Still stunned from the first day’s revelation that the cancer may have metastasised I was told I had to have a Pet scan the next day. You can imagine the state I was in that evening.
German efficiency took over. The next morning, I was woken up at 6.30am, and half-asleep and clutching a packed lunch that was prepared by Tanya of the clinic’s kitchen, was whisked away in a very swish Mercedes taxi to the Paracelsus Hospital in Ruit. The taxi driver, Patrice, spoke very good English and apparently was going to see me through all the preparations for the Pet scan which was a relief as I didn’t even know what the German for Pet scan was.
My jaw dropped when I entered the hospital. A modern building of steel, glass and marble floors and plants, and filled with light, it looked more like a very upmarket office building.
The Pet scan was performed by Prof Bernard Hoerr who spoke perfect English. It was one of the most thorough scans I’ve had, including a scan of the breasts when I was lying on my front.
After the scan I was sent away for lunch. I took a look at the packed lunch from the clinic – it was a lovely gesture, and freshly-made but argh, it was heavy on the carbs (cheese-and-ham sandwich, apple and eek! a banana which if you’ve read my first blog post will know are taboo if you are on an anti-cancer diet). So we went to the hospital’s cafetaria, and again I was impressed by its high standards. Everything looked new, fresh and clean. There was a very good variety of food, and an outdoor garden, but unfortunately it was too cold to sit outdoors.
After lunch, we met with Prof Hoerr and he gave me a run-down of his initial findings. This was a first and I was amazed. For the Pet scan I had in London, I had to wait more than a week for the radiologist’s report. This was truly personalised service. (But then, I was paying for the scan privately, and it cost nearly Euro 2,000 so I got what I paid for)
So were the enlarged lymph nodes malignant? Prof Hoerr thought not. He spotted a scratch on my right hand and asked “do you have cats?” Why yes, three, I replied. Well, he felt that the new lymph nodes could be due to an infection, and he suggested I get tested for cat scratch infection or toxoplasmosis.
So then it was back to Hallwang, with a CD of the Pet scan, and a print-out of the images.
I was so depressed that I asked Patrice to stop at a shopping centre to try to distract myself, and he kindly obliged – that’s how wonderful the service by the drivers is. I got myself a German sausage in a roll, and had a quick wander round. On the way back, I stopped at a garden centre and bought myself a huge bunch of flowers to cheer myself up.
Dr Kopic was waiting at Hallwang and I knocked and walked into his office – where else in the world can you walk into the office of the chief oncologist and talk to him – that is how amazing Hallwang was. I told him what Prof Hoerr had said. He immediately picked up the phone to Prof Hoerr and they had a discussion.
The end result of the discussion was that a decision was made to biopsy the lymph node in the neck. Dr Kopic had wanted to biopsy the node in the side of the body, but they were too deep for a local, and he said that if I had to have surgery, to have them biopsied under general anaesthesia.
Again, once a decision had been made, the whole German efficiency machine swung into action at the clinic: I found myself having a needle biopsy within the hour of my return. It was like being in a whirlwind. I never seemed to stand still while I was in the clinic. I began to understand what personalised medicine was and why German clinics had such a good reputation: very quick response times, no queues, no waiting time.
I can’t say the biopsy was pleasant, biopsies never are, and this one really set my teeth on edge because the lymph node was hard and I had to lie very still while Dr Kopic squirted in local anaesthetic and then dug around with the needle.
So now, all I had to do was to wait for the results of the biopsy to know whether or not the cancer had spread.