Monday, September 1, 2014
Isn’t it ironic that as I am trying to make little steps to better my health, I get hit with such a major health challenge? My plan for this month is to heal from the surgery and get past this.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
It seems that whenever someone tries to talk to me in Japanese and I’m not understanding, they tell me again (in Japanese) only louder. With all this medical stuff, I’m getting shouted at a lot.
A few days before I left on my trip, I had to go in for an MRI. The first time you go to the Japanese hospital, you get a plastic card with your name (in katakana if you are not Japanese) and a magnetic strip that probably has all your information in it. Maybe other places have this system too, I don’t know. I don’t have hospital experience anywhere else. When you come back to the hospital after the first time, you put the card into a machine in the lobby and a screen comes up (in Japanese). There were three buttons on the screen. I recognized the kanji for stop next to the red one, so I didn’t tap it. I took a chance and tapped the green one and the machine spit out my card and a little slip of paper. My appointment was for 11:30 am, but I had to be there at 11:10 am. I arrived at 10:50 am because I hate to be late. I planned to sit and stitch, but the receptionist gave me a set of MRI pajamas to put on and had me lock up all of my stuff, so I just had to sit there for a long time in this little outfit and wait. And it was very little! It was so snug that I was hoping the seams wouldn’t pop. I thought about asking for a larger size, but I didn’t want to call any additional attention to myself just in case they had given me the largest size.
When it was my turn, I went to MRI room #2. Before being stuffed into the machine, the nurse gave me an injection in the muscle of my upper arm. I asked nan desu ka? But I didn’t understand the answer, so who knows what it was. They gave me earphones with music playing but once I was in the machine, it was so loud, I couldn’t hear the music. About mid-way through they pulled me out of the machine and I thought I was done, but no, not yet. They pulled me out to give me another injection in a vein. I think I understood this was a contrasting agent. My left arm, which has the better veins was all bruised from the CT scan procedure three days earlier, so the nurse tried my right arm. She tried in four places, but wasn’t successful, so she went back to my left arm and got the needle in after three more pokes. (The next day both arms were black and blue!) I knew this was going to be loud, but I didn’t realize how loud or how close I would be to the roof of this tube. Finally it was all over. With all the MRI machine noise and the shouting, I had a headache when it was time to go home.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
When I was a kid I remember hearing adults say “Don’t take any wooden nickels”. I didn't know what they were so I never did, but sometimes I did find Canadian coins in my change.
Ted brought this coin home in his change purse the other day.
Now I remind him not to take any Korean nickels when he goes out.
Friday, August 29, 2014
Thursday, August 28, 2014
(This is my 1000th post since starting my blog in December of 2011, shortly after moving to Japan.)
I’ve always been pretty healthy, which is good because I don’t really trust doctors and medical things. I don’t like medicine and don’t get flu shots. I don’t eat meat and for the most part eat well (although more than I should, it seems). I’ve been healthy enough to run 16 full marathons and many shorter races. I never thought I’d have anything major wrong with me, although I thought skin cancer might be a possibility after so many years in the sun.
I thought wrong. Two weeks before leaving on my trip to the UK, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Besides trying to get ready for the trip, those two weeks were full of medical tests and consultations with doctors – two ultrasounds, a biopsy, a CT scan, an MRI, blood and urine tests, chest and abdominal x-rays, an ekg, ..... maybe that’s all. This would be difficult if it were all in English, but can you imagine trying to fill out forms written in kanji and communicating with people who speak Japanese? On top of the language difficulties, things are just different here. I’ve opted for treatment at the university hospital in the big city (Sapporo), rather than the local hospital, but I’m still very skeptical of all things medical.
Fortunately, I was able to leave on my trip as planned and the surgery to remove all of my insides was scheduled for shortly after my return. One of the things that’s different here is that they expect you to stay in the hospital a long time. Except for when I was born (and don’t remember), I’ve never spent the night in a hospital. The doctor told me I needed to check in to the hospital two days before the surgery and stay a minimum of two weeks after! Oh, no, that’s just impossible, I told him. What do you do for two days before, can’t I just arrive the morning of the surgery? He told me I needed two days to get ready. After all of the tests and procedures, I was pretty sure I was as ready as I could be. We compromised on checking in the day before. I told him I couldn’t possibly stay two weeks, let alone longer. I told him I thought maybe overnight would be long enough. In the first place, sick people with bad germs are in the hospital and I don’t want to catch anything. In addition, I can’t communicate with the hospital staff, I won’t be able to eat in the hospital (I don’t eat meat and don’t like anything with oil and like my vegetables raw), and my hair is very long and I won’t be able to wash it in the hospital. He just kind of laughed and said there would be pain, so I needed to be in the hospital. I pretty much expected that, but if there’s going to be pain where ever I am, I prefer to be at home. Besides, I told him, I have a high pain threshold and have had a root canal and several crowns done without novacaine. I told him I am also a very fast healer. He said if there were complications, I’d have to stay, but he’d let me go as soon as possible. having to stay in the hospital is really making me crazy.
So anyway, I’m checking into the hospital today and surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. I'm feeling very anxious and uneasy. I don’t know what happens after the surgery and won’t find out what the options are until after the surgery. Maybe the surgery will be enough. After living in Japan this long, I’ve learned that I never really know what is going on until it’s over, and then I still don’t always know.
The hospital doesn’t have wifi so I can’t post anything after I leave today until I come home. I’ve scheduled a few posts for the days ahead and hopefully will be back home before they run out.
Normally I am a very private person. If I were in the US with this diagnosis, no one would ever hear about it. In Japan, nothing I do is private. Everyone seems to know where I go and what I do here. The mother of one of my English students works in the doctor’s office across the hall from the local gynecologist. I think she knew before I did. Since everyone here knows, I’ve decided to tell everyone everywhere about my experience with cancer in Japan, via my blog. It'll be more about being a foreigner in the Japanese medical system. If you have questions about it, I may or may not answer, depending on how much I'm comfortable with. I’m not here feeling sorry for myself and I don’t want anyone else to be feeling sorry for me. I’ve gotten through difficult things before and this is just one more challenge in life. I’ll write more when I can.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
I’ve been gone almost three weeks and am scheduled to arrive late tonight. I had hoped to have a finished ornament a day to post, but I ended up one short – there just wasn’t enough time before I left. I do have these ornaments started and hope to finish them before December.
I have some busy days ahead, but will post pictures and stories about my trip as soon as I can.