Monday, 30 August 2010

Scaring yourself SXXXXXXXless.

Will you LOOK at this thing?

A 23 kg tumor from an Argentinian woman's uterus!


(and she too thought she was "getting a bit fat"....)

Many thanks to Vicky - who I know from her blog Hyotenka - a fellow gaijin-lady in Hokkaido who told me about this story.

I called her last night to get the inside information about what-will-happen-in-a-Japanese-hospital-when-I-have-an-operation.
VERY useful, direct conversation about body parts and things they stick inside you and feeling and what they me lots of things to worry about in the coming 2 and a half weeks.

Apart from that, a very restful Sunday.
I stayed home all day and read newspapers. Watched TV. Watched the cats catch bugs. Had a quiet lunch with Okaasan. Dozed. Looked at my stomach a million times in the mirror. (obsessive? moi?) Cooked the potatoes for dinner. Slept.

Onwards into the coming week. Am going to be real careful about overdoing work....last Tuesday afternoon I felt very sick. Don't want to get anywhere near that feeling again.

Sunday, 29 August 2010


Peace reigns here.

I had a quiet day at work after some students cancelled classes, so I got to do some of those niggling jobs that you put off - sorting through old student files, cleaning the toilet, refreshing room decorations.

At home - we dug up the potatoes that we grew from one of my student presents - we planted 3 and got....TWENTY!!! Ok, some of them very, very small...but a pretty good return for no effort. Next year I'll try more and cover them with larger domes of earth.
Simple pleasure - Yujiro and I and the cats at dusk in the garden potato hunting. (and from the photo I guess Harriet Potter also helped...).

And then....get this....Okaasan HELPED with the cooking!!!!!

It's a miracle.

She wandered through the kitchen just as I was scraping skin off the squid...and came over to have a look...then offered advice...and when I stepped back from the counter...took up the kitchen knife and set to herself to clean off the squid skin. Incredible. She hardly ever does anything on connection with dinner preparation, just sitting watching TV...and if we ask her something she offers vague answers and doesn't appear to want any involvement.
But last night she stood there for about 15 minutes fiddling around with the squid. Asking me several times what I was going to do with it. Telling me about 6 times about how her mother didn't have the time to clean squid skin.

Great. Very good brain/hand/family interaction for Okaasan. And saved me the fiddly thing with bloody bits of squid, eyeballs and guts.

Finally I cut it all up and put it together with tomatoes from the garden and made a delicious pasta sauce...and...this day was just getting better and better...Okaasan let slip an "Oishiii/Delicious" while eating rare for anything I cook, but I heard it I am sure.

And the cyst?
Well, here is a strange thing.
I is getting smaller.
Don't know if that is true. Or wishful thinking. Or the prayers of various Christian friends. Or Yujiro and Okaasan's "fasting/body will consume bad things" ideas....
Have no idea.
Maybe it isn't so. Maybe I am eating less to reduce the cyst and stomach fight for space in my body, so there is less body exapansion generally.
But it feels ok. I think I can make it to September 15th.
We go to hospital next Friday, Sept 3, to see the doctor and have lots of pre-op tests. I've read on my endless Internet trawling that smaller cysts can disappear into the body...but it would be incredible if something this size disappeared.

Anyway. I don't think it will....but I feel better than I did most of the time. Just fat. And a few pains.
Here's me in a maternity dress with the flowers that dad's ghost bought for step-mum is pretty confused at the moment. She apparently told someone in the family that her BROTHER has a cyst and is going into hospital for an operation. By the time I have sent her this photo she'll be telling everyone that I am pregnant and gave birth to twins...kittens....

It's a Mad World! (Adam Lambert on YouTube..

Friday, 27 August 2010

This...and a lot of That.

These are some beautiful big lillies that my step-mum has just sent from England - as a "Thinking of You" present for dad's anniversary and impending hospital stay.
She is home. I just talked to her for 5 minutes. She sounded tired, old and a little confused (telling me at one point that dad had ordered the flowers for me in Cheltenham! I hope not...he's been dead a year!!!.) But she is home...with TWO carers to help for a week or see if she can get any stronger in the nice home environment.

Apart from and stuff.

