Just Diagnosed - Just Moved to Cartagena, Spain

Been diagnosed malignancy 1.7cm. Waiting for core biopsy, had fine needle and ultrasounds. Need MRI scans etc before surgery in 20-30 days. Away from family and friends and trying to get initial surgery on EHIC card. Surgeon I saw didn’t speak any English and I don’t yet speak any Spanish! Don’t know what to expect really - feel confused and alone.

Hi barney2710, so sorry you’ve had to join us here, but glad you found us. We’re a friendly bunch!

Waiting for the results is truly awful, but once you’ve got them and they know more what they’re dealing with (they won’t know everything until after your scans and op), they can work out a plan of action and you’ll feel a whole lot better.

Not speaking the lanugage is a whole extra issue you don’t need at this time. You need to have someone with you if at all possible at your appointments, even without the language issue. Is there a local expat community or maybe even a local language teacher you could contact who might be able to act as interpreter for you? Take a notebook and pen with you to your appointments and write everything down, even if it’s phonetic (or get whoever goes with you to write) so you can check things our later. Whatever you do though, avoid Google like the plague - there’s so much out of date or just plain wrong info on there. Stick to this site, Macmillan or the Cancer Research UK one.

I know there are a few ladies on here from France and there were some from Spain as well so hold on and I hope it won’t be too long before they see your post.

One of the ladies in France came to England for her chemo - she travelled over here for a week or two each time then went back home again. Would that be an option for you?

Sending you loads of hugs - you’re definitely not alone, even though you might be a bti farther away than most people on here.

Jane xxx

Hello, sorry to hear your news. Your post struck a chord with me as I had just started working in Sicily when I found a lump on my breast. I had been there for just 5 months and my grasp of Italian was fairly basic. I did have a partner who, although he couldn’t speak English, came with me to every appointment and provided some support.

My scans (MRI, full body scan, ultra sound), operations (lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy) and chemotherapy were covered by the EHIC card but please bear in mind that any prescription drugs will probably have to be paid for by you if you are not domiciled in Spain.

At the time my rationale was that I didn’t want to disturb my ‘new life’ and that I didn’t want any ‘fuss’. However it can be a difficult period to navigate and, at times, I wish I had come home. My sister flew out to be with me for my second operation and I did have the support of new friends I had made who took me for days out and, of course, the unwavering support of my partner.

Because I was living in a fairly small town, I became a bit of a novelty at the hospital. Once everyone had got over their ‘suspicion’ of this stranger, they treated me with extraordinary kindness which helped me cope with being isolated from friends and family. I had also taught the daughter of the sister of the Chemo department and she used to ‘give’ me the prescription drugs I would otherwise have had to pay for.

When it came near to the end of my chemotherapy, I made the decision to return home to England for my radiotherapy which was kindly arranged for me by my parents’ GP who put me on his ‘special’ list. Otherwise I don’t know how I would have managed to have the course bearing in mind that the centre was over and hour and half away from where I was living with terrible transport links (I did not drive).

This sounds a bit gloom and doom but it is the reality. If you do not speak the language, are you happy to entrust yourself in to the care of a surgeon and healthcare team if you do not fully understand procedure and possible further treatments?

It is crucial that you have someone with you for key appointments. I am wondering if there is a community website where you live? Perhaps you could post for some assistance. Alternatively, you could contact any language schools - as previously suggested - who may be able to provide interpreters for your visits. Of course, you will have to pay for this as it is unlikely that anyone will provide this service free of charge.

If, like me, you choose to stay (or indeed have no option to return home) it will be a steep learning curve. Positives for me were the excellent care I received (warm, friendly nurses giving me hugs), a lot of my future work coming from the people I had met while having treatment and the crash course in medical Italian that came with the process. A lot of medical language comes from Latin, so it is not so hard to familiarise yourself with that. You could ask for copies of all appointments/schedules so that you can translate them when you get home.

I hope that this information will be helpful to you and that it doesn’t sound too negative. I am just trying to honestly convey the situation I went through (and all our situations will be different). I do have a friend in Spain who would, I’m sure, be able to translate any written information you already have if you needed some help.

