We count the days differently, here in the Clinica Ruiz. Monday was Day Minus Twelve; if today is Wednesday, as I earnestly believe, then it is now Day Minus Ten. Day Zero will be the start of the rest of Karen's life, when she receives her stem cell transplant. The countdown from now to then is all about preparing for that day.
Monday was a day of driving back and forth all over Puebla, for measurements and tests and consultations in numerous clinics and hospitals. I have been in three cities - Taipei, Seoul and Mexico City - each of which I was assured had the worst traffic in the world. Puebla's is certainly not a competitor, and yet... I'm not actually actively scared out there, because our driver is awesome and native to this place, but it ain't good for me. I get hypervigilant and stressy, when cars are flying at us from all angles and seemingly with no regard for their own likely survival let alone ours.
My prime task here as Karen's caregiver is to keep her fed. Given that I've been doing that for the last five years or more, I was weirdly stressed about having to do it here - strange city, strange language, strange kitchen, strange foods, yadda yadda, not to mention how the treatments may affect Karen's appetite or internal economy - but I have found my happy place. The kitchen is no better than I had expected and in some ways rather worse - I have never before encountered a corkscrew that is actually not capable of opening a bottle of wine - but the shopping situation is much, much better. Just around the corner from our apartment is a store called Mega, which appears to sell everything. Certainly it sells enough to keep me happy and active for a month. I have no idea how much money I'm actually spending, but I've decided not to care. So far I've been to Mega three times in two days (including one emergency dash for a corkscrew, which I did of course not know the Spanish word for, but my mime of a man opening a bottle of wine was apparently outstanding: the nice guy I performed it for smiled broadly, practically took me by the hand and led me all the way across store, from the wine section to the kitchenwares. Me, I think they're missing a marketing opportunity: a few fancy corkscrews distributed among the wines, cigars and fancy charcuterie would find a ready sale, I suspect), and I expect to go back on a pretty much daily basis. I love it there. They have whole aisles of gourmet food, imported from all over.
Yesterday (Day Minus 11) we got to meet the great Dr Ruiz himself. He was professionally charming, swift and efficient: everything was fine, so treatment could commence immediately. Happily the same was true for the others in our group (we are Group One, so obviously best, and there are four pair of us: a couple from Aruba, a couple from Florida, an aunt-and-nephew pair from Norway, and ourselves) so we all trooped up to the chemo room for the infusions thereof.
Nobody's hair fell out, nobody threw up, nothing nasty appeared to happen at all. Two hours of actual chemo was followed by three hours of something designed to protect various internal parts from damage. I finished a Crater School chapter, Karen read, everybody except me talked quite a bit. It's a bonding experience, this whole thing, a community effort. Which I guess is partly the point of dividing us up into small groups. Us and our driver just exactly fit into our van, and we're all in the same accommodation block. Once we're settled into the rhythm of the thing, I anticipate wild parties up on the roof terrace.
Today we're back in the chemo room for a second treatment, the same drugs over the same five-hour stretch; but after that we're free for the day. And the really good news of last night was that our luggage finally reached us, after three days without. We get to wear our own actual clothes again, rather than whatever-we-could-find-in-Mega; and in my case, for I am an idiot, I get to take my own actual medications again, hey-ho. Hereinafter Softly shall take charge of those, in my carry-on bag. When in doubt, rely on the teddy bear, that's what I say.
My first intent, on returning to the apartment this afternoon, is to sharpen the bloody kitchen knives, I am just sayin'.