I feel tired at the end of the day. I try not to eat too much. That is good. My body doesn't feel so distended if I don't eat so much.
Tonight I cooked liver for some strength...and the potato/cabbage fry thing that Okaasan and Yujiro like. Okaasan didn't want to eat much of the liver - so then needed more tofu stuff heated up and kindly told me I should cut the cabbage bigger next time.
It's that old culture thing:  Olders can tell Youngers how to improve thing that is so big in Asian societies. I just smiled weakly and let it wash over me. ("Maybe you ought to get off your backside and cook it yourself then" is actually what I was thinking...).

This morning had a big melt down with Yujiro: supposedly about my cancelled Hawaiian holiday and how best to use the airmiles. But really of course about so much more...lots of tears, hurt feelings, raised voices, closed doors and sulking. Not nice. Don't need that.
We both said sorry by the time he went for work. But it was an exhausting start to the day.
So much emotional stuff floating round this house this week.

I am very sad to cancel Hawaii. It would be one week after leaving hospital and I don't know how I will feel by then. I also feel guilty about taking another week off work...I AM going to go to Tokyo to see Adam lambert in concert because that is a one-off chance and I'll be travelling with Yujiro and a friend...but Hawaii...too far....

Last year as I sat endlessly on ANA flights to and from Tokyo and London I promised myself a real holiday with all the airmiles I was getting...and I thought Hawaii was it all gets put back again.
One day, one day...I will escape.

* End on a Light Point: students have been telling me that in Japan the surgeons come out of the operating room and SHOW the family the body part they have removed! All bloody on a surgical tray! A kind of confirmation process. So, I guess Yujiro will get to see the Melon may want to make a note now to NOT open this blog sometime mid-September....well, certainly not while eating.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

You know you've got a monster cyst when... go to an Italian lunch with a friend and eat 3 forkfuls of crab pasta. go to the dentists' and it doesn't matter anymore. go to a revolving sushi bar and eat FOUR pieces while your usual favorites trundle by time and time again...and your dining companions sit there stuffing plate after plate.
...and NONE of it matters anymore.

Then you know you have a monster cyst lurking inside.
Roll on September 15th.

Okaasan catch-up

Okaasan - so how is she?
While so much happens at my end of this household...what about her?

She is ok, I guess.
The hot weather was tough for her, despite all the "I'm from Honshu so I'm used to for hotter" chat, but even so she went out almost every day for lunch and/or walking/shopping. While 200 people across Japan died from heatstroke I was was worried about Okaasan and I kept giving her bottles of water to remind her to drink...but I have to guilty say that Yujiro and I kept the electric fan upstairs and used it ourselves for most of the heat.

Hula dance has stepped up to twice a week. There is a dance event in September and the teacher has got Monday AND Tuesday classes going to get her students ready. This is so Japanese - a hobby group are taking practice to a whole other level and working themselves to a frenzy.

Ohta-san has told Yujiro that Okaasan finds learning the new dance routines hard, it's faster than usual and more complex. Okaasan hasn't said anything about it. Yujiro isn't saying anything. She seems to want to go. Certainly after the misunderstandings and hurt feelings of the Hula in the Park earlier this summer we won't try to stop/limit Okaasan's involvement in the coming event.

So, she's ok. Watching TV, hanging laundry, chatting hamster wheel stories. Needing a haircut very badly. Basically ok.

My end: Tuesday was tough tough tough. Leave the house at 9.45 am - teach three community center classes - drive 40 mins (x2) - get home about 5 pm - exhausted. Telling students about it all. Talking to the center managers about substitute teachers. The first two classes were fine, but my 3 pm I was getting backache and feeling hot and a bit strange. I managed to drive home and lay down for an hour. My stomach was enormous. But I managed to get up and sit for Family Dinner...a bit of fish and a bite of salad.
I'm beginning to think I won't be able to carry on a full teaching schedule right up to September 11th.

But wonderful thing: I put a message out on the Hokkaido Insider e mail service - which connects many of us ex-pats here - asking for other foreign women who've had gynecological operations to contact me and share their experiences...I want to ask questions about how I'll be prepped for this operation really detailed stuff...I've never had an operation...I mean, they stick a tube inside you to catch the pee right? Things like that? Got a great response from other expat wimmin in Sapporo - when I get a quiet time I'll be contacting them. I want to know what is going to happen, so I can panic in advance.

And finally.

My Dad. He died 1 year ago today. He'd just come home from visiting his wife in hospital, he was cooking sausages for tea, probably the TV was on with the news, his dog was with him. He'd felt sick that day, the doctor had come but done nothing much. He was worried about his wife in hospital. He collapsed in his living room with a burst pancreas. Two days later....found by the postman.

