A Trip to Greece, 1990 week two

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The second week…

It is 0 degrees F in Fairbanks when we leave and 15 degrees F in Anchorage when we land there. We traveled on a 737 Alaska Airlines plane, the first to board and the last off. They use a tiny portable seat on a cart. It looks a lot like a hand truck, to carry Doris up and down the loading ramps. There is oxygen on each flight and a wheelchair and oxygen waiting at each stop.
In Anchorage, we had to go from the regular terminal to the International terminal by shuttle bus. The wheelchair ramp on the bus was broken so the driver carried Doris on and off the bus. Customs took us through special.
We boarded a DC-10 in Anchorage, leaving around 11 a.m. for Copenhagen via the polar route. Scandinavian Air gave us an entire row of seats so the big oxygen bottle wouldn’t crowd us. The flight was smooth and uneventful with the crew doing everything possible to see to Doris’s comfort. We had an evening meal but Doris had no appetite. However she did like the lovely hot rolls with butter so the stewardess brought an entire basket full for her to snack on. She even enjoyed the movie, “When Harry Met Sally.” We tried to rest, but it was fairly impossible for both of us. I think we both dozed a couple of times but certainly not enough. Then we had a nice breakfast. We landed in Copenhagen, Denmark at 7:36 p.m. Fairbanks time – still March 8th. But it was actually 5:36 a.m. March 9th having crossed the International Date Line.
We were taken to a courtesy room SAS has for invalids or persons needing special care by Mercedes ambulance from the plane, how neat is that? There was a hospital bed for Doris and I made a bed for myself in the adjoining room. We each got a couple hours of rest there.
I changed some money into Danish and bought some items from a kiosk in the terminal, comb, brush, magazines, etc. I tried to find some food but nothing was open yet that sold food. SAS serves good meals but our flight had originated in Tokyo and they really like fish. I thought it was lovely, thin sliced and looked like red pimento peppers on the salad, raw salmon, oh ugh. The meal from Copenhagen to Athens had raw herring salad. Double ugh.
We left Copenhagen late, around 1 p.m. and traveled down the border of East Germany and Poland. Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania and Bulgaria which all looked quite flat from our perspective. We saw a bit of the Black Sea and the Danube River through breaks in the clouds then across the Aegean Sea to Greece. There were a couple of rugged mountains and they had some snow on them.
We arrived in Athens, after circling over the very blue Mediterranean and lots of rugged islands a while. We arrived at 4:20 p.m. March 9th and it would have been 5:20 a.m. in Fairbanks, also March 9th.
We were pretty much waved through customs, not at all formal. We were met by our cab driver, Dimitris Tsasaronis. He will haul us wherever we need to go while we are here for $100.00 a week. He drives like he owns the road and so do all the rest. Quite an experience.
Our hotel is near the sea. Two meals per day are included for $55 a day. We are staying in Glyfada, instead of Athens. Doris and I were both too tired and sort of sick to our stomachs from tiredness to go down and eat so we went to bed about 7 p.m. and slept (mostly) until almost 6 a.m. We were worn out.
Sunday
We left the hotel at 7 a.m. for Doris’s first doctor appointment. The lab is closed on weekends so no blood tests today. The first of her injections was administered. The reaction is immediate, flushed face and feeling of heat and tingling. A taste in the mouth that lingers most of the day and feeling a need for rest.
We had breakfast served to us in the lounge on returning to the hotel, because of steep steps down to the dining room. Then up to our room so Doris could rest.
The driver came back at 11 a.m. to take me shopping for groceries. I also got a mini-hot plate, small kettle, 2 cups and saucers and a bowl. I can’t get stamps until Monday. A friend called just after I got back to the room.
I went down to lunch about 2 p.m. and sat with some of the other guests. Most of the people on the flight from Denmark were coming to the same clinic. Also most of the people staying at this hotel are going there, also. There are some very dramatic stories happening here.
One fellow at the table was terminal with a huge tumor over most of his face when he got here. Now the tumor is reduced to a small spot and he looks and feels very good. Another has been here only since Tuesday and the lumps under his arm are going down. I sure hope it works for Doris and as fast.
I brought a tray up for Doris and she made a valiant effort. Most of the large bowl of soup, some bread, a bit of the spaghetti which was good but very dry and she can’t drink water with her meals, must wait 2 hours after eating, and part of the pears.
