinpoint the single most difficult thing in being away from home in this foreign land, it is holding tight the my authentically positive and hopeful self. While this is a gross generalization, the people of Frankfurt are a stoic, unhappy, and perhaps repressed people. My soul and personal energy is very sensitive to others energy; I often need that safe place of my own to retreat in order to recharge and protect myself. This week has been a struggle on many fronts, may it be the culture, language barrier, tiny baby veins, shots, hyperthermia treatment, non American sheets, unfriendly faces, unknown food choices, terminal illness, and an array of other things. There too have been many high points - but first, I need to release a frustration that has been cultivating inside all week.
There is a disconnect between the clinic and the patients, outside the clinic. While the clinic is moving rapidly to make changes to meet the needs of the patients, the bumps that Curtis and I have encountered during our first week here is not uncommon to the patients of the clinic. It was quite lovely to be approached by Lisa, the quality control person with the clinic early this week to sort out some of the challenges Curtis and I encountered outside the clinic. I believe that the clinic strives to support the patients as best possible, even outside the clinic. I too know that patients sharing their experiences will enrich future treatment and clinic protocols for patients. Yes I know I am a therapist, I like to help people but I too am a huge advocate. I feel called to advocate on behalf of all Infusio patients.
Real talk - we all paid a lot of money to find healing in Germany. Most patients traveled many hours and miles to find healing. Our bodies are sick and weakened - we are not on vacation. Cancer patients are provided a package price (US$28,155) that includes an apartment during the month long treatment - our flat costs approximately 1300 euros. This is not a hotel. In the Couva Apartments, where I am staying, there is one cleaning service during the month. There is no towel or linen service, you wash your own. You purchase your own toilet paper, paper towels, toiletries, laundry soap, etc. While we knew we would be staying in a flat, we were unaware of the lack of typical American amenities. Additionally, keys work a bit different, laundry takes about 4-hours per load, bedding is different, and much more. Prior to arriving, it would be helpful for patients to understand what they are getting into. What may be typical in Germany, may not be the same in America, Philippines, or Egypt. It will be worth while for the clinic to continue to generate a list of helpful tidbits to share with patients prior to traveling. Equally, upon arrival to have a tour of the living facility and a concrete number the patients can call when trouble may arise. For example, we were unable to access our building when the front door lock failed, building manager not answering his phone. Ironically, it was during a "how to in Germany" video I was making. Curtis and I were fortunate to have another occupant of the building advise us of a side door entry. Later that day, the building posted a sign noting the lock was broke. Or when we blew a fuse in our flat and had to figure out where the fuse box was to flip the switch back on. It really is about the little things, but these add up to big things. Remember, most that travel to Infusio in Germany have a terminal or chronic illnesses - we are not operating at a 100% we require an extra little bit of care even outside the clinic. I am fortunate that my husband is traveling alongside me, but that is not the case for all patients; some have been here for weeks without a companion. I understand how it is to navigate life during health. I too understand how it is to navigate life during illness - we must be sensitive the needs of those who do not have full health.
As I mentioned earlier, Infusio is taking note of patient struggles and rapidly moving to make adjustments along the way. They are an amazing group of individuals who provide a compassionate, loving, and healing environment to walk into each day. While at the clinic, most of the patients I met have been touched by cancer - we are all seeking treatment to extend our lives while bringing comfort, healing, and peace to our bodies and souls. Our bodies may be weakened by the cancer that infiltrates - but our spirit is strong. We are a tough bunch. A resilient people. We crave health. We are filled with hope. Making the best of each moment, that is how we roll as a people.
There are many high points this week, the most stand out high point is that Curtis is with me in Germany. Although I travel to the clinic with other patients, he is waiting for me each day as I return. I cannot imagine being here without him - I need to fall into his arms each day. He takes care of me. Comforts me during my emotional and physical pain. He runs errands for me. Get's me food. Walks with me. I am very fortunate to have such a devoted husband. Other highlights, I made it through my first week despite challenges that came in varying sizes and shapes. My veins held, allowing for infusions and my treatments at the clinic were lovingly delivered. I have been able to navigate this cultural adjustment to add supports while adjusting my environment to support health and healing.
I am proud of myself! I am so far outside my comfort zone and yet I am learning and growing each day. Although I may stumble a bit, I find my footing, adorn my face with a smile, and keep moving forward. I want all my friends, family, and supporters to know that I draw strength from each of you to continue to move forward filled with hope.
Today, I am hopeful~