Another Broken Tooth

Did I tell you I broke a tooth yesterday? 
Another tooth. It is something that happens on a regular basis and probably is the result of having so many fillings when I was a child. I have British mouth syndrome as the dentists call it here. If you are younger than 40 you probably don’t know what I mean but many people of my age have mouths full of fillings.  Black amalgam ones.  And gradually they fall out or the surrounding tooth breaks off.

I have a great dentist here and yesterday they immediately did the filing job needed to make it comfortable to eat and speak. This afternoon I went for the filling itself.  It was one of those dentist visits that need a lot of self control and a graduate degree in calmness under duress. Nothing hurt but the injection made half my tongue go to sleep and then they decided to stuff my mouth with what felt like a frilly latex skirt, splayed out in order to collect any pieces of flying mercury amalgam.

No need to go on with this description except to say that sitting in the dentists chair must be one of life’s most lonely experiences. Thank goodness they don’t expect you to carry on a conversation any more and as the whole procedure is carried out in Catalan I have even more excuse for just grunting.

I kept thinking of this BBC comedy clip and hoping I wouldn’t start to laugh hysterically.  If you watch it, wait for the part with the two monkeys…..

The wonderful thing about going to the dentist here is the view from their building

Down onto the Porxada and across to the Ajuntament building. Or over to Can Clapes

Open Doors at Hospital Sant Pau – but not for long!

On Monday I went up to Barcelona to meet a friend and we went to visit the recently restored modernist hospital of Sant Pau.  Until March 16th you can go and wander round this amazing place for free but after that some parts will be used as offices and as a conference centre and only a small part will be open to the public as a museum

There are 12 buildings in this huge complex and a landscaped garden with orange trees

It was constructed between 1902 and 1930 and is a must see for anyone interested in architecture in general and modernism in particular. I had no idea it would be so magnificent – everywhere you turn it is WOW!

For four years it has been under restoration with European grants and although some parts are still being worked on there are several buildings open for viewing

The buildings were the work of the famous Catalan architect Lluis Domenech i Montaner

The origens of the hospital go back to the 15th century when the Consell de Cent (the old parliament) brought together six Barcelona hospitals and started building the Hospital of Sant Creu. At the beginning of the 20th century the banker Pau Gil funded the construction of a new hospital to provide care for a rapidly rising city population, The result was the Hospital Sant Pau
He wanted his initials to be an integral part of the building  – so you find P and G in many designs

I am not going to go on any more about the history – we need all the space for pictures

I thought this was the caduceus but I now find it is the Rod of Asclepius which has only one snake

The caduceus has two snakes and wings and was the staff of the god Hermes.  Asclepius is a god of healing and medicine. The original Hypocratic oath began with the evocation ” I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods…..”

The ceilings are worth a post to themselves

and the windows

 designed to let in the maximum light. They knew about light and space and the importance of beauty

Imagine being in a hospital ward with these roses all around the walls

Here is a picture of the women’s ward when it was fully funcioning

The exterior walls are also full of interesting details

The restoration has been as environmentally friendly as possible. The whole complex is heated using a geothermal system with all components hidden underground.  It is incredible to think of all the work that went into creating this restoration. One of the exhibition displays likened it to healing a very sick patient – first the diagnosis which revealed terrible deterioration and years of neglect, then creating a plan and making decisions, followed by intensive treatment  and now finally the result – a potentially vibrant and inspiring place to visit and work.

The pictures speak for themselves – this is an incredible place and if you have the chance to see it before March 16th then go!

How is Bonnie?

It’s been a long time since I wrote about Bonnie.
How is she getting on?  What are we doing for her?   How am I coping?

