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20111221-31 SPAIN,Alicante hospital

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WEDNESDAY 21 DECEMBER – Steve has a very good night’s sleep.  The Doctor comes around and tells him the lumbar puncture was fine and that he will have another in 2 weeks – not that’s something to look forward to!  Steve sends me off early afternoon knowing that Alison and Bob will be visiting in the evening.  Back at the campsite I get a call from Nationwide Credit Card Company.  I’m having a battle with them as our credit card has been frozen but as Steve is the primary account holder they won’t deal with me.  I really don’t want to worry him with the problem so had a run in with the supervisor and demanded a call from someone more senior.  The Manager confirms the data protection act prevents them dealing with me but does offer to phone us tomorrow afternoon to speak to Steve to get his authority to deal with me.  Seamus and Brenda tell me they received a text from my camping neighbour Alan.  When he left here he had been diagnosed with gout which he had for about 3 weeks.  Back in England they find he has a broken leg and won’t be able to fly back until the cast is removed.  A friend from England who is an ex GP sent me a link to patient UK website for reliable info.  As the Doctors here tell us very little I figure it would be good to have the facts but as soon as I start reading I wish I hadn’t.  I compound the problem by putting on a romantic comedy movie that leaves me crying instead of laughing.  After a Facebook type chat with a couple of friends I manage to calm myself down but will be making an unscheduled hospital visit tomorrow for a cuddle with Steve.


THURSDAY 22 DECEMBER – I head into Alicante early with no intention of telling Steve about last night but once I get to the hospital and we have a cuddle I burst out crying again – what a Wally.  End up telling Steve about last night but both resolve that we are going to put internet info to the backs of our minds and concentrate on the fact that many people defy all odds and that’s going to be us.  Steve’s had visitors last night Bob & Alison and they have left a bag of goodies including a Christmas present for each of us which we shall keep for Christmas day.  I cooked a Chinese meal last night and brought some with me to share.  Today Steve gets 5 bags of chemo dripped into him, they actually feed it through very quickly and it is all done within about an hour.  Steve’s now suffering with constipation, (he much prefers Delhi belly), to the extent that he happily accepts the offer of an enema.  We’ve never met full time travellers and Couchsurfing members Paivi and Santeri from Finland but have talked a lot and helped by doing an interview for their travel book.  Last night I was chatting to Paivi on Facebook and she sensed I was not my usual chirpy self.  This morning I got a phone call from Alicante Couchsurfer Jean, who is a friend of Paivi and Santeri, saying they had asked him to try and meet me for a chat.  We arrange to meet behind the central market and he suggests a bench with a statue of a man sitting on it.  Unfortunately he probably didn’t realise that this bench is next to the one used by the wino’s who keep their 1 litre cartons of wine tucked under the seat hidden in plastic bags.  One guy is so drunk he keeps staggering around the square but they keep themselves to themselves.  Two small girls are having great fun playing with an elastic band seeing how far they can shoot it.  Jean arrives, complete with backpack as he is heading to the airport tonight to fly to Madrid then onward to Hong Kong.  We go to a cafe and I learn that he is about to begin a nomadic lifestyle and is going to Asia now to drop off some stuff in Malaysia then returning to Spain to wind things up.  He’s only 35 and has worked really hard this last few years in IT to save enough for what he hopes will be a very long trip with maybe some paid work to extend it.  He’s really kind and supportive of our situation and tells me the reason the cancer hospitals in Spain are so good.  Back the 80’s it was every person in Spain’s’ right to have the best treatment available for their condition and to have a relative with them all paid by the government.  Thus cancer patients were sent to Houston in Texas.  When the government changed they assessed this in the budget and due to the high number of cancer patients decided it would be much cheaper to bring the specialists here to Spain to create an equally high level cancer care and this remains today.  Before heading back into the hospital I call in to Lidl and buy some boxes of chocolates and 2 large German stolen cakes which we give to the nurses as a Christmas present to share – they seem quite surprised.  Steve has a bad night as the enema didn’t work as well as expected, think he will be much more sympathetic to me in the future when I suffer with it.


