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.