Tomorrow his wife will go home after her latest stay in hospital - we all hope she gets strong enough to stay living at home. But maybe a nursing home life is getting closer.
I've missed him. Missed talking about news stories together (he was a national newspaper photographer for 40 years), missed his funny cartoon cards, missed his detailed descriptions of "what-I-ate". Missed his enthusiasm. Missed him.

Monday, 23 August 2010

The Melon Diet

I've lost weight.
After all that worrying about my body over the past year with the knee and no exercise. banana diets etc etc
I stepped on the scales yesterday at an onsen. Have lost weight.
This is the alternative to the scary Stomach Stapleing that some obese Americans go in for. My version of this is to develop a Mammoth Melon Cyst in your body...and you won't WANT to put much food in there with it!
So there IS a silver lining in this health cloud.
I think I'll stop mixing my metaphors, it'll all end in disaster.

Had a quiet day. I escaped home and left Yujiro to do a big BBQ with his friends, after alerting my friends to the fact that I really wasn't up for a BBQ.
So, like Okaasan who tries to escape a garden full of people...I ran away (through the front door) and collected big clothes from friends, had  haircut to make something right in my life, had a sleep on the futon in the classroom and spent a few hours with a friend at the city hotel hot spring....
Spotted a stomach stitching operation scar on one old women in the bath...will mine look like that next month?

I got home about 8 pm to find the BBQ finished. Yujiro sitting drunk and happy on the sofa. The cats fed. Okaasan NOT fed - Yujiro forgot to feed her!!!!
I left it to him to go downstairs and do a slice of pizza and salad for her.
He actually didn't know if she'd come home and eaten anything....
So glad he remembered the cats. It fills me with confidence for next month when I am not there.
At least Chichi and Popo will get fed.

And now onto another week of work.
I bought some big clothes...from the maternity section of the clothes shop.
And a huge bra.
Buying big clothes...but actually losing weight...but getting bigger.


Sunday, 22 August 2010

Fast talking.

Last night Yujiro came to have a serious discussion with me.
I knew it was serious because he took away the clambering kitten and locked it outside the living room.

Then he sat down and told me: I think you should fast for 5 days.

If you don't eat your body will have to use up what it's got, and it will start with the unnecessary thing - the mammoth cyst.

This of course comes from the teachings of Katsuzo Nishi - this wartime Japanese health guru that Okaasan and Yujiro fervently believe in. That if your body is sick you should fast and the body will right itself and find the balance etc etc
Okaasan has done it various times in her life - no food for 5 days etc - and Yujiro too. They both believe this is a good thing.

I can see the ideas behind this. I think fasting is a good idea too. But in certain situations.
I don't think a fast is going to reduce the size of or make this cyst vanish.
It gives the body a break from all the food processing and cleans out the systems.

And I think a fast should be done under a nice relaxed circumstance - preferably at a Five Star resort in Thailand with soothing yoga, tropical flowers and circles of love on the mat flooring.
Not in suburan Sapporo with 20 English lessons to teach between Monday and Saturday. And the account information for August to be input on the computer, two teenage felines and other life stuff.

So I politely said: No thankyou. I respect the idea. But this isn't for me now. I need energy to get through a working week. I enjoy food.
I am sure Okaasan has been hassling behind the scenes on's her solution for all body ills.
They can think of me as a weak-Westerner who is isn't open to alternative Eastern methods and all that stuff. I don't care. I've tried many things in my life that are a bit out there health-wise...and for this, for now...I am going to go with a hospital chock-full of MRI machines and needles.

So. Saturday. A day of classes at my classroom. Telling students I will be off the radar in mid-September.
Came home at 4 pm a little tired and stretched out on the bed for an hour with the cats.
Felt tired in the evening. Yujiro went off in the car to do a mammoth shopping at COSTCO to buy BBQ stuff. I had to feed Okaasan.

It was easy though: a quiche that I'd bought at COSTCO last time, a tomato sauce that I made, rice, soup, salad with things from the garden. Should have been ok. But I had no energy to sit and be friendly with some chat. It was hot and sticky. It was grim 20 minutes of eating and false conversation starts - two weeks in hopsital to escape these evenings at the kitchen table will be SO WONDERFUL!! I really have no idea at all about how to chat to an old Japanese lady who can't remember what she did today and isn't interested at all in what I did. It's hard work.

