Part 3 or so. The Long Wait (continues), over-thinking and onwards

The Long Wait continued….. my thoughts on Thursday 9 April – afternoon….

After the scan – Over-thinking. Or interpreting?

So now I am over-thinking it all. And what’s worse – I knew I would.

The beeps. First of all, those electronic “beep” noises during the scan. The noise just like the one that sounds when an electronic message has arrived in my inbox. I don’t remember hearing beeps last time I had a bone scan. My overdriven mind says it’s an “oh here’s some cancer” alert. It’s far more likely that it is a tone to note the end of that bit of scanning. Try telling my mind that though.

Then the real over-thinker material, which comes as the scan comes to an end. The Doctor asks when I will see my referring Doctor at Samitivej. ALARM BELLS!! I reply, tomorrow or maybe today as I think he consults on a Thursday too. She says she will send the report over. Unless I want to take it with me, she asks”? I rewind back 2 years but with a tweak. Oh heavens no, I think. That would be agony, and I would be sure to open it eventually. Or much sooner. “If you give it to me I will read it”, I reply, and I think I add “and that might not be a good idea. It’s fine to send it over”. She says it will go over, but may take a little time. I must have displayed my fear. She added that it would take 2 – 3 hours after the results come back.

So this time, I do not have the report to look at in the waiting room, and do not wait for it. I do not have reassurance. Nor have I had to read bad news myself. In that open, waiting space where I feel so vulnerable and visible.

The tears came though, not in the waiting room this time. Firstly they came in the taxi, while the driver chatted on about water festival and traffic, seemingly oblivious to my minor meltdown. They came again in the lift as I headed up to my hotel room, and again on the phone. Tears of pressure and fear. I know I am over-thinking. I also know that I am steeling myself, based on the lack of reassurance immediately after the scan. I am sure that they had told me last time back in October 2012, even before I left the scanning bunker, to wait for the report last time, when the technician brought the report to me and I said that I was frightened. She said, then “it’s ok. You can read it”. She obviously couldn’t tell me outright but she nonetheless reassured me. That didn’t happen this time in the 2015 re-run. It could be because of what the scan images say,  and that there is a problem. Or it could simply be that this is another Doctor who has a different way of working.

As I left the bunker, I looked over at the screen and the Doctor concentrating on the skeleton on the screen. I know that I am totally unequipped to interpret or understand anything, but am still ready to put my own interpretation to the picture. From the quick glace I could see a bigger area highlighted. Perhaps my full bladder? Perhaps something worrying at the base of my spine. Right where the pain is.

I walked out of the bunker.

I wonder whether I will get a phone call this afternoon or evening if there is unwelcome news, but in any case I know that in 24 hours or so I will know.

Right now, I am steeling myself for the worst. I feel that there are too many clues which are worrying and not enough reassuring signs.

But then again. Maybe I am just over-thinking again.


Friday 10 April, early morning

When I woke up on Friday morning, I forgot briefly that I was still “waiting”. Just for a second or so, but long enough for a cloak of confusion and darkness to descend.

The morning was long. I arrived in good time at Counter 2 and walked over to get my blood draw.  Straight past friends I know well from Yangon. It is not easy to miss a family of 4, all of whom you know, but that says quite a bit about my state of mind.

And was I glad to hear those reassuring words from Dr W2 in his happy, flowery Songkran shirt. Glad, exhausted and at last I could stop thinking

Water vessels are being filled as I write this, preparations for the various Water Festivals and New Yearin the region.  And I am retreating to be quietly thankful in a quiet healing place. Hiding from watery mayhem as I tend to do. Offline.

I will be back in a few days, but for now I am stepping away from the intensity of the past weeks.


Wishing all a refreshing Water Festival if you celebrate, and New Year of hope, health and happiness.

When I return to the online world, I plan to share some thoughts around my third word of 2015. Realise…. If I am brave, I will have some news to share.

Silence, a haircut and flowery shirts

I have been too quiet recently.  Silence usually means one thing in my world.  Worry. This week has seen the culmination of some full-on worry.  So I am very happy now to be able to provide an update. An update which does not contain bad news.

The key elements of the update are:

– A haircut.
– A Doctor in a flowery shirt, nay, an oncologist in a flowery Songkran shirt.  Because a Doc in a festive shirt can’t give bad news, can he?