FRIDAY 23 DECEMBER – The nurse delivers another load of cards, we’ve been amazed at how many Steve has received and pleasantly surprised by some of the senders.  One card has a sheet printed with medical jokes off the internet and it really makes us laugh.  It’s another beautiful day, supposedly the hottest for some time, so I had back to camp.  En route I detour in my journey to make notes and take pictures to help Claire when she has to navigate Alicante.  It’s so hot between about noon and 3pm that I slip into my bikini.  Once the low sun drops behind the trees I cycle off to Carrefour and managed to get lost in both directions.  I’ve gone to buy some trousers for when I go to England but leave with a box of mince pies and a pair of red underpants to give to Steve for Christmas.  In Spain superstition has it that if you wear new red pants on New Year’s Eve you will be lucky the next year so it has to be worth a try even if he does have to wear them over his pyjama bottoms like superman.  My journey back leaves me cycling more or less the whole way round the bay which is really pleasant. Can’t believe how my sense of direction disappears once I get on a bike.

El CAMPELLO – ALICANTE HOSPITAL 19                     


SATURDAY 24 DECEMBER – As the tram travels behind the beach I see lots of people out enjoying the wonderful warm weather, motorised hang gliders, metal detecting and even someone swimming in the ocean.  I’m doing more exploring and setting up stuff for Claire so connect with a tram to the port area.  It’s a really nice spot with a beach, marina and attractive gardens and sculptures.  Late morning most of the shops are closed and the only places doing real business are the pavement cafes.  Arriving at the hospital armed with mince pies and Christmas goodies I am saddened to learn that the Doctor has been and Steve has mentioned his constipation.  The Doctor said they would change his diet but he was not to have any of our own food, even though Steve showed him the prunes and liquorice.  It’s such a glorious day that I go out for an afternoon walk to check out the park with the castle.  En route I pass a bustling flower market with customers leaving with trolleys full of blooms.  The park is very quiet and after starting walking along a track I fell a little uncomfortable so head out, will return on a busier day.  This leaves me in a fairly quiet area as most of the streets are deserted so I opt to head towards the busiest main road and end up in the centre of town where designer and big department stores are open.  I go round Cortes Ingles trying to absorb a bit of Christmas spirit but to no effect.    When I get back Steve has his traditional Christmas even couple of pints, although this time he has turned into Dracula and has blood.  In Spain families gather for a special meal this evening and the hospital up the ante and Steve’s meal arrives along with a small bottle of cider and a box of chocolates.


SUNDAY 25 DECEMBER – A few phone calls and text messages cheer Steve up a bit but he is battling with the pain of severe constipation, wind and farmer Giles who has taken up residence.  Throughout the day they try many remedies, liquids, tablets and an excruciating enema but to no avail.   He is so bloated he can barely pick at the mid day meal of prawn salad with steak in mushroom sauce.  All I can do to offer a little relief is keep giving him a belly massage.  It is so frustrating that this side effect from chemo is an everyday ailment that they cannot cure. Nurse Ma-Te (Marie Teresa), feels so sorry for his agony she calls him “pobre something” which I find in the dictionary means poor man …. or beggar!   Steve is now not able to pass much urine, (think his belly is so bloated it is restricting his bladder) in spite of drinking loads of water.  This causes concern and they put him back on a fluid drip which seems to work.  In the evening he gets a little relief in the other department as well.  Early hours of the morning Steve wakes up feeling extremely cold.  I pile my bedding on top of him plus towels and anything I can find but he is still shivering.  Calling the nurse she takes his temperature and says he has a fever.  It’s one of the especially nice nurses, Alexandra, and she quickly brings in an injection that she gives him whilst I hold him still.  She extracts blood into beer style bottles that contain different coloured clear fluids then shakes them up and looks.  Next come some drips which soon calm Steve down.


MONDAY 26 DECEMBER – We get about half an hour’s sleep before the first nurse comes in to take the piss, she notes the quantity on the container for Steve’s urine then flushes it away.  Although we are both exhausted Steve is feeling a bit better.  Our friend Pete calls to visit, he used to live in Bingley but is now pretty much a full time campervaner and travelling in Spain.  He brings a hard drive with lots of the English classic comedies like Black Adder.  It’s great to chat to Pete and he really cheers Steve up.  After lunch Steve decides he is feeling much better and packs me off home. I get back around 4pm, and make the effort to cook myself a tuna pasta in cream sauce which somehow doesn’t taste as nice as I expected.  Have to restrain myself when I get out 2 plates and lots of cutlery by mistake.  I watch in interesting true story movie “The Duchess” about the Duchess of Devonshire then settle to bed and manage 2 lots of 4-hour chunks of sleep which is much needed.


