*WARNING – Post contains one slightly semi-nude picture of me
So, I found a lump in my chest. My left breast to be precise.
A few days previous to this I was lying under the fan in our incredibly comfortable Couchsurfing hosts spare room, trying to cool down from the high temperatures of the Bangkok heat running my fingers over my chest – like you would to check the thickness of a new rug – where my man boobs used to be (I’ve lost quite a bit of weight in the last few years through a change of diet since moving in with ITALIAN/Franca, a strict regimen of running for 8 months+ last year & ever so slightly through the changes travelling has brought over the last 5 months).
So whilst I’m quite enjoying the exhilarating moment of “ooo, I’m thinner!” and I’m “checking the rug” prodding & such when I stumble upon something; a little hard lump, roughly the size of a small green pea.
I tell Franca. Concerned, there’s a thousand words buzzing through my head but one of them relentlessly muscles it’s way to the front. “Don’t worry” she says calmly. “Just sleep, there’s little you can do about it this late at night”. True enough. It’s late & the chances of being seen are slim, but it doesn’t make the words go away, it doesn’t make sleep come any easier.
“Leave your chest alone”.
“Can’t. Won’t. Can’t sleep”.
“We’ll get it looked at tomorrow”.
All I can think about are all the possibilities and all the knock-on effects; “If I’m ill, that’s the end of travelling”, “What if we have to fly back, what happens then?“, “do I encourage Franca to keep going?“, “do I keep going doing as much as possible till the end comes?” – every possibility.
The Morning After
Somehow, sleep came and soon enough so did the morning, a phone call to our insurance company for advice, a check for local doctors on the local British Embassy website (always a great place to start with medical emergencies is your countries embassy’s website) & a word with our Couchsurfing host for details on how get to our chosen hospital.
So with the clear information gathered from our insurer, the embassy & our friend, we’re heading off to one of Bangkok’s less spoken about but most frequented tourist attractions – Bumrungrad Hospital
Bumrungrad Hospital is The Ritz of world hospitals & led to us feeling immediately out of place in our moth-eaten clothes.
The hospital caters to people who travel the world over for their cheap, yet exclusive services such as full plastic surgery, breast enhancement & even a full sex change. Some lengthier services even include on site accommodation in the form of rather swank apartments.
There’s even a Starbucks inside.
On arrival, we pressed the shiny touch screen to get our printed out queue number & grabbed a seat for a predicted long wait. On the floor we’re on there are official Visa Extension booths, a shiny Starbucks, a nice looking bookstore … and our number is called.
Quicker than we thought, we wandered over to our assigned desk, took a seat & began the fun of filling in paperwork.
Not much to be discussed between myself & the gentleman taking my details & picture. Just the usual pleasantries but not much more. No idea if we’re even going to see a doctor at this point, it’s just fill out the form, stare at the camera & enjoy your new passport to immediate health care.
*after all the paperwork*
”So why are you here?”
“I’d like to see a GP”
“Okay, 15th Floor. Goodbye”
Up the fifteen floors past the decadence of the other fourteen we arrive at the welcoming desk of the General Practitioners floor.
”Hello sir…” – I hand over my ID card – ”just round the corner to the next reception, sir”
Refusing to listen to the suggestion in my head that we’re just going to get passed from one reception to the next until we give up & leave, we get our greeting from a rather lovely nurse who advises us to grab a drink & take a seat. With pleasure.
What began from there was us taking every opportunity to fill ourselves to the brim with all of the free bottles of water, cartons of juice & coffee on offer. Call us scroungers if you will but budget travel will teach you one great lesson – never decline a freebie.
So we sat with juice coming out of our eyeballs (and the tops of our day bags too – hehe), and sat down to read & await the unwanted – time with the doctor & the results that will come.
By this point I was being pulled between worry & calmness. My mind was trying to discuss with me the thoughts from the night before, my reality &location not helping either. Thankfully – and I guess I have to be thankful for this – my sense of humor can be dark, comical and down right bizarre on most occasions, so regardless of the surrealness of being in a foreign hospital many miles from home, I managed to keep my cool, read my book and maintain happy thoughts that it was all going to be something of nothing.