The quiche. It was ok. Not great. But ok enough. However. Okaasan didn't like it. She picked around at it. Asked me several times what it was. What was in it. Did I make it or buy it? I could tell the quiche wasn't cutting it. She actually said it was "Oishugunai" - "Not delicious".
Finally I got some tofu-cooked-in-soy-sauce leftovers from the fridge - zapped that in the microwave and gave her that instead.
Can't be fucked. Sorry. Ugly word.
But really can't be fucked.
I wanted to shout at her.
But I didn't.
I washed some plates instead and wiped a kitchen surface that didn't need wiping.

Yujiro came home from shopping about 8 pm and wolfed down the remaining quiche and I could retreat to upstairs and leave him happily BBQ prepping.

We'd planned a BBQ here ages ago. But I really dn't feel like doing it. A long day of prepping/hosting/cleaning up. And I can't eat and drink loads. Lots of noise and chat.
Not my scene at the moment.
But Yujiro needs some let out in life, so I told him to go ahead with his friends and have the BBQ.
I am going to slip away to the hairsalon, a friend's house to borrow big, loose clothing...and probably a hotel spa for the afternoon. I need relaxing time....

I talked to a friend last night on the phone. Got a bit weepy. Despite my gung-ho approach to it all - jokes about melons etc - I am scared and sad about this. I have never stayed in hospital. I have never had an operation. I read stuff on the Internet about loss of sex-drive, and increased risk of heart disease.

I wish it wasn't happening to me, so much.

Friday, 20 August 2010

A Melon Monster in my Body.....

This is my body.
This is the HUGE Ovarian Cyst that has grown and grown inside me. Yes, that huge white space thingy.
More like an eggplant than a Yubari melon.
About 20 cm by 9 cm.

The doctor thinks it is not cancerous - but until they get it out they can't be sure.
And they are gonna take it out.
2 Ovaries 卵巣  Fallopian Tubes 卵管

September 15th operation.
Stay in hospital for 2 weeks.
Take it real easy.
If my body condition gets worse - the backaches/the nausea/the burping/the stomach pains...the operation could be earlier. 

And so there it is.

Bye-bye Hawaii holiday October 8th. Maybe long international flight one week after leaving hospital is a bad idea. But NOTHING is going to stop me getting on an airplane and going to Tokyo to see Adam Lambert in concert!!!! Adam!!! I am coming baby! 

Been a long day.
Feeling fine now. Back-ache a bit. Very careful on the eating. Sometimes pressure inside pains.
Have to think about work now and getting other teachers to cover for me.
Don't feel like attending the BBQ in my own garden this weekend.
A lot of life. 


Going to the hospital 4 hours from now. First got some classes.

Is it my over-fertile imagination or is this thing growing bigger? I couldn't put on and fasten my cream, work trousers this morning. Just too uncomfortable. Now wearing a big, roomy sundress.
And I feel a pain more. Didn't want to bend down to do my shoes. Easier to put my feet on a chair and bend to that.

I hope they decide to get it out of me soon: next week would be great.

THANKYOU everyone for messages of support - specially the Blog Lurkers who have come out of anonymity to wish me well. I feel your love and support.
But it's good that I live in a country with hopefully good medical science where they can identify this and act on it. Imagine living hundreds of years ago where this happens - you would just think a sudden pregnancy, or a impregnation by the Devil.
A student with a wicked sense of humour pointed out yesterday that maybe this was khama coming back at me - because my April Food Joke to students on my English School Blog this year was..."I'm pregnant!".

Anyway. onwards to whatever happens today.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

My melon.

Here are two melons.
Which one do highclass Tokyo hotels pay vast amounts for every spring to cheer up a former-coal mining town that's gone bankrupt?
And which one is an unwelcome guest in my life?
Quiet day yesterday really.
We went out early to get the car fixed - not the fanbelt in the end, but some other essential mechanical bit that luckily only cost us \14,000.
Apart from that, watched some Glee episodes on TV, had a cheap curry buffet lunch at Sapporo Factory (for me to "go easy" at a buffet is a novelty, but every bite I took I imagined the food trying to find space in my crowded abdomen) and then the confusing Leo di Caprio movie Inception. Also went to the post office and paid \180,000 PLUS \ 44,000 PLUS \88,000 as the payments-I-can/must- do now for my Japanese Health Insurance. Since I sent off a cheque for the United Kingdom Health Insurance last week for about $1,000.....I am feeling skint.

