A Bump and a Hurdle.

Expat life has its bumps and hurdles, but there is one sure way to bring it to a grinding halt.

Get sick.
Obviously I’m not talking about a cold, or a bout of tonsillitis. You’ll need a surprise illness or diagnosis to really stop you in your tracks. Something that will have you wondering if you need to go home.
I walked out of the urologist’s office on Monday in a state of shock. I’d gone for something called a cystoscopy, a procedure I was pretty convinced was not going to supply me with the answers I needed. I thought I was just going through the motions, that this would be the beginning of a process of elimination.
I’d walked into the hospital theatre feeling self conscious, I looked ridiculous. The hospital gown I was wearing looked the part, but the fact that I’d had to keep my shoes on (they like you to keep your shoes on when your’e walking around the hospital) meant I was wearing knee high boots and socks. I was accessorizing with a hot pink handbag and a blue plastic bag that held my pants and scarf. I looked more like I was escaping a mental institution than heading towards a day procedure. I double checked for the hundredth time that my bottom wasn’t out on display as I gingerly climbed up on the bed.
Immediately it felt like I’d joined a race, there was a sense of urgency. I couldn’t help but feel that we’d borrowed the room and time was running out. Everything was rushed, questions were asked quickly. How long? How many? How come? I kept trying to add in bits of my personality but everyone seemed impatient, disinterested. There was little eye contact, people were busy with medical instruments and charts. A nurse with kind eyes appeared to acknowledge my discomfort and threw in a few comments about her son, I smiled and asked how old he was. The surgeon then told me her son was very keen to go to Dubai. “I don’t live in Dubai, I live in Doha” but it was too late, the conversation had moved on. 
“This will be cold and uncomfortable”. I was already cold and uncomfortable.
I looked up at the screen and saw the inside of my body, my urethra. I winced and looked away. “There’s your bladder, it looks good, we can rule out cancer”. More prodding, more poking and then she hit the jackpot “Hang on! Hang on! Look at this!” She was gesturing for the nurses to lean in towards the screen. “See the hole, that’s a diverticulum.” Immediately I could feel the excitement in the air. Initially I joined them. Someone had an answer for me, someone could finally tell me why I kept getting UTI’s and what was going on. 
And then, the mood changed. I needed to know what it meant. I asked her to repeat it. She said something about an operation, about being in hospital for 4 or 5 days, about needing to have two catheters. “You’ll have to leave the hospital with the catheters in, sometimes they can came out in three weeks but sometimes it takes twelve”. My heart was getting heavier with each word. How was I going do this? How would the logistics work? What would I do with the little travelers? A nurse made a joke about getting shoes to match my catheter bags and I tried to laugh, but I couldn’t. I just kept doing the math, adding up the days, trying to work out how, and when. This wasn’t an operation I was going to zip home for. This wasn’t an operation I’d be driving myself home from the hospital from. How were we going to manage this? What if it took twelve weeks?
They walked me into a recovery room and I heard someone making an appointment for an MRI. “After the MRI we’ll know if it needs to be two operations or one”. My legs began to shake. “You’ve got a lot to digest, I think you should just sit for awhile. It could be worse, I got a surprise baby at fifty” said the nurse with the kind eyes. I gave the appropriate response, shock and dismay poured from my eyes, but I wasn’t being honest, it didn’t make me feel any better. I could manage a baby. A baby could be done in Doha, a baby is a short hospital stay, a baby is worth the pain, the time, and the discomfort. A baby wouldn’t mean ruining everyone’s holiday next year. When you live overseas, a medical emergency isn’t just about the illness it’s about the practicality, the cost, the impact. Can we do this? And if so, where do we do this? Do we need to go home? 
When I made it back to the beach house my first phone call was to G. He was out walking the beagle. I stumbled over the words, got things around the wrong way and then sobbed uncontrollably over the phone “That’s good though, at least we know” he said gently. “It’s okay, we’ll manage, this is a great opportunity to get fit before the operation”. He was right but I still couldn’t see how it was all going to work. “I’m going to ruin everyone’s holiday next year”. He told me I wouldn’t. I couldn’t see how I couldn’t. 
By the time I woke up this morning G had sent me a long and detailed email with all of our options. Plan A, Plan B and C had all been thought over in detail. “Either way, we can work it out”. The tone was chirpy, manageable, easy. “We’ll know more after we’ve been to the doctor together”. I immediately felt calmer. “We can work it out”.
And we will. We always do. It’s a bump and a hurdle, it doesn’t need to bring us to a grinding halt. And I need to remember, I’m lucky that this is all I have to deal with. 