  • Sometimes it is hard to believe she is sick and has cancer.  She looks great, her coat is soft and thick, her eyes are bright and she has all her usual energy when she sees you have brought a ball to chase. We went for a walk today for example and when she realised I had not brought the all important ball, she raced off and found a pine cone and dropped it at my feet, teasing me with her eyes, inviting me to play.
  • Sometimes she looks worn out and tired. One of her eyes is weepy and irritated. Her body can feel hot and she drinks a lot.  There are nights when her tummy is gurgling and rumbling for hours and she can’t get comfortable in her bed. She gets up and plonks herself noisily on the floor, only to return to her bed a few minutes later.
  • So as you see, it is up and down. But right now it is more up.  Last week for about 4 days she had terrible diarrhoea.  The kind that you don’t want to happen in the middle of a busy street. She was drinking lots of water and seemed uncomfortable. We travelled back to Granollers and I took her straight to the vets at Veterinari Lauro. They are very nice there and all our checkup visits are free.  After taking antibiotics, a white gooey medicine to coat her stomach and some special digestive tinned food, the next day she was almost totally recovered.
  • I have joined three dog cancer groups on the internet and spend a lot of time trying to sort out which dog lives with who and what kind of cancer they have. There is so much information out there and so many people devoting themselves to caring for their sick dogs.  If not for these sites I wouldn’t know what to do for Bonnie now as the vets here, wonderful though they are, don’t know anything about alternative treatments.
  • Chinese mushrooms, parley, tumeric, wheat germ extract, Krill fish oil, artemesia, broccoli and brussel sprouts, sunshine, lots of hours of sleep in total darkness, learning new tricks, love, happy times, more love……..these are her medicines.
  • It is almost 7 weeks since the diagnosis. I find it impossible not to count the weeks even though I know that there are no accurate survival times. It was good to get past the 4 week mark, then the 6 week and now I am looking at the 8.  The vet said that she probably wouldn’t still be here in three months but who knows?  There are stories of great survivors and these herbal pills are strong allies in the fight to slow down the growth.
  • The major change for us is that we now spend a lot of time at Sant Nicolau. I booked one of the cottages for a month and now will take it for January too.   It is really wonderful to have it as a haven of peace and healing.  We came back to Granollers for Christmas.  I wouldn’t want to wish away any of Bonnie’s precious days but I have to say I am glad those ones are over.  There was nothing bad but I just wasn’t in the mood and had to go through the motions.  Now we can go back to the countryside and I am looking forward to seeing the mountains again and to watch how happily Bonnie races through the woods chasing scents, and rolls in the grass in a doggy ecstasy. Here she is peacefully watching the birds beside Blue.
    The skies were amazing on our morning walks. Would you ever tire of this?

Going to the Dentist

A visit to the hairdresser in another country can be daunting but what about the dentist?

I’ve had several experiences here with different dentists and all have been fine. Some have even been  pleasant!  I remember one in Barcelona telling me that in the sixties and seventies there were hardly any British dentists at the main conferences – dentistry was mostly NHS and this didn’t pay for extra training.  We were chatting about the British mouth from the 50’s and 60’s – full of fillings!

Today was our first full day at Sant Nicolau. We went shopping and walked in the woods and just as we got cosy for the evening I made the mistake of eating a bar of Topic, and halfway through felt that dreaded crunch which was not one of the nuts.  A moment of panic, then a gentle exploration revealed an enormous gap where last week I had felt something distinctly wiggly.

Helen gave me the number of a dentist in Figueres and after a quick phone call I left Bonnie behind in the cottage and set off at 5pm for an emergency appointment. By half past six I was back home with it all sorted out.
The cost?  It was 50 euros for a large and permanent filling.  Not bad is it?  They didn’t make me have an x-ray or charge me extra for not being a permanent patient.

The dentist was a young guy with strangely comforting garlic breath. His assistant chatted to him all the way through, leaving me to my dreams. Stories about her brother in law and problems with the car.  I sat, mouth agape, pressing madly on the acupuncture point on my hand for dental work. What I usually do is try to relax the muscles in my stomach and my neck and slip away into a parallel world.  I could hear them laughing and joking as if it was on the radio. Sometimes he would pause with his thumb lodged in my mouth and utter exclamations like ‘Collons!’
Occasionally I surfaced when I realised he was talking to me.
‘Obrir’ ‘Tancar’  ‘Giri el cap’.   ‘Mes ampli si us plau‘ Nothing too challenging to understand.