So old happy face gets called through for a blood pressure, weight & height test – I aced it, top of the class.
Some more waiting, more drinking, more reading….
”The Doctor will see you now”
And see me he did.
WARNING – Avert the eyes of children!
Breathing in, breathing out, the usual. We discussed the important things in life like great Italian food & the Song of Ice and Fire books that I’m reading, had a prod at my increasingly sore chest and with a large marker pen drew on my chest the approximate location of my lump.
”I’d like to send you for an ultrasound”
“What, like for babies?”
The very same. Up on the next floor we repeated our same well practised procedure of waiting, drinking & reading (books almost finished at this point) and waiting to check
if I was pregnant how Mr.Bump was feeling.
Lying back retaining some style & grace, I crane my neck around to watch over the screen mindful of watching for
a foot anything that resembled what I’d felt between my fingers the night before.
And there it is. Amongst the fuzziness of the blues flicking over the screen; a black empty patch, a wormhole. A wormhole sucking away at my positivity & hope.
”It’ll be something of nothing” I tell myself.
Easier to think, not so easy to believe, especially when the doctor and her assistant nurse converse in Thai & a scattering of English words. One sticks out. Cyst.
Okay, Cyst. I can deal with that. But, did she bring it up as what it probably was or that it definitely wasn’t? I’m sure it’ll be all clear in a second.
”I’d like to take a picture of you”
“Okay” I mutter, between pride & panic.
Little did I know she meant to do a mammogram.
Better Left To The Imagination
Luckily for everyone the whole world over, I’ve no delicious photographs to show you of those few minutes which I’m sure will please one & all. Needless to say it was a peculiar experience, but necessary.
I must admit that the calmness was beginning to waiver slightly, the smiles half-baked and slipping from my face like custard from a pie (forever a clown). The confusion of the words I’m catching and the things that are happening just aren’t helping.
From there it was back for a little more time in the waiting area.
End of Year Results
Shorter than the wait I was expecting I get a call from the doctor – literally. For whatever reason I’m beckoned over to the receptionists desk & told the doctor wants to speak with me, “okay”, I thought, “which room?”. Nope. I’ve got the wrong end of the stick. He want’s to speak with me via the phone.
Odd, peculiar, a touch too nonchalant; the Doc reveals to me the news…
”You’ve a build-up of calcium from your larger days. It not too much to worry about, but you’ll want to keep an eye over it over time”
Time? Time? Thanks to you Doc I’ve all the time in the world! I’m so happy that it doesn’t even show on my face; Franca has no idea what he’s said. Do I pretend it’s the worst for the darkest of all comedy sketches? Nope. Not the right moment.
We grab our stuff & our haul of vegetable juice cartons & pay up for our bill restaurant-style with an chip’n’pin machine eager & ready.
The cost was 3750baht or about £80 pounds. Less than I was expecting for a private hospital and also less than I can claim back from the insurance company, but first of all; can you really put a price on your health, and secondly; should the worst have happened and the medical bills had started to climb, I knew that my insurance had my back.
After the panic, the sleepless night & hours spent at
The Ritz the hospital, I came to a conclusion on three simple things:
Monitor Your Health
Slogging around a backpack for 12 months is easy enough, and if/when it breaks it can be replaced. The same cannot be said for your body. Take care of yourself, monitor the little niggles.
- Never let things wait
Becoming more than just a little niggle and more of a larger nuisance? Get it seen too. No adventure is more important than staying alive long enough to do it.
- Carry Insurance
Not wanting to promote one above any other, having specialist backpackers coverage from any of the available insurance companies for the unexpected is my best recommendation.
Should you require treatment that could cost you in the thousands & completely destroy any future budget or ideas you might have for when that broken wrist or leg is mended, knowing there is someone to help pick up the burden will be a huge weight off your mind no matter who’s covering you.
Happy Dance Marathon
Needless to say, we were both pretty happy as we made our way back to our temporary Couchsurfing home, stopping off for a celebratory & much deserved ice cream. It was an emotional day & testing to say the least but as I’ve previously stated – you can’t put a price on your health.
Now I know I can relax and enjoy our journey, and today we’re going out to do just that.