We called the hospital in Warsaw, and the chief of staff Dr Tomek informed us that all treatment should be temporarily stopped to allow Natalia a chance to recover. It would resume again once she was a little stronger.
I knew at once where we would go. I could think of no better place in the world to convalesce than in the country side. Darek's grandparents had bequeathed his family their cottage outside the city in rustic locale.
Now it had become a family holiday retreat, an old place with enough room for three people and hardly any more. It would be the perfect place for all of us to escape. Far from the amenities of the city, everything would have to be done by hand: wood chopped for the fireplace, water gathered from the well, meals prepared from scratch.
The cottage was even smaller than I had remembered. Its heart was the kitchen where everyone gathered and settled into discussions as hot tea or meals were prepared.
The evenings spent around the fire stired up warm nostalgic memories despite the difficulties we had to endure. The whole day would be taken up by the little daily tasks of living. It provided a relief from having to think about what might happen next with Natalia.
We all missed Nele, our Bernese mountain dog. Natalia, still in weakened state from the chemo was susceptible to infection, so Nele had to stay with other family members. Fortunately, Nele was not far from us and as time went on we were able to take Nele for walks.
Two weeks passed quickly. In many ways it had seemed like a holiday but
the truth could not be avoided.
Natalia was now strong enough for the next course of chemotherapy but first there was the matter of preliminary tests. Here we encountered some bureaucratic challenges when we visited the hospital. We held in our hands records of similar tests conducted at a different hospital fairly recently but we were informed that we would have to go a center on the other side of town to have those tests done again.
An ambulance would transport us there but first we had to have the forms
signed by the head nurse. Here things became difficult. Our interview time
approached and yet the head nurse delayed her signature. When she finally
signed the document, we had only half an hour before our appointment. It was for an MRI, and if we missed the appointment, Natalia would have her treatment
delayed indefinitely, as the waiting list was always long.
In the ambulance, the driver, aware of the time, turned on the siren and took his vehicle up to 100 km/hr. On the road, other vehicles parted like the Red Sea before us.
In Poland the reaction to emergency vehicle sirens is swift and immediate. Unlike in Canada and the U.S., where the reaction can be sluggish, the instant reaction in Poland allows ambulance drivers to throw caution to the wind.
The drivers are accustomed to the speeds, but we were stunned.
I was petrified. Natalia seemed nonchalant and Darek had a huge smile
across his face. For him, it must have seemed the realisation of a childhood
dream, every boy’s fantasy of becoming a police officer or fireman hurtling
through the streets at high speeds with sirens blasting.
We arrived at the center on time and most importantly in one piece. Legs wobbly, we made our way to the center and had to sit in the waiting room. There is never a way to avoid the waiting.
Editor's note: The first part of this story appears here.