No Have Cancer!
Allyn Shulman is today’s blogger.
After some recent harrowing experiences that lasted for about 6 weeks, and after much consideration, I have decided to share some extremely personal events that have had a huge impact on my life.
As many of you know, I am on a world cruise currently sailing through Asia. I had been feeling pretty sick for the last several weeks with the following symptoms that continued to get worse:
Extreme exhaustion, vaginal discharge causing me to shower 3-4 times a day, bleeding, major cramping, distended tummy, feeling full all the time,
Feeling kind of like I have a UTI but more like pressure, kind of hard to urinate and tenderness below tummy.
After a few incorrect self-diagnoses and self-medication (ie just a hormoneissue, yeast infection etc), I broke down and visited the ship doctor. Wide eyed when I told her all the symptoms, she immediately sent me to an Indonesian gynecological oncologist in Surabaya who did a sonogram (the sonogram was from the top of my tummy) and a pelvic exam. He could see, measure and discuss the 2 1/2 centimeter polyp on my cervix but since the ship was leaving, there was no time to remove it. He was on time, polite and explained everything. His assistant even took a picture of the polyp with a cellphone, blew it up and sent it to me.
Two days later in Singapore, I had an appointment with Dr Jon Wee from the Irene and Jon Clinic for Women. He was willing to see me at a moment’s notice! When does that happen in the US?? He was a gentle, kind, and professional.
He performed a transvaginal ultrasound, which is a camera that goes into the vagina and can look in the uterus. He also removed the polyp on the cervix with no anesthesia. Because of no anesthesia by MY choice, (time crunch) he decided not to take a biopsy as it would be unbearably painful. I was already moaning and he was fearful of piercing the uterine wall as the cervical opening was hard to see. He also said he may not have gotten the whole polyp and there may be either another polyp or a continuation of the cervical one inside the uterus with veins making removal more difficult. He also noted blood in the uterus but more importantly, the lining of the uterus was very thick, 15mm when it should be 5mm. (As an aside, I find modern technology to be amazing! With the vaginal camera, he could look on his computer and make two yellow points which made a line and allowed him to measure the uterine lining!)
The doctors in Asia seemed to be trained differently. He wasn’t in a hurry. He was very kind. He explained everything gently but firmly and told me I need to take care of it immediately as it may be cancer.
His recommendation was an immediate “hysteroscopy, D&C and a biopsy of uterine lining to exclude endometrial pathology eg hyperplasia/cancer.”
Back at the ship, Barry and I begin to analyze the next step. Pack up? Fly home? Find a gynecological oncologist somewhere? The stress is overwhelming and so is the pain. And the symptoms are a constant reminder that something is very wrong.
At this point, I start telling my friends and family because the pain is telling me something horrible is going on. When my late husband found out he had Stage 4 cancer and 6 months to live, he didn’t want anyone to know. I felt differently. This was a time when I desperately needed love and support and kind words from my friends. I don’t feel I live in this world alone. I walk through this beautiful life of ours with my friends and family. I needed them.So I reached out. And the love and support that came back helped me from falling apart. I just tried to take it one moment at a time.
We decided not to have the onboard doctor assist as her primary concern was that I receive paperwork stating I am medically approved to travel. Also Barry is far better than the ship (even with all its resources) at researching and then making things happen.
Here’s the travel schedule we had to work with:
15/Feb Wed Surabaya, Indonesia
16/Feb Thu At Sea
17/Feb Fri Singapore 2:00 PM
18/Feb Sat Singapore 6:00 PM
19/Feb Sun At Sea
20/Feb Mon Saigon 9:00 AM
21/Feb Tue Saigon 4:00 PM
22/Feb Wed Na Trang, Vietnam
23/Feb Thu At Sea
24/Feb Fri Sihanoukville, Cambodia
25/Feb Sat Bangkok, Thailand 11:00 AM26/Feb Sun Bangkok 3:00 PM
We started brainstorming as we’re only in different places for 2 days at a time. We started reaching out to different resources. We communicated with our concierge doctor. It was Friday in Vegas (Saturday in Asia) and Monday was a holiday so he couldn’t start helping until Tuesday. So one option was to wait on the ship 5 days twiddling our thumbs while I am doubled over. We reject that option.
We are researching and reaching out to friends the world over. We have a wonderful close friend Mike Ross who lives near Sihanoukville, Cambodia, our stop in a few days. Barry called and Mike told us that even his family has no medical procedures done in Cambodia. However, he told us of a world-renowned hospital in Bangkok called Bumrungrad International hospital where his family always goes.