Wishing you well, please PM if you need any help.

Alison x

I understand your difficulty . I´ve lived in Spain ( Costa Del Sol )12 years and was dx 2 years ago.I speak some spanish but at the time not "breast cancer spanish ".
I am lucky in that my husband was retired and so my treatment was funded completly under the Andalucian Health System . To have to rely on your european health card is slightly different .
Most hospitals do have voluntary interpreters who offer their services free .
We also have local charities in this area who have people willing to go to hospital appointments and translate .
It may well be better ,if you can , to return to the UK and have your treatment there .
I had lumpectomy and rads , no chemo , and actually managed very well . The standard of health care here in the south is excellent , I know many people who have had various surgeries and not one has evre had an infection .
I hope you manage to find someone in your area who can help you , its bad enough on this journey without added worries of language .I´m sure others here in Spain will contact you .
Have you tried asking , or getting an interpreter to ask at the hospital if there are any other english speaking ladies who are going through , or recently had treatment for BC at that hospital . Unfortunately we are not unique and I´m sure there will be some .All the best , Kristine

Hi Barney, very sorry to hear your news. I do not come on here much anymore but one of our facebook group friends sent me in your direction. I was diagnosed in Spain too, I lived in a very small town and had my ops and treatment in Alcoy. All I can say is you are in the best place… they really really look after you in Spain. You might need to take an interpreter with you the first few times, but you will find that someone will speak English and will enjoy practising it with you even!! They do not quibble about spending money or time on you over there. I can help you with any interpretations you need from your report if you need it. When I was going through my chemo I saw my oncologist every 3 weeks and she spoke to me and examined me every time and took about 20 to 40 mins with me each time. I had 4 lots of FEC and 4 lots of TAX instead of 3 of each as you would have in the UK. The minute my veins hurt they fitted me with a portacath (something you have to fight for in the UK and not always successfully). I then started herceptin and was due to have 25 rads but I had to move back to the UK. Here I have had to fight to continue my herceptin for the full 18 sessions and they only gave me 20 rads here. The difference between the treatment in the two countries is huge… so you are very lucky to get your treatment there. It is all new to you and half of the words I have used here will not mean much to you, I don’t even know if you need chemo. But please try not to be afraid. There is another member here called Muffet, she still lives in Spain and she will help you too. We both belong to a facebook group which muffet started called breast friends, their are 94 members, it is by invite only and it is very safe. A lot of the girls are from here and they are wonderful. Thats how I found out about you. Well, I just wanted to reassure you sweetie, and I know how it feels, but it will work out just fine in the end : ) Big hugs Lizzy xxxx

Thank you all for taking the time to reply to my posting. I’ve now had my core biopsy and MRI scan and am due to go for pre admission checks on Monday 9th April to be admitted a couple of days later. I saw a surgeon who gave me a quick exam and told me that I will probably not lose the whole breast. I believe that the initial treatment will be carried out under the EHIC card. Follow-up treatment will be a bit more complex as I have an SO1 form but neither my husband or myself a pensioners. I believe we have to see the Displaced Persons doctor at the clinic to arrange prescriptions etc. Just hope it all falls into place eventually. Other alternative would be to rent near my old GP/Hospital in the UK.

Hi Barney, I am about one hour away from Cartagena and just been diagnosed via MRI but not had a biopsy or even met the cancer doctors yet so don´t know all the details. My breast is mis-shaping more and more with a large benign mass within which they tell me there is cancer so I hope they don´t delay. I think I will be losing all of it and if it has to be done then I want it to happen very soon!

I have had surgery in Spain before and it is VERY clean, difference is they do some things a little differently, like normally put a catheter in before you get to OR and they talk in the OR waiting area…! It could be a cafe…but don´t be put off I had excellent surgical care before. They will expect your husband to be with you for personal care things and normally one family member can stay overnight with you. There is a very good cancer support group in your area offering translators, info and support - look at mabsmurcia.com for details

Hope all goes well for you, let us know how you get on won´t you. x