Wednesday, 17 September 2008

well, well, well! the Portugal work trip

Wednesday 17th September

The trip to Portugal; amazing. In many ways. Horrible in a few ways. I was totally horrified that I had to go - I really didn’t want to - the whole idea terrified me. Out of my ‘comfort zone’, not having Andrew with me, feeling totally exhausted and with no hair! Jesus! Pretty horrible, and not something that would normally be required of a person who had recently finished chemo. But as a freelancer - well, no choice. When you are told to go, you sort of have to. I got a letter from Dr Hong for the passport control people, and that seemed to work, although at one point I had to take off my baseball cap - but to be fair, the chaps were very, very kind – it was almost as if they didn’t want to ask me to take it off. So, of course that made it easier, and I went through with no problems. That didn’t really help my confidence though, even thought they were so nice. It’s crap to stand out like that. I didn’t wear the wig, as it boils my head and actually makes me feel more strange than wearing the cap. So.

I arrived at Porto airport and was collected by Clara and her husband - we argued about this for a week and finally she wore me down [stubborn girl is our Clara] - I was concerned about the petrol, she was not to be deterred! And actually I was so grateful that they came to get me - although I think poor Alvarito didn’t recognize me - hardly surprising! Anyway, arrived in Espinho in one calm piece [well, after chucking water all over their lovely leather upholstery - oops]. I went off to get supplies from the Pingo Doce, and when I arrived back at the apartment, they had left me 2 bottles of Planalto and a charming message card - I read the card, cried my eyes out [being exhausted anyway didn’t help] and had to go to bed! Slept for 3 hours and then made tracks to the Barco.

Spent Sunday afternoon there [feet up on a chair in the street! yeah!] reading and talking to everyone - great! Bella made me feel so at home, I almost forgot what a weirdo I looked like. She is a very special person. Isabelle and her husband walked down to see me with their son Luca - so nice!! And after that I just sat and chilled out - the sunset was fabulous, especially after the monstrous weather in the UK, and the company even better. What a pleasure to be warm and with friends at the same time!! Bloody A!!

Work was another thing entirely - I was up every day at 5.30, as it makes me nervous to be late at the best of times, and these certainly weren’t. But saying that, Pat collected me and we had breakfast at the cafe a few days - so nice to sit in the sun and eat cake, drink coffee and have good company - that early in the morning I am extremely picky about who I talk to!! Work was complicated - I am quite happy working 8 or 10 hours a day, but it’s different when you have to deal with people in that time. Talking to everyone, going out to lunch - it’s all quite odd - I have gotten used to working at odd hours, with no-one at all. Seeing such a lot of people was very tiring - not their fault, but honestly, I was constantly on edge, worrying that I didn’t seem 'normal', wasn’t 'fitting in' - even though they made so much effort, it can’t get rid of the ghouls in your head, which tell you all the time that you are ‘different’ now. Bah - so stupid, but difficult to avoid. It’s like I have a glass wall around me, looking out at all the ‘normal’ people. I think [hope] this may pass once I have passed through the first 3 month check and KNOW for sure that the cancer is gone. Bloody stupid disease – it’s like a monkey on your back.

The week went well even though I didn’t think it would - I have the very best type of friends there. People who feel nothing to put themselves out on my behalf, who have no qualms about spending their own precious time off looking out for me / spending time with me – people who can’t do enough for me. I was amazed at how much it upset me that everyone was so kind – some days I was quite literally overcome, just because of a small remark over coffee etc. Everyone at Cinca knew what had happened to me [ah, the jolly old grape vine!], and a lot of people who didn’t need to, made an effort and came to talk with me. Some just a little remark in passing, some a good old chat [mostly the smokers, as we are all stuck outside together heh heh] - it was a real eye opener to how kind people can be, and how they will go out of their way to do it. I have nothing but good things to say about the people in Portugal – they have an old fashioned way of dealing with things – and it’s the best way.

Dinners at the homes of my friends; so carefully prepared so that I would feel special – mad evenings at the Barco, which is almost my second home anyway! Lots of encouragement from everyone. By the way Julia, those were the best prawns I’ve had for years!! And, oh it was so GREAT to have my sopa de peixe!

So, regarding tiredness [which we all dread as chemo patients] - it was bad. But not as bad as I thought it would be. I only had one day where I was outside crying in the shrubbery! Pretty good going really, considering that I had only finished the last cycle 3 weeks before I went. I would advise anyone to wait at least 6 weeks after the last cycle before trying this kind of thing - it’s very tiring, no matter how hard everyone tries to be helpful. It’s too much; too many people, too much emotional uproar, too much physical interaction with other people - all in all, if my friends there weren’t so great, I wouldn’t have managed at all. So thank you girls!! From the heart!

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