Updated 21 Jan 2014 with a few more bits on winter clothing
It all happened very quickly. My chat with Grace to arrival at Hallwang took less than a month. There was another reason for my speed – Grace was running a group to Hallwang and I wanted to be there when she was.
I had to clear time off with my bosses at work – I think they were relieved that I’d finally decided on a course of action that would see closure on this cancer business, once and for all.
I booked my flights through Skyscanner.net, a very nifty website which showed real-time changes to flights and costs.
I chose to fly to Stuttgart where a taxi from the clinic would pick me up. There were more flights to Frankfurt, but the journey from Stuttgart was shorter, and the taxi fare cheaper. It would still cost more than Euro100 for the journey.
I had to find the money to pay a 75% deposit for the clinic’s cost estimate for 3 weeks’ worth of treatments. That was stressful.
You should have seen my packing and preparations: I bought new pyjamas and some a pair of wonderful cashmere trousers from Marks and Spencers, food like Chinese tea, almonds, dark chocolate because I was doing the ketogenic diet. I packed for all contingencies. Instructions were to pack blouses or shirts with button-fronts to make physical examinations and other procedures easier. But because it was winter at the clinic, my suitcase was soon brimming with cold weather gear. I bought a new pair of boots from Timberland, so I could go walking in the Black Forest.
And of course I brought along all my supplements, which in hindsight was silly because they took up so much space and the clinic would doubtless be prescribing its own supplements. Also, Grace had issued a handbook which recommended leaving space in the suitcase for the return journey for supplements from the clinic.
I borrowed a Kindle, but still packed a few paper books (including some depressing ones on mastectomy and chemotherapy). In the end I never read those books. I also brought along DVDs, but again, I never watched them.
It was a bit like packing for a holiday. Except this was a holiday with needles.
Update 17 September 2013:
What you should pack for Hallwang:
1. Pair of walking boots or sturdy trainers/boots for walking in the Black Forest – that is, if you like walking. The clinic also has bicycles for the trails.
2. Wet-weather gear in spring/summer. And I don’t mean umbrellas. You can borrow an umbrella from the clinic. I mean rainwear like a macintosh, or waterproof jacket. Fleece-type jacket for cool Spring day.
3. Thick coat/jacket – long – for winter. Gloves, hat, scarf, socks, thermals. Winters can be cold, and if you’re from a warmer climate, you need good warm weather gear. I use Landsend.co.uk. My down jacket from Landend was the envy of many people because it was fashionable yet very very warm, like walking around in a duvet.
You could buy the stuff in Freudenstadt, but that’s another journey. Why not order and get the clothing delivered to the clinic? The central heating in the Clinic is excellent – much better than in my house in London. I used to joke I was warmer in minus 15 Germany than in London!
The trick is to layer. You can get away with fewer warm clothes if you are only going to stay indoors. But if you want to go out on day-trips, then please don’t suffer by saving pennies and not buying the right kit. Thermals … then a shirt/light sweater/cardigan … a fleece if you’re really a hot house plant … gloves and a hat and finally, the winter coat/jacket. Smartwool merino socks. A pair of sturdy walking shoes for treks in the Black Forest.
4. Pair of bedroom slippers – I had lambswool booties – great for wearing indoors and for infusions.
5. Pair of flip-flops for the bathroom
6. Bathrobe – light so as to fit into luggage without taking up too much space.
7. Nice, pretty, casual clothes. It’s a private hospital. No hospital gowns in sight – you wear what you like. If you like going out to restaurants and fancy places, bring fancy clothes.
8. Button-front shirts, or stretchy blouses for easy access to ports/PIC lines and arms. Pyjamas – if you sleep in them. Bring several changes – you will need them.
9. Skirts/trousers, T-shirts. Swim-wear – there is a swimming pool in Freudenstadt with 7 saunas. Beware: the Germans go naked in saunas. Gym kit if you’re a gym bunny – there is an excellent gym in the Clinic. There is no air-conditioning in the Clinic, so it can get quite warm in the summer. Underwear – there is a laundry service at the clinic, but it’s approx. Euro 10 per load. So bring loads of underwear. Or buy detergent and handwash it yourself. If you are doing Removab, you will want T-shirts as you will be sweating non-stop.
10. Food: there is a health-food store in Freudenstadt, and a Netto’s grocery supermarket near the clinic in Hallwang with some organic meat and veg. Loads of chocolate shops in Freudenstadt and German chocolate is awesome. If you want raw vegan crackers, best bring your own. Ditto sprouts. There are no fridges in the patient rooms. There is a suite with its own kitchennette. If you are staying in the apartments, there is a small kitchenette with a fridge. Otherwise, you can store perishables in the Clinic’s kitchen, with the permission of the staff. I hardly used up any of the Chinese tea I bought – there was plenty of herbal teas and other beverages in the Clinic.
11. Supplements – medicinal mushrooms like PSP/PSK, but otherwise don’t bother with supplements as you’ll be on the clinic’s regime and they don’t like it if you mix your herbs with their treatments. I made the mistake of bringing all my supplements – they occupied about 1/4 of the suitcase, weighed a tonne and was wasted space because I was categorically forbidden to take them in case of interactions with the clinic’s medication. So I ended up lugging them back home.
12. Leave some space in the suitcase for supplements you will be bringing back with you. In terms of weight allowance, allocate about 3 to 5kg to the clinic’s supplements. Remember, you cannot carry bottles through customs – they have to be packed into your luggage. I was given two huge 1 litre bottles of Aloe Vera to take home, and I had to pack them into my luggage. They weighed a ton, and I ended up having to pay excess luggage fees of over Euro25! I tried to plead with the airline, and showed them the letter from the clinic, but they were cold-hearted bastards.
13. DVDs, CDs, a laptop – there is a PC in the dining room for the use of patients. DVD players in every room.
13. Sheet music if you play the piano. The last time I was at Hallwang there were a few dodgy keys on the piano – I hope they’ve tuned it since then. There is a guitar as well in the restaurant area, donated by an ex-patient.
14. A Kindle filled with books you always meant to read.