We got home about 4.30 pm and hung out on the front doorstep with beers and snacks. Normal things are SO good when life is full of Big Things.
But after that I felt tired. I'd had mild backache all afternoon. I went to bed and basically stayed there....missed dinner...Okaasan didn't want any by 8.30 pm we were ALL asleep...I was awake during the night with slight pains in my left lower abdomen. I walked around the dark house breathing deeply and wondering it this was the lunch curry fighting for space or something worse.

And onwards to Friday and Results.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

I'm baaaack....with holes.

Why can't Japnese nurses FIND my veins?
Are we foreigners in proud posession of narrow veins or something?
I look like Rocky . After he lost. Or the domestic violence victim. Last week's blood bruises to the right arm and today's two attempts on my left arm.
Running out of arm space.

So. Did the MRI.
As I imagined - the injections of the Contrast Medium needle was far the worst part of the afternoon. I hate injections. I look away at the plastic curtain in the corner and make a lot of la-di-da-da-da noises.
Then the MRI. I was led into the room with nothing but the big machine.
Stretched out, wrapped with a heavy blanket thing around my lower half and slid in to bake for 30 minutes. I closed my eyes from the moment they slid me inside the machine. Didn't think this was the time to discover a fear of enclosed spaces.
My arms were awkwardly raised across my chest, but too high to be comfortable. One hand was holding the Panic Button.
I lay there. Listened to the technobeat of the machine, interspersed by machine-gun fire. I tried to visualise nice things: my kittens' faces, flowers in the garden, Yujiro in the sexy apron at the beer garden the other night....

At half time the nurse came in to shoot me with MORE of the Contrast Medium...which makes me think they couldn't see clearly the Monster Melon in my body and wanted to get a better picture to show at medical conferences next year when they write up their research papers on this.

And then, thankfully it was over.
I emerged sweaty and relieved.
Had a cry in the corridor and the elevator. A week ago I didn't know about all of this. Now it is all looming larger and larger (literally probably too).

Yujiro and I will go back on Friday afternoon to see the doctor and find out the details of the Melon Monster.

I left the hospital feeling wrung through. Took myself downtown to the new Hokkaido Sweets Cafe in Odori and ate a huge chocolate cake and creamy coffee. Saw Yujiro briefly when he finished work.
And then went to a recording studio and did a 30 minute video narration about Historic Otaru and its old buildings......putting on the Nice English Woman Voice.

Home to dinner.

Now gonna relaaaaxxxx.


Awake at 4.15 am for toilet visit.
Cats breakfast at 4.30 am
Cat sick in little wet piles all over the office floor.
Call England to talk to step-cousin about my step-mum...who sounds like she is getting foggier and foggier while they try to work out a way to move her home with two carers.
Think about the fan belt on the car which started breaking last night on my way home.
.................what else?

OH! Tuesday!!
Think I might pop into the local hospital to have an MRI and explore the Yubari Melon in my body.

Obviously time for chai and a nice sit down in the garden with The Japan Times newspaper.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Flying the flag..........

Sapporo Beer Festival....Saturday night costume party.....
I reckon David Beckham and Seb Coe will soon be asking me to join them aboard a London Double Decker for the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics!

A quiet weekend actually...apart from wearing a flag and rabbit ears in public.

Stayed home and watched TV, did some gentle gardening, did gentle workout at the gym - although a little nervous about stomach exercises!
Fed Okaasan....talked to her a bit. She is ok, but looks hot and has wild woman hair again.
I told her I have ovary problems, because I have a HUGE blood bruise on my arm where the nurse mucked up the blood test hole...I thought Okaasan might notice this large mark on my arm.

Not much empathy from her. She commented that the blood test nurse wasn't very skilled, and then went straight on to how she never ever gets sick and goes to hospitals because she follows Nishi-sensiei's advice about Not Eating etc etc etc.
Great! If only Not Eating would solve ovarian cysts then we would all be happier.

Anyway - getting lots of more positive support from friends and Blog readers! Thankyou everyone. I feel fine...fat, but fine. And I move a bit cautiously and try not to eat or drink too much.
Off to work today for a full day. Tomorrow no work (apart from a video narration job in the evening) - and at 3.30 I'll be stretched out in an MRI machine.