We research the hospital and are both impressed. The doctors come from all over the world with excellent training. Mike explained that because it is an international hospital, they are used to doing telecommunication interviews by computer or phone. So I call the hospital and I’m told an appointment will be made.
Coincidentally, Mike happened to be visiting Bangkok that day, staying a block from the hospital!! He offered to stroll over to the hospital Woman’s Division and make sure I get a telecommunications interview.
About 20 minutes later, he texted that he secured a video appointment with a gynecological oncologist for the following day. Oh, being the generous guy that he is, he also paid for the intake interview so there would be no glitches.
Then I get an email from the hospital. They work so fast, that they had set up an appointment for a few days later based upon my phone call. So I call again and get that sorted out.
I send all my previous tests to the doctor at Bumrungrad Hospital and the following day, I had the interview. She agreed with the former doctor’s analysis and said she could do the operation ASAP. Barry and I had already discussed the fact that the hospital may need more than two days so we decided we should fly from our next stop Saigon, Vietnam to Bangkok. We made an appointment for PreOp the next day at 4PM.
Of course, Barry jumps into motion making all the arrangements. Flight. Hotel. Transportation. Barry is completely amazing. Sometimes I call it “overthinking” which drives me crazy but he helped me rethink how to move forward every time the circumstances changed. One minute we were getting ready to fly home; the next, he said wait a minute, I have an idea. And a new plan begins to unfold. I am convinced that had we flown home, we would still be trying to get an appointment!!
The next morning, we dock in Saigon, jump on a 9am shuttle to town and grab a taxi to the airport. Although our plan added lots of extra time, I ended up being 20 min late. When I arrived completely uptight with my chest pounding, they calmly said no problem, put their hands together and bowed. Already I felt at ease. And that is how the entire experience went.
Asian medicine is handled SO MUCH BETTER than the US. No wonder people travel all over the world to go to Bumrungrad Hospital. Barry researched and told me people come here from 190 of the world’s countries and there are only 195!!
At the nurse’s station, they explained that my preop required 5 different steps, each in a different room or building, but it was very easy to navigate. Walking to my first station, I was looking for signs when a nice man came, bowed and asked if he could help. He walked me to the first station. More bowing. Kindness. No big rush. Personal. Then I went from station to station. Same warm caring no-rush attitude. It was as if medicine is a service industry where they care and answer with kindness when you ask a question. You never get the brush off. Maybe they make less money but have more doctors and therefore more time for each patient.
The last stop before I went back to the nurse’s station was the doctor who would authorize the surgery. That was probably an hour wait, with the nurses coming many times, offering water, tea etc explaining that the doctor must wait for the EKG, blood test results, chest X-ray, BP and other reports etc. About an hour later, I saw the doctor who apologized that the results took so long. He interviewed me extensively and went over all the tests, causing me much concern. MY BP was 153/83 when it’s usually 120/80. He said the EKG showed one side of my heart beat slower that the other and at some point I should have that checked. But he did clear me for surgery the following day. Back to nurse’s station for instructions and I was finished at about 8.
The next day was surgery day. Mind you, in three days, I had 1) a consultation, 2) preop and 3) surgery. Amazing.
I was in the hospital from 9am to about 8pm. I was to show up 9am for a 1pm surgery. They put me in bed with TV and dim lights and made me comfy. The surgeon came over and slowly answered every question in a non-rushed manner. She caressed my arm and said it will all be okay. These very small acts of kindness are so utterly important. It is difficult to conveyhow different my experience was compared to Western medicine.
Then a nurse inserted a few pills all the way up my vagina to dilate the cervix. About 2 hrs in, the pain steadily increased like giving birth. It felt so painful I nearly passed out. Finally, in fetal position, I finally asked for and was given pain meds. For those who know me well, I don’t want meds if I don’t really need them. Well, I had passed that point. As soon as I asked, they were administered.
After being put under, the doctor removed the rest of the polyp outside my cervix and also the one inside. The doc said it was extremely difficult to remove. The polyp was connected by 8 roots; she called them “stalks” and each was embedded with things attached to it.
She also did a biopsy and a D&C in order to test everything. The operation was supposed to be 20-30 min but it was well over 1 1/2 hours. The pain was so bad when I came to, that they gave me pain meds that knocked me out for another hour or more. I didn’t even know that until Barry told me later.