Sign up for the best bits here

Sign up for the best bits from our community of forty thousands expats. Every Saturday morning we’ll shoot you the five hottest topics from the world of expat.

Powered by ConvertKit


  1. I love the sound of your man Kirsty, he’s exactly what you need hun. So sorry to hear about your news, I empathise. But very relieved to hear that your man is by your side. He’s a good un, I reckon. (And I’m not just saying that because he’s a Kiwi)…much hugs Vxx

  2. Anonymous says

    Virtual hugs. You will work it out. You are an amazing woman with a fabulous husband and a beautiful family. All the best.

  3. So true. You’re there. Shock. Horror. Fear. G geographically removed can see clearly. Deep breath. And again. You’ll get there. Xx

  4. Hugs. x

  5. G sounds like an absolute legend. What a sweetheart. And I see from the above comment that he’s a Kiwi (I’m an expat Kiwi, now an Aussie) so no wonder he’s so down to earth and practical! 🙂

    I’m sorry you’ve had this news, Kirsty, but at least it’s the start of fixing all the health problems that have obviously been in your life for a while. *hugs* You’ll get there, hon. One step at a time, with your lovely family right by your side. Hang in there. xxx

  6. Everyone’s already said it here, but he sounds like a man and a half. Anything can be dealt with when you have the right person beside you and you do. Hang in there, rotten timing – but when is getting sick ever the right time.

  7. Melissah says

    Thinking of you. Xx

  8. Oh honey. Friggin heck 🙁

  9. Ah lovely, what a shock on all fronts. Fingers crossed that plans A, B and C come together with much ease.

  10. Sweetheart, one step at a time..hang in there xo I’m going through some unanswered issues with my son atm, invasive tests etc, I know how hard it is..I’ll be thinking of you xoxo

  11. May you get the answers and care you need. Having someone by your side like your hubby makes all the difference.

  12. Oh sweets. Hugs from me. To you all. Unsettling in the extreme. G is a rock, though – a chiry one. xxx

  13. Oh bugger 🙁 But I like the idea of a plan. You can do this.

  14. You and G are 2 awesome people. You because you just found out you need surgery but you’re more worried about ruining everyones vacation. G because he’s a keeper. None of that Shades of Gray stuff for me, men like your G and my husband are the type of men that most women want.
    He’s right you know..plans and more answers when you go together. He will take it all in and ask questions you may have forgotten or not known to ask.
    I’m sorry they seemed so cold and rushed during the procedure. It seems to be becoming the normal way now when you go to the Dr. for anything.

  15. As I read, my mind already started planning for you. Would the little travelers go back to school while you remained in Australia for the surgery? Could they miss a few weeks while you recovered? So relieved to get through the story to find that you can wait till next holiday to do the surgery! We make some hard decisions when we get sick or close relatives at home do who need our support. Glad G has several plans. Good man. It will all turn out all right.

