Comes A Time (With Thanks To Neil Young)
This is a combination of reflections on my unforgettable experiences in wonderful Thailand and the reality checks that life inexorably imposes on us all – it is how I see things and not necessarily how others would choose to do so.
My happiest memories are of the lengthy relationship I shared with a special lady in Chiang Mai (yes, she was a bar hostess when we met) – but it was me who left there, after 8 months, with promises to return. That never eventuated, due to other commitments, until 2 years had passed but, by then, of course the relationship dynamics had changed with the irretrievable chance of things remaining as they were. Her feelings had changed – but mine had not. Even now, many years later, I feel the same toward her as I did back then. Chiang Mai is a pleasant city and I love reading the journals posted by Caveman. They take me back to times past – but BKK is where my heart is. I am a big-city person.
But back to the present: What does one do when faced with the prospect of inevitable deterioration in quality of life due to a raft of health issues that will not improve?
I am a male with my 69th birthday coming up next month. I live alone in a relatively-comfortable lifestyle, divorced after 3 marriages (one with a Thai) and there are many good memories of a life that has been anything but ordinary because of my propensity to live "on the edge" for most of that life. There have been quite a number of semi-serious and ordinary dalliances with Thai women (some of them bargirls) – but my memories of them all are of good times with no negativity. Recently I was diagnosed with confirmed cancer of the prostate of an aggressive type and my urologist (one of the top surgeons in his field) has offered me radical prostatectomy at no cost whatsoever if I take part in a random trial that is being conducted to compare the results of open surgery with robotic surgery. I was randomly-selected for robotic surgery and scheduled for the procedure on a set date.
After due consideration of the likely after-effects of surgery (incontinence, lack of sexual function and possible major blood loss) – and advice from my surgeon that I may have 5-6 years before "things may become quite nasty" should I refuse the surgery, I have opted to decline the surgery and "take my chances". Quality of life is more important to me than longevity in a state that I would not tolerate. I will still be able to have 6-monthly reviews with the surgeon at my hospital clinic – however, there has already been a sharp spike in the PSA levels over a short period since the biopsy was conducted. Apart from the fear of the likely after-effects, I am presently experiencing increasing levels of bodily discomfort from neurological symptoms arising from an auto-immune neuromuscular disease, currently stable – but exhibiting increasing incidences of stabbing pains in the feet and legs, general bodily soreness and extreme fatigue. To add to this, I have developed a L knee pain that is the result of extensive wear of the synovial membrane. This knee has had surgery twice before for arthroscopic repairs to medial meniscus tears and a Baker's Cyst. Then there is Barrett's oesophagus and other gut problems that, although presently stable, will only deteriorate further. But hey, after a lifetime of wearing specs for myopia, I am "blessed" <smile> with the fact that I now have 20/20 vision. A Thai specialist at one of the major private hospitals in BKK told me "Your eyes perfect – you can now go fly 'Kruang-bin', no problem"! This was also confirmed at my hospital in Farangland (although they didn't suggest I go fly a "Kruang-bin").
I feel the time is fast approaching when I will need to depend on external help to maintain the present lifestyle in the apartment where I live, as I am finding it increasingly difficult to attend to the cleaning and shopping duties that were previously easily handled by me. Independence is very important to me and I will not cope well with having to rely on help from others to maintain my present lifestyle. It has always been my expressed determination never to enter a care facility, as I see this as the ultimate loss of independence and dignity. It will never happen for me. I would rather die than accept that.
Thailand has been my greatest love since the first time I discovered this wonderful Land Of Smiles many years ago but I fear the time is approaching when I will no longer be able to visit The Kingdom with the degree of health that I have previously enjoyed while being there. I feared that 2012 would be my last visit to Bangkok – and I could feel the slow-down that was noticeable since my previous visit in 2011. I am hoping that I may be able to be there again for Christmas 2013 – after that time I doubt that future visits will be possible. I know in my heart that if that occurs, I will curl up at the edges and die – in a very short time – a very unhappy man.
Increasingly I am finding myself reflecting on the times I shared in Chiang Mai with the lady that I loved completely. Yesterday I played a set of mp3 songs by Lanna Commins on the computer, letting them play in sequence on Windows Media Player while I slowly looked through jpg images of Chiang Mai City, collected over the period from 2004 until now, and photos taken of both of us and her family over that period. All of the images are difficult for me to visit because of the memories associated with each one, yet I have this need to go back there via those images, every so often, to relive those times that were so special in so many ways – and in other ways were quite painful. There are times when I think of going back to Chiang Mai to revisit some of the important locations that we shared, maybe stay in a couple of the hotels where the feelings blossomed and grew to be strong – but I ask myself what would that achieve, because I would not contact her if I were there. Being torn between those memories and the reality of the love I have in Bangkok (since 2007) is something that I find very difficult to handle because it puts me in a feeling of betraying my commitment to this special person in BKK. That is something I do not wish to do – nor would I ever do anything that could cause her unhappiness.
My thoughts are these: I would rather spend what time I have left in comparatively reasonable health with the lady I love in BKK rather than endure a pale shadow of the life I once lived – alone and in increasingly-deteriorating circumstances in Farangland – a place where I do not even wish to be in normal circumstances. Isn't it better to "fall off the perch" when you are in control of your destiny, rather than place yourself in the hands of those who will very-likely not invoke your wishes? I would be really pissed off if I were to be placed in those circumstances as I have always been in control of my own future – and I intend it to remain that way. There is a currently-active "Advance Health Directive" in place and I have written express wishes not to be returned to Farangland if I should "kick the bucket" in Thailand.
No, I would not become a member of The Pattaya Flying Club – there are other (more discrete) ways to bring about a desired eventuality. This is an honest statement of how things are – it is not in any way intended to elicit sympathy as my core belief is that there comes a time when one has to bite the bullet to maintain dignity. My belief is that death is merely a gateway to another existence – reincarnation, or the freedom from Samsara – rather than the "control" teachings of Christianity, which was my original religion from childhood. I would be interested to hear the opinions of others on this subject.
Best wishes to all – Ishiro.
BTW, Ishiro is only a pseudonym – I am a Farang.
Good luck and I hope the surgeon's timeline is wrong and you have much, much longer before any discomfort arrive