Poor sweet Barry had to wait many hours and then tried to strong 💪🏻 arm the surgeon into saying it wasn’t cancer. Skillful cross-examiner that he is, he couldn’t get it out of her! She kept repeating she couldn’t know until the results were in.
Incredibly, she gives me a Sat appointment to get ALL the results. So Monday I have a consultation online. Tuesday I have pre–op, Wednesday I have surgery and then Saturday morning I will be given the RESULTS as to whether or not I have cancer by a gynecological oncologist who is willing to work on Saturday.
In THREE days from my surgery, I will be told whether or not I have cancer because it can be done and in Asia it IS done. On a Saturday afternoon.
On Friday, I spoke to my Singapore doctor who did the first polyp removal. It was benign as is statistically likely. Furthermore he said that my pap was perfect and I had no precancerous areas in my cervex. Remember, however, that was not the prime area of concern.
Saturday arrives. We are so nervous we are out of our minds!! At 2:12pm, I walked into the doctor’s office for a 2:15pm appointment. Barry was outside holding the door when the dr rushed over, took my arm and said three beautiful words: NO HAVE CANCER. Barry hadn’t even walked in yet.
Evidently, I had a huge polyp outside the cervix that grew inside and it had 8 gigantic roots which the dr called “stalks” that the dr explained had something spun all around each one. That’s why the 20 min operation was 1 1/2 hrs. No cancer in the cervix, uterus or endometrial lining.
My amazement was that medical care can be completely different than what we experience in the United States. The greed, arrogance and desire for more and more money has infiltrated our system. What I experienced was professionalism, competence, kindness, compassion and all that took less than a week.
Did I mention, the entire Bangkok experience from consultations, workup, operation and pathology was $4,800!
I’m here to say if I needed a serious operation, I would have it in Bangkok. At Bumrungrad Hospital.
NO HAVE CANCER!!!
Damn! But love the final sentence! Take care and heal!
Allyn, this is an incredibly scary ordeal and what an emotional roller coaster. I hope your recovery is quiet, and without incident while your pain level has finally been reduced. That is horrible pain, I only say this because I had a hysterectomy at 42 for much of the same reasons. Hoping the rest of your cruise can be restful and beautiful 😘
Allyn, thank God your ok!!!!! Your story is amazing and eye opening. Thank you so much for sharing. What a scary thing to happen while you were away but the end result is phenomenal. Stay well and lots of love to you and Barry!!!!!
So happy and relieved for you❤️
I read your email a few days ago and then today, read this. So grateful for all the wonderful care you received, throughout, and for the network of friends around the world who referred you, over and over, to the right people, doctors, hospitals, etc.
Love and Light to you and Barry. Enjoy the rest of your beautiful vacation and keep sending great news.
Thank God, Barry & your doctors. You’re surrounded by love, enveloped by all the good karma you’ve accumulated all your many years. I’m so sorry you had to go through such a horrendous ordeal, and so relieved with the outcome. Get well soon, and continue with your wonderful life. ❤️❤️❤️
So happy your results are fantastic. Are you feeling better now? Are you back on board your cruise ship? Thank you for this enlightening description of your experience. Yes agree, the USA is not the end all, be all of anything anymore 😢
Wow, what a story, and what a scary experience you both went through! So glad to know that everything appears to be ok, and to know that you both had the drive, the calm, the connections and the seichel to be able to get this could-be emergency handled so beautifully. I wish for you to heal comfortably and completely, and that you can continue to enjoy the rest
of your amazing trip!
Dear dear friend, We are so sorry to hear of your harrowing experience and hop and pray you are on the mend. Refuah Shleima.
I prayed for you Allyn and for complete recovery.
Thank g-d you are good❤
Allyn, such an awful ordeal you had to go through. Thank god you are OK, rest up, you must be exhausted.
So sorry to hear about your ordeal but so happy to hear the good results. Hope you feel better every day & you will recover soon.. So thankful for the wonderful medical care you received.
I was on the edge of my seat reading this!!!!! What a nightmare that happily ended well!!!! So happy it wasn’t cancer and you’re back to health!❤️❤️❤️
Thank you for sharing your experience, so important to know about the outstanding alternatives and approaches abroad. And so very glad to hear “no cancer” and that you are back on your wonderful cruise. Love how you and Barry support one another in every way. Hoping a “Bon Voyage” for the rest of you travel adventure/s!
