As I sat for the 6pm dinner, watching an ancient man being fed by a nurse, I realised that there had been a serious misunderstanding.
Months ago I had found a brochure in a waiting room that sang to me of hope, a German rehabilitation centre for cancer survivors in their 30s and 40s. My oncologist applied for me to go so I could recover physically and emotionally and prepare to reintegrate into society, relationships and work. To have a future.
My health insurance rejected the application and sent me to a facility in Luxembourg instead. It wasn’t what I hoped for but I was still positive. Mostly.
I packed my bag, drenched my plants and set off for my rebirth.
I am unstable. I admit this. This is a major concern of mine. It was not surprising to me that I cried when I missed the connecting bus. The unholy wail and wracking sobs that I issued did seem to concern the woman at the bus stop though. Fuck I need help. My sobbing subsided to hiccups as I approached the centre and was greeted by the sight of eight old biddies with their walker frames smoking out the front. I later realised that these were the ones healthy enough to get outside to smoke.
I entered, still hopeful to find some people like me in the gym.
I was a little confused, to say the least, when I was issued with a panic button and told that I must wear it around my neck at all times, and when the nurse came and took my blood pressure and my blood for testing, and even more so when the doctor took my medication, to be administered by the nurse at the appropriate hour, and asked about my living conditions and if I were able to live independently there. What was going on here?
I understood a little more when I was escorted to the dining room and was overwhelmed by the desiccation in the room. A kindly nurse pointed to “the young people’s table” and I looked at her confused. They were in their 50s at least. I sat with them awkwardly as they nattered away in a language I don’t understand. Then went back to my room and howled inconsolably for 45 minutes. I considered this progress from my hour in the morning.
The next two days moved as slowly as Ethel in room four. I was kept physically active, but the pity from the staff increased in direct proportion to the decrease in my mental health. I was clearly in the wrong place. By dinner on the third day, I was utterly depressed and distressed and realising that I had been sent to an aged care hospice.
With a weekend looming of six geriatric meals and no other activities, I called the doctor, hyperventilating with distress and stammered that I. had. to. leave. this. place. Now.
I may have been unhinged, but I’m not stupid, I had checked the bus timetable and knew that the last one for the day left in an hour. After two and a half days, I rapidly repacked my month’s worth of clothing and waited for my discharge papers.
I was home before the sun set and sighed a breath of relief as I sat on my balcony enjoying the feeling that only Xanax and home can provide.
As the Xanax wore off, I realised that I was furious. Furious that my health insurance had not only rejected my oncologist’s application, but also that they had sent me to such an obviously inappropriate place, to an environment which had also caused further damage.
I had gone for a run one day and thought about leaving my panic button in my room, then panicked about what would happen if I got hurt. That was the first time that I had thought that way since chemotherapy. Furious.
I have written a politely neutral letter to my health insurance, making it clear that they made the wrong decision going against the advice of my oncologist and sending me to an aged care facility. I don’t expect a response but it gives me closure as I plan my own recover.
I haven’t been hysterical since I got home.
Distance swum since last post: 2.3km
Distance swum to date: 5.6km
Distance to go: 194.4km