Friday, 13 August 2010

I'm Not Fat - It's Just My Ovary.

One of my ovaries is about 20 cm in diameter...pushing all my inside bits around.

Today I had a gyno-check (MAJOR STRESS I HATE THEM!) and blood test. And sat and waited for hours with a good friend in the hospital.

Next Tuesday I have an MRI and then next Friday the results all come together and the doctor decides what to do about it.

So. That's the bald facts.

I'm not scared. Very strange to think this thing is inside me. It looks huge. But the gyno scrape-around and the blood taking was all far operation to remove an ovary they knock you out right? You don't know about it? And there is a small chance it is cancerous. Climb THAT when we get to it.
And I feel fine now. Doctor said I can continue at Curves working out gently. Continue eating and drinking.
I emailed my step-aunt and told her. Leave it to her whether the tell my step-mum or not. They are having their own problems this week with a big debate about what to do with my step-mum's care..home or carers...or nursing home...

Of MORE concern for me immediatly is getting the money sorted out to pay for joining the Japanese Health Insurance System. About 800,000 Yen....can be paid in installements, but looking around my finances for that a bit. Can't get money from the Uk because the exchange rate is bad....will scrape it together here.

Time for wine.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

My turn for hospital...........

I have something wrong.
Maybe something near/in my right ovary.
Maybe an ovarian cyst?

I've spent about 3 hours at the hospital today with Yujiro. Had a CT scan that shows "something" large near my ovary. Have to go back tomorrow to the Women's Section.
Worried like shit. Drinking wine. Websurfing with panic.

Okaasan is fine. I have hardly seen her in the past two days cos I was out with friends two evenings and she was asleep on Monday night after going to hula dance.

The kittens haven't been good, so we took them to the vets this morning. Now we have medicine to try and get down their little, teeth-lined mouths...

And then. I faced up to MY  nagging problem from the past 3 weeks...I've had a bloated, hard, balloon-like stomach. Irregular bowel movements. Abdomninal pain.
I thought it was maybe a worm infection from the cats and their toilet box. I had something like that a few years ago. I was putting off Doing Something.
Typhoon-rain stopped Yujiro working today. I'm on holiday for 4 days. Let's go to the hospital.

A nice woman doctor who was certainly young enough to be my daughter poked and prodded. Yes, my abdomen in strange. Please go to the CT scan. Yikes??? Not on Japanese health insurance? Some private insurance thing? Yikes? Will the insurance pay for all the tests? Bugger it - let's do what has to be done today for Y20,000 and put the pending Joining the Japanese Health Insurance System on fastrack to cover what may come next.

CT Scan. On a bed in a big grey donut-like machine. Breath in. Hold it. Look at flashing lights.

Back to the doctor. I can't make head or tail of a CT image. But she and the nurse and Yujiro can see a large "something" that shouldn't be there, pushing my bladder up. Causing bloating and pain. No wonder.
Please come back tomorrow and see the Women's Problems doctors.

So then. Ward Office. Fast Track the Insurance System Application. My private insurance for foreigners working abroad, which I've had for years, runs out September 8th. Was tossing up about joining this year anyway before the Japanese Government make it mandatory. Now REALLY need it.
Will have to pay TWO years backpayments. About \800,000. Yes. \800,000. Installments ok.

Drive home via Seicomart. Now on the second glass of wine. A Japanese friend is going to come tomorrow and hold my hand and language failings.

Bugger it.
GOnna be a lot of Glee on TV tonight and the rest of the Seicomart wine.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Dementia Hunting.

Do dementia sufferers know their condition?

It's been written about a lot and experts seem to think that - yes - on some basic level people do know what is happening to their mind, and they take endless steps to hide the troubles from themselves and present an OK face to the world.

I've been thinking about this recently cos I found Okaasan's interview with the doctor at her general health check recently.
I was hunting for the COSTCO card in the car and found the envelope of test results and interview where Yujiro had left it in the glove compartment...
As I have no morals at all, I got a kind student to help me translate it so I can peer into Okaasan's self-presentation to the world. Apparently Yujiro was in the room with her during this interview..."she lied!" he noted wearily. Of course he could hardly contradict his mum in front of her!

Okaasan scored very well for her age on the physical things and general life circumstances questions:
Do you go out on your own every day?   (Yes)
Do you take public transport unaided?   (Yes)
Do you exercise daily?   (Yes)
Do you talk to people beyond immediate family?   (Yes)

That kind of stuff...