Monday
We left for the doctors’ at 7 a.m. Doris didn’t realize the old man would draw her blood and give the shot if she sat near him. He really hurt her, took three tries to get it. One on her left arm and two on her right. I had blood drawn, might as well test while I am here. Doris is given a list of foods to avoid and other things to do that help the treatments work better.
Unleaded gas costs approximately $2.50 a gallon, diesel a third of that. Most vehicles are diesel. Gas in Fairbanks much cheaper.
The sun came out yesterday so I walked to the beach and took some pictures of the hotel and the trees. We are about a block from the beach.
The taxis and buses go on strike tomorrow. Our driver is going to attempt an early run with just patients. He’s afraid the other drivers will demolish his taxi if they catch him.
Tuesday
We got up early and were waiting for Dimitris. He brought another bottle of oxygen. That makes the third large bottle since we got here.
I walked to the shopping area with one of the other gals staying here at the hotel, yesterday. I bought some gifts to take home and found a nice pale gold sweatshirt, light weight, for Doris. I also bought some pastries. That is one way to load up calories for Doris. Unfortunately, for me, also, but I do have to sample and make sure they are good, don’t I?
Doris’s blood sample was 6.3 on the doctor’s scale. Well within the curable range of 2.5 to 8.5. Mine was as low as possible for human blood to test. They said I am disgustingly healthy as far as cancer goes. That is good to hear, for me. But it is reassuring for Doris, also. The doctor said she will be able to breathe soon. Then the dependency on oxygen will not tether her to the big tanks.
While she was at the doctors’ I walked to the beach with her video camera and panned around the harbor, Aegean Sea and the city, then zoomed our hotel.
This afternoon has been a rough time for Doris. The injections seem to make her very ill. She is nauseous, chilled and very worn out. Sure hope she feels better soon.
Wednesday
Another early morning for Doris to go to the clinic. Dimitris wrote down the doctor’s diagnosis for her which is Lungs, Lymphatic System, digestive system, and reproductive system. The US doctors only said lungs. More about this later.
After breakfast, the lady in the room beside ours and I walked to the shopping area. I bought more T-shirts, postcards, pastries and water. I also found a pair of Greek dolls for my Mom. We walked quite a ways and my back and feet were tired by the time we got back, then wanted to cramp. Dimitris came by with another bottle of Oxygen and took the one that was almost empty. He came back in a half hour and got Doris and I to go shopping for a mini-recorder for Doris. She walked to a couple of malls and did great. She even crossed kamikaze street to get to the taxi. I think she is improving already. She certainly is, from yesterday.
We changed rooms yesterday. This one is much nicer. It opens directly toward the Aegean Sea. (That’s what it is and so much easier to spell than Mediterranean) We can even use the closets and the beds aren’t as crowded. Of course there are only two beds instead of three, like the other room had. A friend called from Fairbanks.
Thursday
For $100 Travelers Check, I receive 15,600 Drachmas. So now I can figure whether some of my great buys really are or not.
Doris recorded the nurse’s report this morning and was told that she doesn’t necessarily have cancer in all those areas reported the other day but has trouble in all those systems and that the serum should help all of it. She will find out more, later. They took another blood sample today, only 4 days after the first one.
It’s certainly windy today. If we were home, I would say it would rain within 24 hours.
TV just said that Susan Butcher won the Iditarod race yesterday, breaking the record, again. They had a few minor mistakes such as the finish line in “McGrath”. Oh well, at least they had it on at all. They even mentioned “her home town. Manley.”
Friday
I think Doris had a much better night. Her breathing sounded easier.
There are several new faces this morning. Seems everyone has heard the doctor is leaving and everyone wants to get in one more round of injections. One fellow is a Chiropractor. His wife is exceedingly ill. She can’t hold food down and hasn’t eaten in three weeks.
Doris’s blood test was 5.7, that’s 6 points lower than 4 days before. Everyone is amazed at how much it dropped in such a short time. The doctor seems to think the cancer isn’t so much in her lungs as it is causing pressure that inhibits her breathing and that it will get better. This sure raised our spirits and Joe’s, when he called. It’s about time they had some good news.

To be continued….

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