A note of warning: This chapter touches on two taboo topics – the prostate, and the question of how we deal with shit. I have written this chapter because I think it is important to bring attention to these topics, to lift the veil of silence. Only if we address these things more openly can we hope for proper progress to be made and better solutions to be found.
I don’t want to force anyone to think about this though, so if you prefer not to, feel free to move on to another chapter!
In our search to find someone who can help Frank find out what’s troubling his health, we’ve been given a telephone number for a naturopath in Motril, called Miguel.
Miguel is a calm and smiling man, originally from the Basque country but resident in the Alpujarras for the last 30 years. He practises a particular type of massage invented by a doctor from the Basque country and a Korean acupressure performed on the hand. Both work on the principle of finding blockages and helping the body to remove the blockages. Part of the first massage was diagnostic just as much as remedial. The Korean hand therapy uses a little metal instrument not dissimilar to a crochet-hook to find and then press certain painful points in the hand.
Miguel is convinced that if Frank uses this method every three hours, that after a month, he will be free of the problems in his prostate.
However, that night, the infection comes to a head and we go off to the hospital in Granada (see our description a couple of chapters ago). Their prescription of antibiotics helps with the immediate pain but doesn’t address the cause, so we are back to square one. We know we need to find a doctor who can do an examination, or failing that, can refer us to a urologist.
We contact Miguel again, in the hope that he can help us find someone. He invites us to his house the following day, where we meet his lovely partner and two daughters. Miguel gives Frank another treatment and asks us to stay for lunch and to come with them in the afternoon to see his other house up on the hill.
We pile into the car and drive up a very steep path until we reach his little Finca about 3km above Lanjarón. This is a magic place with stunning views across the valley and all the way down to the sea. On a clear day, Miguel says, you can see the Atlas Mountains in Morocco! A fast-flowing, cold and clear brook tumbles across the rocks and gushes down the gulleys.
It is this stream and its rocks that drew Miguel to buy this piece of land. The house that leans against the hillside is lovingly rebuilt, with lots of nooks and crannies, including a little secret balcony upstairs next to a wooden top room from where you have a 180 degree view facing southwards.
We meet the neighbour’s animals, including a baby donkey. It’s been a hot day, so they are quite thirsty. When I hold up a big bucket of fresh water to the horse, it empties it in one long draft.
Miguel and his partner disappear in different directions to prune plants and to direct the water in Moorish fashion to the vegetable beds, Frank finds a sunny spot to lie down and snooze, leaving 6 year old Violetta and me to linger in the sun outside the house. We have a long conversation about this and that. She is astute, friendly, open, and has some really interesting points to make. She is intrigued about how we solve the toilet question in our van, so I explain about our compost loo, how we separate the pee from the poo and that we cover each shit with a layer of a mix of sawdust and ashes. I tell her that it neutralises all odour, but she is not quite convinced. We talk about what happens with sewage normally, once you flush the toilet, and how costly it is to fish it back out of the water elsewhere and to clean the water.
I think it is good for the next generation to think about other ways of solving this dilemma. What a stupid idea to shit into the same water we want to drink! How can a so-called ‘civilisation’ end up with such an unimaginative solution.
In the evening, after several more painful Hand acupressure treatments, Miguel makes a number of phone calls to help us find a trusted doctor, and thanks to him, we have an appointment with Dr. Nur the following day in Motril.
Miguel and his family drive us down to Emma, and we show them our home. By the time we part from each other, it feels like saying good-bye to some very precious friends. We’ve had such a wonderful day up on their land with them, we received so much love and kindness from all three of them, it was much more than we expected.
We return to a place near Órgiva where we spend the night parked up by the river, feeling cocooned in our Emma and in the love of these special people. We have a night of sound sleep, despite a howling gale rattling the windows and buffeting the vehicle, making it rock like a boat in a storm.
At exactly 11.30 the next day, we ring the doorbell of Dr. Nur’s clinic in Motril. We have no idea what kind of a doctor he is, but everything on the desk in the reception says that he’s someone with an open mind to alternative therapies: the clinic offers Gynecology and Urology alongside Acupuncture and Osteopathy treatments. Dr. Nur, as we surmise from the many certificates hanging on the wall of his waiting room, has a passion for his profession and has studied medicine in many directions. It is a private clinic, where a thorough examination and analysis costs 100 Euros, but if you have to come back for a second diagnosis or treatment, it is free. Dr. Nur is an energetic man who radiates confidence. He asks Frank a series of questions, then takes his blood for analysis and gives him a thorough check, not just the prostate but everything: blood pressure, heart, lungs, bladder, kidneys and liver. It so reminds me of my Dad. He always said that a diagnosis needs to include the whole person, not just what the patient complains about. ‘Look and listen’, he used to say. When Dr. Nur calls us back into his office, the blood analysis is already there. He reads it like a book, and in combination with the rest of the check-up he can tell that Frank is very healthy and for sure has no cancer of the prostate but that his current problem is prostatitis for which he prescribes some natural remedies. When Frank mentions his trouble having to pee so frequently, he shrugs it off saying that this is not a problem of the bladder but of his Spina Bifida. Frank is completely bowled over – how did he know that he’s got a hidden Spina Bifida in two of his lower vertebrae? Dr. Nur smiles and says he feels passionate about his profession, he has the best diagnostic tools, better than hospitals and that there is no need for any invasive examination.
We leave the office quite relieved, but also speechless. How come that in some places Frank would have to have had a biopsy, and this doctor can tell us in such detail what’s what, just by closely looking and a thorough diagnosis of the blood? Why do so many men have to go through terrible discomfort and undergo potentially quite dangerous invasive examinations with less sure results?
Frank is a new man, the cloud of worry having lifted. We go off to find a restaurant to have a celebratory meal.
We thank all three healers, the hospital in Granada for helping us in an emergency, Miguel for the treatments and most of all for all the love, and Dr. Nur for a spectacularly detailed diagnosis and the confidence that comes from it.