Last year when I arrived in Bangkok Airport at the start of the Thai Songkran Water Festival, my passport was stamped by an immigration official wearing a flowery shirt.  That’s a first and I can tell you it made me smile.  All of the immigration officials were wearing flowery shirts and broad smiles. So a flowery shirt is a Good Thing. An oncologist in a flowery shirt is an unexpected thing. And indeed he cooperated by not giving bad news in his flowery shirt.

I still don’t now what is causing the spinal pain which has been troubling me recently, but a bone scan has ruled out metastasis to my bones.  Causes could be an old injury, calcium depletion (thanks to cancer meds) or old age.  Onc suggests old age.  I high five him.

Hence the hair cut. I never get my hair cut before hearing the NED words. NED – No Evidence of Disease. A haircut is an acceptance of NED. An acknowledgement that there is no imminence of nasty treatment.  Treatment which might cause hair loss.

As always, my preferred way of processing this mess that goes on emotionally is by writing it and there is a heap of blah coming in this space.  I have been scrawling in freehand in the waiting room, in my room at night and even in Starbucks after the injection of radioactive dye before the bone scan. Those scrawls capture what happens in a mind which does not know what the future holds.  They will be shared here very shortly.

But for now, there is no bad news. Just a very long overdue haircut and a Doctor in a flowery shirt and big smile.

Happy Songkran, Pi Mai and Thingyan Water Festivals to all.

Hiding from watery mayhem on the banks of the River Kwai

Much as I enjoy the lead up to the Water Festivals, and the sense of building enthusiasm and unbridled delight which surrounds us, I have to confess that I tend to retreat from the festivities themselves. In this part of the world there are a number of Water Festivals.  Our Thingyan in Myanmar and Songkran in Thailand are two which I am familiar with.

It is a wonderful release in so many ways, and the water throwing all around brings such relief from the rising temperatures and humidity. And for a day it is great fun. However, my challenge is that the Festivals last for several days. In Yangon, we celebrate four full days of Thingyan and the Myanmar New Year is the following day. So there are five days when everything stops and closes. If you do need to venture out, you absolutely must be prepared to be soaked. Every stitching of clothing and possession utterly drenched. I find that after a couple of days, we inevitably start to run out of fresh food and everything is shut. You have to be completely prepared as nipping out for supplies is just not possible. Firstly because of the drenchings, and secondly because the shops are shut anyway. Everyone is having FUN!

It is a wonderful time of exuberance, and I am glad I have experienced this. But I recognise that for the best part of a week (more if we count the weekend days) that I get a bit antsy if I am not able to venture out, especially for a long cooling swim. In a pool and not at the roadside!

kanchanaburi 1

So my strategy is to find a quiet spot and hide from the watery mayhem. This is not always as easy as it sounds because the other part of the strategy is not to have to venture to far afield. Only one flight if possible, and somewhere where I can find a sheltered haven from the excitement where the essentials are on hand. Essentials being a restful space, food and water and ideally a swimming space. Now, living in a part of the world where we are surrounded by water festivals, this is less easy than it sounds.

Eventually I settled on the notion of visiting Kanchanaburi. It is the town immortalised by the Bridge of the River Kwai film for its place in the notorious “Death Railway”. Coincidentally, I have read a few books recently which are either set in the period of the Railway or actually about it, such as The Railway Man by Eric Lomax. I also realise that I really should have visited the area having lived on the doorstep for so many years. My other reasoning, however, is that I could find a restful space amidst a setting of historical significance and natural beauty and hide from the water mayhem going on all around.

kanchanaburi sceneAnd that is what I did. Kanchanaburi is only a couple of hours out of Bangkok so very easy to get to. I found a pleasant little guesthouse on the banks of the river, where I could relax, read, write, swim and generally decompress in the peaceful, natural setting surrounding me. I was keenly aware of the mayhem outside, with the staff of the guesthouse returning drenched and high-spirited from their forays and the distant thumping of music from further afield. I think they probably found me a little strange in my reluctance to join in, but it was just perfect for my needs. I would have a long swim first thing in the morning before a leisurely breakfast which would stretch into reading and writing time beside the river. I would be distracted by the mynah birds which would play in pairs on the river bank, sneaking over to the tables if they had a chance and dancing around in the frangipani trees.

kanchanaburi 16

As the temperatures rose in the afternoon, I found I had the occasional nap back in my room before an evening swim and dinner again at the riverside. I had absolutely no need nor desire to leave. It is a little strange not to head out and explore but I was not even slightly tempted to head out into the surrounding lanes.

