Friday, April 13, 2012

Christmas (and surgery) in Germany!

So, in November I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the lovely folks at Naval Hospital Rota sent me (Johann, Reese and Rayna) packing to Landstuhl, Germany (the biggest military hospital in Europe) for further tests and surgery.

We left for the airport at 0'dark thirty, the morning after the Polar Express, to fly from Jerez de la Frontera to Madrid. As is custom for this flight out of Jerez, it was an hour late and we missed our connector to Frankfurt. The folks in Madrid were kind to us and gave us vouchers for meals and we posted up until the afternoon flight into Germany...the girls are SUCH wonderful travelers! They never whined or complained the entire trip.

It was dark when we got into Frankfurt, but we were quickly shown our rental car and on to the infamous "Autobahn" on our way to Ramstein Air Force Base where we were going to be staying during our time in Germany. We had NO idea what a treat we were in for...

The Ramstein base is a small "American" city...I specify "American" because it had all the luxuries of home...A Macaroni Grill restaurant, for instance...a Chili's, a Popeye's Chicken and Waffles, a Cinnabon...this may seem insignificant to you, but for us, living in Spain with only a bootleg KFC/Taco Bell, it was like manna from heaven! They also have a huge shopping mall, a multiplex theater, and many other amenities that were such a treat to us!

And all of that in gorgeous, snow covered Germany!!! When I say Germany was gorgeous, I mean, it was breathtakingly gorgeous! It began to snow the evening we arrived and we woke up to a lovely blanket of snow and the girls HAD to run out and play in it. The apartment we stayed in on base too was just a blessing! It was wonderful! The girls had their own room, Yo and I had our own room, we had a huge living room, dining room and a full kitchen where we made ourselves at home for 3 weeks and where I was able to rest and recuperate post op.

And the people of Ramstein were Ah-MAZING!!! The motto for the airbase was, "Selfless Service" and I tell you, the men and women we came into contact at Ramstein and Landstuhl were the most selfless, caring, wonderful people I have had the privilege of meeting. The medical team were so professional and caring and totally Rockstars! My Surgeon, Dr. Clifford Porter was the Chief of Surgery and he gave me such wonderful care. He took me on like his own daughter,giving Johann and I a grand tour when we first arrived, checking on me in pre-ops, answering all our questions, performing my surgery and overseeing my recovering! And my oncologist, Dr. Penelope Harris, who ordered all my tests and labs (and arranged for us to have them (CTs, MRIs, etc.) with the results, during the Christmas holiday in the same day, was incredible), she walked me through my diagnosis and recommended treatment options and was an angel in disguise - crying with me and praying for me. I felt the very presence of God and His mighty Hand taking care of each and every detail. And there were SCORES of others who were so generous with their concern and care for us. The Chief's mess brought us Christmas dinner and tons of presents for the girls! And the Child Development Center (in spite of their 6 month waiting list) took Reese and Rayna (together, although Reese (who was too old to be with Rayna) was supposed to go to another facility, but to keep the girls comfortable in their new surroundings, let them stay together) into their program so Johann could be free to accompany me to my appointments and into surgery...Amazing!!! All of it...AMAZING!!!

So, despite the reason we were there (my surgery), we had a wonderful time as a family, enjoying each other in our German apartment, exploring the beautiful German villages, particularly Heidelberg (which we visited twice, about an hour outside of Kaiserslatern) with it's ancient castle, Christmas markets, wines, delicious meals and memories to last a lifetime.

Winter Wonderland - view of the playground right outside R&R's bedroom at our apartment in Germany.

In Heidelberg walking through the old town shopping district to the Christmas markets...

Johann enjoying a real Weinerschnitzel!! Delicious sausages with spicy mustard and fresh, crusty bread!

The girls and I enjoying our hot German with my Gaulwein (hot, sweet, red wine) and the girls with their hot chocolate.

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