A Biopsy at Bumrungrad
The lobby area of Bumrungrad International.
November 5, 2006
The only thing I knew about the Thailand segment of my trip was that I was arriving a day before my sister. I am sure she has read her
Thailand guidebook so many times by now that she has it memorized. For that reason, I am sure she knows exactly what she wants to see
and do in Bangkok. As for me, I don’t even have a clue about anything in this city. Every time somebody asks me what I’m going to do in
Thailand, I honestly answer “I have no idea. I’m leaving it up to my sister.” Sure, she has kept me in the loop. But in all honesty, I never
really read the emails that she forwards onto me. If it seems like she wants to do something, I just respond “Sure” or “Sounds great”. I
have no idea what I have agreed to…but it is her vacation so I feel like she’s entitled to do the things she wants to do. The one thing I do
know is that we are going to ride an elephant. She’s been set on that ever since she decided to meet me in Thailand. And I have absolutely
no problem with this. I actually turned down riding on elephants in India so that Michelle and I could experience for the first time with
each other. Such a selfless person I am…I know.
When I was in Hong Kong, Suzanne mentioned that she knows many people (mostly ex-pats) who fly out to Bangkok just for the hospitals
as they have an excellent reputation out here. She was telling me a bit more about the stellar doctors, facilities and low costs. She went
ahead and forwarded me links to two different hospitals. When I looked at a map, I noticed one was near my hotel.
But what services would I need?
They have ‘packages’ like you would find at a spa…except that they lump together blood work, mammograms and ultrasounds as opposed
to facials and massages. But I didn’t really need a comprehensive package as I got fully checked out about seven months ago before I left
on my trip.
I took it upon myself to take full advantage of being insured and being able to see my doctors before I stopped working – I got a full
physical, I got vaccinated for just about everything imaginable, I went to my dentist (which then led me going to the periodontist to have a
small gum surgery), I went to my rheumatologist and I also made a trip to the ophthalmologist.
As I was talking to Suzanne, I realized one doctor that I hadn’t seen before I left. The dermatologist. For most people, this might not be
such a big deal. But for starters, my mom had a pre-skin cancer when she was younger. I’m very fair skinned. And I have many moles
that I need to keep an eye on. I went to the dermatologist over a year ago. She practically rolled her eyes at me when I told her why I was
there (I told her that I just wanted to make sure that nothing looked like a ‘red flag’). She acted as if I was a total hypochondriac. Anybody
who knows me knows that it is actually the complete opposite. I only make appointments when I feel it is necessary. But she basically
shooed me out of her office about five minutes after I came in.
I’m thinking not scheduling a dermatologist appointment might have been me subconsciously not wanting to go through that experience
again. Noticing that I’ve been accumulating many more freckles…and a couple more moles…in the past six months, I felt that Bangkok
might be an ideal time for me to get everything checked out.
I went to the website of the hospital near my hotel (Bumrungrad International) a few days before arriving and scheduled an appointment
with a dermatologist on my arrival date before my sister was to arrive. This way I wouldn’t be screwing up any of her plans. The only
glitch was that I wasn’t sure a Sunday dermatologist appointment would even be available. Two days ago I received an email confirmation
from Bumrungrad for the time that I requested. Wow, that was easy!
There was a strange coincidence that occurred today. I was on the plane and I itched my arm. I felt a bump. I looked down and noticed
that in the middle of a smallish mole was a big black spot. That was never there before. I know this because I look at this part of my arm
everyday. This was a little unnerving – I was only comforted by the thought of going to a doctor five hours from then. The timing really
could not have been more perfect.
If somebody told me that the lobby area of this hospital was a hotel, I would have had no reason to think otherwise. There was a Starbuck’
s tucked in the corner, an internet area and a beautiful reception desk. On the second floor were several eating options including Au Bon
Pain. But I wasn’t there for coffee and pastries…it was time to go to the Skin Center for my 2:30pm appointment.
After the initial blood pressure reading, pulse rate and weight check (why am I the only person who can travel this long and not lose an
ounce?), I got called into the doctor. I explained to her why I was there and pointed the mole out to her that I noticed on the airplane. She
immediately said “I don’t like the look of that.” Well, I didn’t like the sound of that. She checked out the rest of my body and nothing else
was a cause for concern…except that one mole.
Just a few minutes later I was being led up the stairs where I was put in a room for them to perform a biopsy. I laid on the table waiting.
While I was laying there, tears started welling up in my eyes. I started thinking of the ‘What if…’ scenario in my mind. What if it is
melanoma? Then I started thinking of what my options would be since I am not insured for this kind of stuff. Would I have to fly home
immediately? Would I get a job right away so that I had insurance to cover treatments? Would I just stay in Thailand and get the
treatments here? How would the rest of the trip with my sister be if I had this on my mind? Would I have to bail on the friends who are
meeting me during other legs of my trip? How would I tell all of my friends at home? I wouldn’t be able to call all of them – would I need to
notify them by a mass email?
Yes, I was definitely jumping to conclusions. And I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I couldn’t help it. I almost laugh now at some of the
thoughts that were crossing my mind. I was thinking about chemotherapy and not being able to have kids down the road. I was thinking
about losing my newly-straightened hair (sadly, this really was a thought that went through my mind). I’m no Mother Theresa – I’m
allowed to have these vain thoughts.
The doctor came in to do the biopsy. I put my ipod on and closed my eyes. I have no problem with this kind of stuff as long as I don’t have
to watch it. I have no idea how long the needle was but I do know that it hurt far more than when I get poked for my blood tests. Then
they covered my eyes with something and turned on a machine. My hunch was that they performed some laser treatment of some kind.
This ‘hunch’ has nothing to do with me being oh-so-medically-knowledgeable. It has to do more with the fact that they gave me a sheet
before I left about how to care for an area on the body that has just had laser treatment.
I got some good news when it was all over. The doctor told me that after doing the biopsy, she didn’t think it was anything. It turned out
the blackness was a little pocket of blood and that she looked around and didn’t see anything that was suspect. She was almost apologizing
saying that when seeing a black spot like that, she couldn’t just let it go. I thanked her telling her I was very appreciative of that. Since I
won’t be in Bangkok when the results are ready, she told me that she would email them to me. At least I was now feeling a bit more
confident that the results will be in my favor and I can continue traveling without having to deal with making any huge decisions.
I paid my bill for the doctor’s services, the prescription I received, the anesthetics they used and the biopsy. It came to just under 5200
Baht…or $145. And at 3:45pm I was out the door. I might just jump on that Hong Kong ex-pat bandwagon and start scheduling all of my
doctor's appointments out here...
***Update: November 11, 2006
I just received an email from the doctor that I saw. Everything turned out okay and I have no reason to have any further treatment.
Hooray for me!