What a difference a day makes

By Jenny Grainer [email protected]

Jenny Grainer arrived in the Algarve to live, work and raise a family in 1968. She is a freelance writer and her book ‘Portugal and the Algarve Now and Then’ has sold more than 2,000 copies.

There is a song with a line that says ‘What a difference a day makes – 24 little hours’. Never have words summed up so well the events that have happened to me so far this year.

2010 ended with a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s Eve, made even happier having received a phone call from my daughter telling me I was to be a grandmother.

I was of course delighted; I have three granddaughters from one of my sons, but this was to be a first for my only daughter.

I started the New Year by booking my flight to England for the expected birth date in July and received regular updates on pregnancy progress while carrying on with my usual schedule.

I was eating dinner one evening in late January when, after swallowing a mouthful of food, I felt a sharp pain run through my chest so powerful I truly thought I was having a heart attack. I wasn’t.

Two weeks later, I was diagnosed as having a tumor in the esophagus (the down-pipe that takes food to the stomach) which prevented me from swallowing anything but liquids.

As the surgery could not be dealt with in the Algarve, I was sent to IPO, the Cancer Institute, in Lisbon where, after many tests, endoscopies, X-rays and body scans – and when an intensive care bed became available on May 19 – I finally had the quite complex surgery needed to remove the cancerous obstacle.

No words of mine can sing the praises of the hospital too highly.

From the modesty of the highly specialised surgeon and his team, through to the intensive care nursing, the general ward and physiotherapist, the care and treatment were first class.

I don’t know how they do it. The building is old, the place teeming with patients who have all types of cancer coming from all over the country, but they seem to run on well oiled wheels and, against all the odds, provide a superb service.

They had me in and out within two weeks and I returned to the Algarve delighted to know that I would require neither chemo, nor radiotherapy as the tumor had been non- invasive and they had managed to remove it all.

A commemorative plate to celebrate his birth, specially created by Julie at Porches Pottery
A commemorative plate to celebrate his birth, specially created by Julie at Porches Pottery

As I had breast cancer just four years ago, I must admit I felt a little hard done by – to have this wretched disease once with all its many complications is bad enough, but to be hit upon twice feels more than a little unjust. Not even a secondary cancer but a whole new primary.

However, there is little point in dwelling on the negative changes that life can bring upon us in any 24-hour period, far better to look on the positive.

I am alive, recovering well and able to eat solid food again. I am also now 17kilos lighter than I was in January and although I can’t say I recommend the diet, it has at least given me the best excuse any woman could ask for to buy a whole new wardrobe of smaller clothes. I haven’t worn skinny jeans since I was in my twenties!

Special moments

I also felt well enough to make my trip to England in July in time to meet my outstandingly handsome grandson, Aidan James (at last, a boy in the family).

He arrived a little earlier than expected and so I had enough time to order a commemorative plate to celebrate his birth from the pottery in Porches to take with me.

Other special moments have been spent with my son and my granddaughters who were here for a two-week holiday in August and I was well enough to thoroughly enjoy their stay and walk, albeit slowly, around the Medieval Fair in Silves.

Our poodle gave birth (unexpectedly) to a single puppy, a welcome addition to the family and I have a visit from my youngest son to look forward to next month.

To anyone who suspects they may, or know that they have cancer, I can only say it’s a very tough moment in your life and it just has to be faced up to.  

I know not everybody makes it, but I’m still here and have every intention of living for each of the next 24 hours that the Lord blesses me with and enjoy all of the good times he sends my way.

One day at a time is a good standard to live by – after all, it could have been a fatal heart attack instead.