There is something ancient about the dentists chair. However much things have improved from the days of being held down and having your teeth yanked with only the help of a bottle of brandy, it still has that unpleasant feeling of being totally out of control and unable to communicate.
You are at their mercy.
Drills rattle, water splashes, metal things are tightened around teeth, soft rubbery things are lodged inside your gums, and that pipe is jiggled around inside your mouth which is supposed to keep you dry but often seems to have sprung a leak and jets cold water all over your face.

I never know exactly what is going on and I would hate to have to see it in a mirror.
There are dentists who want you to look inside and see the work. Something similar to the hairdresser who insists that you put on your glasses and make oh-ing and ah-ing noises at the end of a haircut.
Who wants to see the inside of their mouth or all around their head under a bright light and in public?

All we want to do is get through it, pay up at the front desk and run.

Back home and it feels like a dream already. There are two more bars of Topic in the fridge but I will wait for tomorrow.

If you want a dentist in Figueres they are called Clínica Dental Figueres and they are right next door to the vets on Avinguda Salvador Dali.  They were incredibly friendly and efficient.


Falling into the Moment

Do we always have to search for the upbeat?
Is it ok sometimes to write about how bloodly unfair life is and how painful and how it is a struggle just to get through the next moment?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about cancer and dogs. There is a lot of information to plough through and it is good to get informed. I am now almost an expert.
I know about the survival rates with and without chemotherapy for the different cancers but especially lymphoma which is what Bonnie has.  I know that without chemotherapy the average dog dies in 4-6 weeks.  I know all the commonly used supplements and what is the best cancer diet.
In the process of reading this information you also find hundreds of stories about people and their dogs.  Dogs are getting cancer in their thousands. Perhaps it is millions. People are making decisions, trying their best, agonising over side effects and when to call a halt and let their dogs go. There is a mountain of pain there.   And a mountain of love.  It is interesting that we know so much about cruelty and abandonment of dogs but what is invisible until you start searching is the incredible love.
I have cried and sobbed my way through so many blogs and emails and yahoo group stories about dogs and their owners dealing with cancer and dealing with death.
And in a funny way it helps me to feel these other peoples pain. I don’t need them to find the positive or end their stories with what they have learned from the experience. It is just something horrible that happens and we try to deal with it and if we can reach out to others in the same place then it sort of eases the pain.
Sort of.  In the end there is one day after another and I have been really struggling to find my way through. I feel I am being squashed beneath a gigantic roller. It wants to squeeze out my stuffing.
I want to accept and be strong and keep cheerful and stay calm. For Bonnie. For everyone around me. For myself for Gods sake.
I keep asking ‘How do people deal with awful things?’  Human beings have had plenty of practice.  Illness, cruelty, war, torture, loss. What are the ways and means of putting one foot after another? You never know which experience will push you to your edge.  I’ve been through bad times before of course but there is something about this experience that is threatening to flatten me. Being in this ‘other’ country, not having my friends call round to the house to chat or give me a hug, Bonnie having a death sentence but being at the same time weirdly healthy, wondering if I somehow caused the cancer, wanting to get out into nature but not wanting to be alone there, still having this bloody ankle problem which makes walking so difficult. Oh you know what I mean!  I am not trying to say this is the worst life can throw at a person but for some reason it has exactly the ingredients that give me meltdown.
Anyway, having said I don’t need to end on a positive note I just want to say that today I did catch a glimpse of something that helps.  We walked back from town through the park. Bonnie had her first attack of diarrhoea which I instantly decided was ‘The Beginning of the End’. We found a bench and sat in the sunshine and I tried to breathe slowly and calm my racing thoughts. Bonnie jumped up beside me and as I watched her, trying to memorise her every curve and the exact colour of her hair, wanting to stretch time so it would never move on, she was just watching the birds
Her nose was in constant movement. She was receiving smells at the rate of a hundred a second. She was not the slightest bit concerned about her health. She wasn’t worried or sad. She just watched the people, the children playing football, the pigeons and sometimes turned and looked at me.

I tried to tune in to her.  To tune out of me. I felt myself almost falling into the present moment. Each time I managed to just be there with her, there was at last a sense of peace, of something eternal. Then my mind would try to analyse and it would be gone.

Over and over I let myself fall into the moment.

Just Bonnie and Me.

Sitting in the sunshine.

Nothing more