TUESDAY 27 DECEMBER – Steve calls and says that he had a restless night having gone to bed with loads of covers to stop him being cold he then ended up in a hot sweat. He says he feels quite a bit better and insists I stay home today and return tomorrow morning as John & Shirley are popping in later.  I pass time doing the washing and a mid day bike ride and walk along El Campello promenade.  Lots of families are out enjoying the holiday and kids are being entertained by street shows.


WEDNESDAY 28 DECEMBER – I arrive back just before mid day and a minute ahead of the Doctors who have come to examine Steve.  It’s not a pleasant experience for him compounded when the Doctors send in other specialists to do the same.  They suspect he has some internal damage so will arrange an x-ray.  He has lots more drips including another couple of pints of blood.  After all the steroids his face looks really good as the wrinkles have all disappeared, better than botox.  Steve has trouble getting comfortable and really doesn’t feel like eating much but I make him a few cups of mint tea and chop up a couple of pears.  Bob & Alison arrive in the evening and it’s good for Steve to have someone else to chat to.  Steve reckons he is going to have another restless night and convinces me to let Bob & Alison drive me home.  We return along the Costa Blanca which really impresses them so they will come back in the daytime.  They stop for a drink and once they have gone I can’t resist delving into the cheese straws Alison has baked.  Talk about delving in, I don’t stop until I have finished and they were delicious.


THURSDAY 29 DECEMBER – Steve calls and says he is in even worse pain but that the x-ray is scheduled for later today.  He says there is absolutely no point in me visiting as he just wants to rest.  It’s so frustrating that the chemo is causing him little problem but they can’t cure and every day occurrence like constipation that he has had for over a week.  It will be hard for me not to go in but I  can see where he is coming from.  I call him in the evening and find out he spent first 1 –hour then 30 minutes on some kind of magnetic scanner machine where they concentrated on his middle area.  It will be next week before we get the results.  In the meantime Steve’s white blood count is too low for them to continue with chemo so they are giving him drips to rectify that.  Doctor Fernandez has been to visit and prescribed liquid paraffin which should get things moving.


FRIDAY 30 DECEMBER – I catch the bus instead of the tram and it is incredibly slow, the idea is to check out the bus station area but where it stops there is no bus station to be seen and by the time I find the nearest stop to get a bus to the hospital my 1-hour of travel is up and I have to pay again.  Steve seems to be improving in himself and can move around more easily.  They are giving him drips with saline, anti-biotics and painkillers.   We watch movies and play back gammon where he is on a winning streak.  Strange how when one of us is feeling unwell we seem to win at all the games.  It’s a bad night for Steve with back pain which is finally relieved around 5am when they put him on a pain killing drip.


SATURDAY 31 DECEMBER – It’s another glorious day with high temperatures forecast.  I take a walk and stop to buy some warm clothes for my visit to England next week.  In the old town there is a wonderful town hall building.  Opposite families are gathered to use the outdoor ice skating rink which seems out of place on such a warm day.  The beach is busy and many people are having a swim. I walk along the waterfront and eventually find the new bus station at the far end and pick up necessary time tables.  Boarding the bus the driver hands out bags of 12 grapes for tonight’s celebrations.  Back at the hospital they put on a special evening meal with mussel soup, a whole fish, dessert, a box of nougat style sweets and a mini bottle of cider.  They even bring a tray for me.  Steve’s been on pain killing drips most of the day so if feeling pretty good.  We watch movies then when it gets near to midnight we don our new red knickers for luck, pull the crackers that Alison bought for us then put on some music to have a bit of a dance.  At midnight we can hear the church bells chiming but don’t manage to eat a grape on each dong, they are too big and full o seeds.  Reckon the only way to do it is to have small seedless grapes that had been peeled and just swallow them whole.  We’ve got a good view of a number of firework displays but they are short and sweet.  Settle down for a snuggle in bed together.  Have to say that 2011 has not been the best of years for us and just hope that 2012 sees Steve returning to good health.


The BEST holidays

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