Wow! I am sorry you had to suffer, but what a wonderful result. Thank you for sharing. I am an early childhood friend of Barry’s. I would love meeting you both when you are in Seattle.
So happy to read ALL is Good.
You write very well. Your explanation on your entire experience was very clear, understandable and most interesting.
Barry is a real trooper. So glad you both are doing well.
Please continue to stay Safe and Healthy.
Sweet Allyn, your three words brought tears of joy to my eyes. Lynn and I are so pleased that you’ve gotten through this so well. Continue enjoying this Wonderful World we live in. Cheers!
Omg…… I am sobbing at reading all this!
You Allyn, with your succinct explanations & depictions of all exams and findings in a most dignified manner. Barry is of course the best planner & problem solver ever!
He could end the war in Ukraine if given the opportunity.
The NO CANCER & medical prowess of all these wonderful practitioners is setting me on a high that we hear in the US could never match! My heart is still pounding & my tears are now ones of joy!
I truly was wondering what was going on down there. The cost was also mesmerizing….. you are truly blessed and believe me very few couples could pull
this caper off …. Let alone with success!
Sending love & many thanks for sharing what you’ve endured with such dignity!
It gives me hope that the impossible can be made POSSIBLE!
God Bless & please keep us updated!
I’m glad I have my airline pass benefits so I can possibly go to Bangkok for dire medical help.😘😘😘🙏🙏🙏
Oh, Allyn, what a terrifying ordeal!! I’m so grateful you had Barry at your side helping you make the difficult decisions about your treatment. I feel relieved to hear of your wonderful care and the fantastic outcome. The low medical bill is just icing on the cake. I wish you much rest, relaxation and recuperation. Please keep us posted on how you’re doing.
You’ll never know who you may help in the future by your sharing of your story.
I’m sorry you had to go through this ordeal but very happy to hear that all is well now.
Yipes what a scary experience! I’m so glad you are ok. HVibg been through the brain tumors I’ll just say vegas drs are nothing compared to San Diego. I feel extremely fortunate I am here now. Hope all continues to go well.
Allyn I sobbed reading this because I went through this all here in the States at Loma Linda University. It was the most traumatic time not knowing if I did or didn’t have Cancer. It took months of waiting for appointments and having test results coming in slowly and all the while doubled over with pain and fearing my life would be taken away. There is no worse feeling having no control over the waiting and what if’s. I only wished I had the amazing experience you had with expediency and compassion that you had. The sad truth is here in the states it takes forever to get in to see all the different specialists because they are booked so far in advance. Depending on if you have C and what type it can spread very rapidly. You could find that if you could have been seen sooner you wouldn’t find you are in a later stage. I believe if I could have been seen sooner it wouldn’t have progressed to a more serious stage. Still I was fortunate in that it was only Stage two Endometrial Cancer. A Hysterectomy was necessary and I chose to go through the Brachytherapy a type of internal radiation therapy. I was told I was in the 2% range of it returning. Two years have passed and I’m Cancer free and optimistic it’s gone for good. It was the most humbling experience and opened my radar to keeping much closer watch on my health for any signs of alarm. I’m truly thrilled to know you came out C free! You are an amazing human being with strength of an army. Thanks for sharing a very personal experience and one so many women can relate to. May God Bless and keep you!
Your old school mate from PHS Suzanne Hartnett
I read your blog word for word. Completely astonishing how the medical staff got you through the system in such a timely manner. You are blessed to have a supportive husband by your side 24/7 helping grind the wheels.
So happy for you that everything went smoothly although painful with such great results in the end.
What an incredible real life story. You have been through so much pain and anguish. I am so relieved that you are on the mend. Hugs from me.
I read this story to my beautiful wife in tears. I’m so damn emotional these days. I’m so glad things worked out well and that the scare is over. I agree with your sentiments about American medicine, even though I have several good doctor friends that really care and are doctors to help their fellow man. The system however is broken. We often worry about having to deal with a major medical issue while traveling. I’m so glad this story had a happy ending. Hope to see you guys soon.
“No have cancer“! What absolutely wonderful news! What an ordeal but more importantly, what a fantastic outcome! I’m so happy to hear you’re on the mend and you can look forward to a beautiful and long life! And please know that you have all our love and support!! ❤️🍷🍷🎉🎉
I had no idea that you were going through this ordeal. So sorry to hear, but so glad to hear the happy ending. Hugs and Kisses! Enjoy the rest of your trip.