When my parents and I stepped foot inside the Zentralklinik in Bad Berka, Germany last week, my first thought was: this looks like a place where people go to get cured. One of those miraculous places in documentaries where people go with impossible medical conditions and they come out without them.
We were fresh from a quiet, wet morning in Weimar (where apparently nothing is open on Sundays), a fast taxi tide in a fast German car through the misty, green Germany countryside. Coming from fire-prone, dry, brown Southern California, it seemed like a dream. We arrived at these beautiful old white buildings nestled along the edge of a lush forest in this charming German town and “wow” was all I could think. “Despite the stress of getting here, I am really glad i’m here.” I think my parents were thinking the same thing.
Of course, the Zentralklinik is just a normal hospital to Germans, where they get routine medical treatments. But to me, there was nothing normal or routine about this place or the medical treatment I was seeking there—and traveling about 5,000 miles to do it. They don’t do this at home. This place is special.
As we went through the check-in process and it came time for my parents to leave me at the frosted door of the ward where I could spend the next week, I must admit I was terrified. To my right side were my parents who had already successfully navigated my swollen ankles through 13 hours of travel and one long night. To my left was a nurse who was solemnly shaking her head, no, my parents weren’t welcome there. She didn’t appear to speak any English. She had a disposable cup in one hand she was about to ask me to pee into.
But once I got inside, not without a few tears, I met a nice nurse who happened to be just my age and speak better English. I got more relaxed. My room didn’t feel like an American hospital room at all. It had bright yellow walls, a yellow striped comforter, a puffy pillow, a closet for my clothes, a breakfast nook. And best of all, two big bright windows with a view of a flowered rooftop garden, and the green green green forest that borders the town and almost swallows up the hospital. Of course, to keep up that green it rained every day we were there. But it was also quiet. So quiet. No machines beeping, no people moaning or even talking, no loud TVs in the next room or jubilant visitors. I wondered if I was the only patient. Middle-of-the-forest, middle-of-nowhere-Germany, healing silence.
By the time I met my parents for dinner that night they commented that I looked noticeably more relaxed. I was. I’d like to say I stayed that way the whole week; but the jet lag, the language differences, the countless tests and procedures, the fasting, the discomfort for a lot of the week) the meeting with the doctor, not to mention the traveling… it all took a lot out of me. I spent a lot of time decidedly not relaxed, emotional, in pain, feeling broken, and definitely not feeling particularly hopeful. You can look forward to reading those posts–but for now, i’m focusing on positive first impressions.
I’m home now. I’m trying to continue to be relaxed. I can’t say i’m succeeding. I have (temporarily) lost a lot of my energy. I am (temporarily, hopefully) extremely uncomfortable. I (temporarily, hopefully) need a lot of help in everyday living. In short, I am suddenly now and for the past few months getting slammed with all the hard stuff of cancer that I was ignorant to for the past two years and eight months.
But I made it home from Germany, at least, with a little more hope than I left with. I got the treatment that I went to Germany to get–the seemingly miracle treatment. The radioactive isotopes are working their magic within me as we speak. I know that i’m not healed now, after just one treatment. But one day, maybe.
I’m due back in August.