Riverside retreat

Riverside retreat

An advantage of being on the riverside was that I was, however, easily able to venture onto the river and spent an afternoon exploring “safe” dry spaces along the river. How ironic!


On the River Kwai

On the River Kwai


kanchanaburi 2

And this was where I came nearest to encountering the full Songkran experience. One of the stops on the river took me over the Death Railway tracks and up a hill towards a temple and caves.

Death Railway and River Kwai

Death Railway and River Kwai

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Death Railway and River Kwai

Death Railway and River Kwai

It was a hot and sticky walk and I had mixed feelings when I happened upon the clearing near the caves, and saw that there was major watery mayhem underway but there was also tantalising cold coconut for sale. Coconut water is in my view the single most healing drink in the world, the best rehydration solution ever. I have heard that people who had no access to drinking water, on the Andaman Islands following the tsunami, survived for days on coconut water. Besides it is delicious! I decided not to go into the cave as it meant broaching the boundary into watery mayhem, and instead plonked myself down on a miniature plastic stool clutching a hefty coconut while I drained it of its entire contents of the refreshing water.

Watery Mayhem!

Watery Mayhem!


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I returned to the little boat after this interlude, and headed then to the Bridge for a period of reflection and respect.

Under the Bridge over the River Kwai

Under the Bridge over the River Kwai


On the Bridge over the River Kwai

On the Bridge over the River Kwai


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Kanchanaburi River Kwai bridge

On my final full day in Kanchanaburi, Songkran was officially over and I ventured out and explored the surroundings before returning to Bangkok the following day and homewards to Yangon.kanchanaburi 5

I was properly able to relax and very comfortable with my decision to avoid the watery mayhem. After all, there are times when we need fun and excitement and there times when we need to just be.

Sunset over the River Kwai

Sunset over the River Kwai

Starfish, scars and soakings

We are splat bang in the midst of Water Festival Mania in this part of the world.  In Thailand Songkran is celebrated, with massive waterguns, tubs of water and young children with little bowls of water – all aiming to soak you!

In Myanmar, the Thingyan celebrations last at least four days and ensure a total drenching, with the aim of cleansing the sins of the previous year.

It is all great fun, but it does get a bit wearing after a few hours of not being able to venture outdoors without being absolutely drenched through and through.  So I toyed with the idea of heading out of Bangkok, to a jungle retreat perhaps, or to the beach?  The beach certainly appealed as did the allure of starfish hunting in the ocean.  However, I found it rather difficult to make a solid plan.  Getting out of Bangkok is not difficult, but does require at least knowing where you are intending to head.  I did not particularly feel like taking a flight somewhere, and howfing my bags on and off of buses with a fairly fresh surgical would did not appeal much either.  A train journey would do the trick, though again I would to be clear about where I was heading and have accommodation sorted.  I also had an appointment with Dr P a week after the surgery so would need to be in town until then.  And although the wound was healing well, let’s face it, it is still a laceration and was very tender.  I was not convinced that it would be entirely wise to dunk it in the ocean and pursue random starfish!

I saw Dr P on Wednesday, and he was very pleased with the healing.  But the surrounding skin was pretty inflamed and angry.  Happily he felt that the dressing was no longer needed and after a brief consultation I was sent off into the great outdoors to get on with healing.

With a few days before my return to Yangon, I made a few enquiries, and looked at a few options but many places were fully booked as folks head out of town for the holiday.  And then one friend advised me that travelling out of Bangkok would probably be pretty stressful.  Transportation is pretty booked out and the main destinations would be very busy.  So I decided to settle on staying in Bangkok and lying low for Songkran, and take up residence beside the lovely little pool at our apartment.

As it turned out, that was clearly the best decision because I returned back to the apartment to a number of messages and the news of two massive earthquakes off Aceh and a tsunami alert.  It was good to be in contact immediately with family after our 2004 experience.  And I have no words for the relief and gratitude that a major tsunami was not triggered.

So no starfish hunting this time, although I did visit Ocean World which does have a starfish department.  That will “tide” me over for a while