How Thailand Changed My Life
About two years ago life was going great for me; my health was good, I had successfully owned and operated various businesses during my working life and was financially sound despite having had two divorces and the corresponding resetting of my bank balances to zero. I have a great family and a small but close circle of friends. My social life was full and even though I set a high standard, having the company of western women was never a problem. There were many women, all wonderful in their own way, with lots of baggage, but that’s another story. At 56 years of age, life was good.
Suddenly things changed, the short version is I was diagnosed with a rare, incurable, mostly untreatable disease, the main symptoms of which were acute mental and physical fatigue, accompanied by depression. I lost over ten percent of my body weight in a few months, mainly muscle as I only had a small amount of body fat to begin with. The prognosis was two to five years. My Aussie sweetheart dropped me like a hot scone and I don’t blame her at all for that.
For six months or so I battled on, trying various alternative and natural treatments without much success. I progressively became weaker to the point where I was spending 16 hours of the day asleep and the rest trying to do some very basic things around the house which was made more difficult as I lived alone in a large house. Trying to do anything in the garden or any form of exercise was out of the question. My friends and family were generally supportive but no one really wants to know you when you are terminally ill. My regular pathology results were showing a slow but steady progression of my illness.
My business activities ceased and I basically closed everything down except for an investment company that I still have but it too is sick since the financial meltdown. My only source of entertainment other than television was the computer and most days after checking emails I would go to the Stickman site to see if there were any new submissions. I actually came across the site by accident when searching for a Bangkok hospital that provided a certain treatment (as best I can remember). Anyway I started to develop a fascination for Thailand and even though I hadn’t previously travelled overseas I was very keen to get there, mainly to experience the many exotic locations and landmarks that had been described so well on StickmanBangkok.com, however I did also want to get a third opinion on my condition from a Haematologist that I had heard about at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok. Basically a trip to Thailand was on my “Bucket List”.
June 2009 and my brother was travelling to Europe via Bangkok. He suggested we spend a couple of weeks in Thailand and I was very appreciative of his company as I was very weak by this stage and literally had to be carried on to the plane in Melbourne. I was also travelling against my doctor's wishes, as there were great concerns about my compromised immune system leaving me open to contracting swine flu which was very virulent at the time, amongst other things that I might come into contact with.
We arrived in Bangkok early on that June morning and duly found our way to the Nana Hotel using all the information I had gleaned from the Stickman site. Checked in to what must have been a great hotel in its day but looking very sad now. Next stop the Golden Bar and the learning curve started. The first thing that struck me was that I really liked the bar scene, the happy atmosphere, the interaction with the girls, and the interesting characters from all corners of the planet. I am a sucker for a good story and there were plenty of those. In some cases I even liked the bar owners. It made my own life back home seem very boring.
Unfortunately I would need to be a passive participant in the bar scene as I was under no illusions as to how detrimental more than a minimal amount of alcohol would be to my health. Late nights were also to be avoided. As for the sex side of it, all I will say is that if you have ever suffered from chronic fatigue, or in fact depression, you will understand that even a truckload of Viagra isn’t going to get you there. Luckily I really enjoy observing people and watching situations unfold so sitting in a bar nursing a San Mig Lite for a long time and watching the world go by was probably going to be OK. As it turned out I drank a lot of banana shakes, coconut juice, water etc. Without doubt I have purchased more drinks for bar girls and patrons than I have for myself, and happily so, the entertainment value was worth much more to me than a few hundred baht. I have spent much of the last year sightseeing and enjoying much of what Thailand has to offer, have been to some interesting places and made many acquaintances as well as one or two really good friends.
My energy level began to improve from the minute I set foot in Thailand; at first it was thought the adrenalin rush from being in a foreign and exciting country was responsible. As time went by my bouts of fatigue began to decrease to the point where most days I could function normally, providing I got enough sleep and ate well. My weight normalised and I have been able to resume some sort of exercise routine, predominantly walking five or six km most evenings. I still have to be careful in this land of many bars, any more than a few of beers in a session will rob me of energy for a couple of days.
Most importantly, over the last year my pathology results have shown improvement, at first showing a slowing of my disease and more recently a reversal of some of the key markers. The doctors are unable to account for this, but have put forward several theories, mainly relating to lifestyle, climate, and diet. I have my own theories as to why my health has markedly improved while in Thailand but it would be premature to expand on them at this time. On my most recent visit to my medical specialist in Canberra, her parting words to me as I walked out the door where “Get back to Thailand and keep doing whatever it is you have been doing”.
Not sure what the future holds, particularly as there has recently been a change to my social life, and to my living arrangements. I now reside in a small village where there are no bars to entertain me, or to tempt me. Thankfully Bangkok is a couple of hours down the road, and I can enjoy the excitement of one of my favourite places (Sukhumvit) on a reasonably regular basis.
The point of all this is that my time in Thailand has been very good for me, so much so that that my health has recovered from what was almost a hopeless situation, to the point where I am leading a life that could be considered fairly normal.
Given that for most of the year I have been frequenting bars and nightlife areas I could very easily be stereotyped an alcoholic, sexual deviate, pervert, monger, or loser, when in fact none of these labels would have been accurate.
There must be hundreds, if not thousands of westerners in similar situations to me wandering around Thailand just trying to survive, maybe they just want to improve their life in some small way, or improve the lives of others, or live a little while they still can. Everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do and their own story to tell and no one should make generalisations or judgements about their behaviour, particularly if the facts aren’t known.
Tremendous story and it is so nice to read something positive like this. Long may your recovery and enjoyment of life in Thailand continue!