    • Exactly, my mind keeps racing through all the options. Everyone come home or do I just come home? I keep thinking about doing this while they’re all over there and I’m here. It’s all making my head hurt at the moment but I know we’ll be fine. Thank you for your lovely message xx

  16. Oh boy it really is ‘big’ when you get sick and you don’t live at ‘home’ but wow with a hubby like that I’m sure everything will be fine. Hugs from lovely Lagos. S x

  17. Big big hugs K! So glad G & you will Work it out. I remember when you talked of that “UTI” and now this. What a shock & to be by yourself. Honey, you have so much going for you…but this bump will settle & you move forward again. Health. Too often we don’t think too much about it, until something like this. Much love Denyse x

  18. Hugs K xxx – G is there and he’s right it will all be sortable.

  19. So sorry to hear this Kirsty. I understand how scared being ill when you are far from home can feel, never mind trying to work through a potentially logistical nightmare.
    I’m in Doha also and I broke my leg a few weeks ago. Knowing that it was just DH and I to try and cope with me being stuck in a wheelchair has been more than tad stressful(and quite scary, I admit). We’ve coped by trying to find humour where we can and ‘allowing’ ourselves to rely on the many, many lovely people who surround us in this country.
    The silver lining to this cloud is that every day countless people reach out to offer their help. This has reenergised my appreciation for living in Doha. Good luck on getting back to health, I’ll be rooting for you to get better super quick. xx

    • Oh Nicola!

      A broken leg is handwork, a broken leg in 50 degree heat is EVEN harder. I had a wheelchair when I broke my ankle (nearly 18 months ago) and I remember the pain of getting up and down the stairs. So so frustrating. I hope life is getting more manageable and the cast comes off soon. Please tell me you were having fun when you broke your leg?? Or that you now have a fabulous story to tell 🙂

  20. Oh, I know what you mean. I am so sorry this is what you are facing. What a kind, capable and optimistic partner you have to work it out with you. I had to have knee surgery just a month after we finally moved into our home in England. It was strange to go through it all with out a single friend or family member. We managed. It was OK. Would it have been better (much better!) at “home” instead? Yes, but we got through, and you will too. Wishing you peace of mind most of all, but also comfort in your body.

  21. Well, there’s nothing else to do except get through it, and I can tell you’re going to make it. I am so sorry, but, then, when it’s over it will be the story about the time Mom wore the catheters.

  22. Sorry to hear your news. It must be some relief to get some answers. As others have commented G sounds wonderful and you will get through it together 🙂

  23. It’ll all work out you’ve got lots of helpers here in Adelaide. And one things for sure – you will not be driving yourself home from the operation. x

  24. NZ to Perth says

    Hang in there 🙂 G sounds most wonderful, and you can’t possibly go wrong with a hubby like that. Once you’re through and out the other side it will be another experience that made you stronger, and another story to tell.

  25. Oh balls, not good, but it could indeed be a lot worse too- you will be inconvenienced, sore but safe. 🙁 Good luck to you all with Plans A, B & C, and hooray for a chirpy G.

  26. I know what you mean. Not as dramatic, but I had an emergency appendectomy a couple of years ago in my expat life. Suddenly, not having anyone near by – no family or close friends to call on in an emergency – became totally overwhelming. That’s when having a chap like your husband to help you through this is worth its weight in gold.

  27. Good luck with which ever plan works – A,B or C. Last time I needed time out as the Mother to get myself better I stressed so much about my family, it just made everything seem so impossible. Try not to stress too much. Best wishes.

  28. You are going to be fine and everything will fall in place. Prayers for you

  29. Sending hugs and love – it will be ok, it will work out, and trust that it will

    You have plans, you have options and base line you need to get yourself fixed


  30. best wishes. hug. janet.

  31. I’m just recovering from chickenpox – this is my 8th day in the house on my own and a friend is popping around to visit tonight now I’m no longer infectious. Your post put my ‘mild’ dose (I believe) in perspective.

    Take care x

  32. You poor darling.. What a blow for you and now to have to juggle your health along with all your other balls. At least you now have answers and can plan.
    Keep strong and I wish you all the best. It sounds like you have the best in G. xo

Speak Your Mind