People have often expressed surprise that I opted to have my treatment and care in Asia and not returned to the UK. When I describe the level of care, the facilities and equipment of the hospital and the promptness of appointments and treatments, surprise usually turns to envy!
When you add that to the fact that it is so much easier to work at convalescence and recovery in a warm climate, with access to an outside pool, and in an environment of lush vegetation and tropical flowers it is not difficult to understand why it was also preferable to go through the chemo cycles in this part of the world.
There is another factor which is important too, which I have mentioned in passing but I want to highlight now. That is the exceptionally supportive medical care I have here.
When I first consulted my GP here, I did not know how big a role she would play in the coming months, and how fortunate I am. In fact, when I first walked through the door I had not even met her before. That was soon to change, and she was in constant contact while I was in Bangkok at the time of diagnosis, surgery and treatment. In my return visits home between chemo cycles, she was there to keep an eye on me in my weakened chemo state, and to make sure I was fit enough to head back to Bangkok for another chemo bashing. I have described my encounter with pneumonia and how she got me through that.
So I was honestly not so surprised recently when she offered to use up some of her free time when in Bangkok to be trained how to clean and use my port. This would mean that I could have the port flushing done regularly here, without having to travel to Bangkok for the procedure.
Arrangements were made and a few weeks later when my Dr was in Bangkok, she spent an afternoon on the oncology ward with the nurses, becoming familiar with the port and the procedure for flushing it. There was just one slight problem. My hospital is not a teaching hospital, so unfortunately my Dr could not practise on a real person, but could only observe. I hadn’t realised that. But there is always a solution and the solution to this was inspiring! My Dr was provided with a sample port so that she could see how it functioned. And a teddy bear to practise on!!
I approached my port flushing time rather anxiously. I was reassured by photographs of the teddy having his port flushed and was glad to know that he not only survived but suffered no ill effects. I was less impressed that teddy did not need the magic Emla numbing cream. Good for teddy but don’t expect me to be that brave! I was very nervous at the prospect of being the first human patient.
The day of the flushing I was extremely nervous. I don’t like needles, and I really don’t like having my port flushed. And for all that teddy didn’t flinch when he had his port flushed, he did wear it outside his skin, and not hidden underneath like mine so it was a bit easier to find.
It was also quite alarming to see my Dr all gowned and masked for the procedure. I think we were both probably as nervous as each other. However her training had been thorough, she was confident, and she had all the necessary accoutrements, needles and necessary meds. We had a slightly scary time when the blood return did not work at first and needed a bit of exploration and re-inserting of the needle. There was great relief all round when the blood return did work and the flushing could take place.
There were two people wearing very wide grins after the procedure. That’s not including teddy, who was probably grinning too. I was even given a crunchy chocolate frog when back in the waiting room – a treat usually reserved for the younger patients, but which I very gratefully accepted when offered!
So I consider myself extremely fortunate. I have the best of medical care and treatment, a warm and pleasant environment to support my recovery, the inventiveness of teddy bear training and the incentive of a chocolate frog to make sure I don’t forget to get my port flushed!