She admitted to:
Do you do your own banking and financial affairs? (No)
Do you visit the homes of friends or family?  (No)

But then a few little porky pies:
Do you do daily grocery shopping?  (Yes!)...errr...well squid, and icecream, random veg., fish paste sausages....
Have you fallen over in the past year?  (No!)
Do you have problems remebering the current date/time/month?   (No!)
and my absolute favorite....
Do people around you sometimes say:"You've told me this story before?"  (No!)

The last question is a Beaut!
How would a person with memory problems REMEMBER people saying this?
And who would say this to a person with dementia? No stranger would say it. No aquaintance would say it. Only very close friends and family maybe. And if they already realize you have dementia ...they are unlikely to be pointing out your failings.
It's a real chicken and egg situation.
Of course this is a very general, quick health and living cicumstances check-up and I expect the doctor knows there is a certain amount of Economy with the Truth.

But even so. It isn't very representative of Okaasan's current condition for the local health service records. She scored a very respectable 3/20 on the Daily Life questions and 1/5 on the Emotional Wellbeing questions.
I reckon 6-7/20 on the Daily Life would be a truer reflection of Okaasan in 2010.

I did think about suggestioning to Yujiro that he drop the doctor a note for the file - pointing out that Okaasan's answers about herself were a bit off the mark. But I've decided to leave it this year.
She would never submit to any medical care for dementia (or anything else!) and at the moment she is bumbling along in life ok. Another year or two it may be different. At least she HAD the check-up and is on the files now locally as an elderly woman living with her son and being cared for at home.

But it's interesting.
Okaasan of course knows that she is physically very healthy. She credits this to two meals and day, no food before 11 am, regular exercise etc as recommended by Katsuzo Nishi, a Japanese healthy living guru in the 1940s and 50s.
I reckon she does know that her memory is not she writes endless little notes to herself in her room, and she constantly checks her bag and often asks us the name of things.
But of course, she isn't going to tell a strange doctor with a waiting room of people anything about this. She has no close friends. Yujiro is her one and only confidante.

We noticed recently that:
a)  she really has very little awareness of weather, even if she's been out in it. Sapporo the past few days had had torrential rainfall and if we mention this she looks puzzled and says: "Was it? Not where I was. I must have been inside!" when the soaked umbrella in the hallway tells another story.
b)  she often buys foods that are on her mind, but she doesn't know why, either i) something we served for dinner the night before; ii) food mentioned in a conversation or iii) food she's seen on a TV program. And there are definate Foods of the Moment. The past few weeks there has been a lot of squid, fish paste sausages, green beans, ice cream...
c)  the Going Out Routines - at the moment late afternoon/early evening it's a walk to Seiyu and then coffee and McNuggets in McDonald's.

Friday, 6 August 2010

My other mother...

My England mother - my step-mum Jane isn't doing so great.
Just read an long email this morning from her sister...the hospital seem to be giving up, there isn't any progress and the next step is Option A) go home with two carers...which is expensive if done privately...and if local council carers are used probably pretty limited in how long it's available or Option B) go into a local nursing home.....
Of course my step-mum, when lucid, is very desperate to get home it looks like they will try this - with two private carers for a short time to see if she can get stronger. At the moment it needs two people to move her from the bed, and her eating and drinking isn't enough.
But her sister has started looking into local nursing care homes because that's the direction it is all inevitably taking. There is nothing actually medically wrong...just an 84 year old body and brain slowly getting tired with making effort.

So sad. Early June my step-mum could walk with her sticks in the house and garden...she was having friends and family for lunch dates, she was enjoying life. Just 2 months later it is so different.
I just hope the move back to the house - and the intensive attentions of TWO Carers hassling her about rehabilitation exercises and eating/drinking will improve things.

And so...and so...yesterday a 75 year-old student said she and her husband went on a one-day Sheltered Housing bus tour that an enterprising estate agent is promoting in Sapporo....for \1,000 they went round in a bus to 4 different housing units and checked out how they might think of living in their future.
Her husband was most taken with one rental unit that is IN SUSUKINO!! The nightlife area of Sapporo!!! Great place to live!

I do think about my future. Which country of course. And how. Yujiro and I have no children. Nobody will care for us. And apart from some family money on both sides - a bit - we neither very rich. Where will we will, and where will I live when he dies? - cos as a Japanese man who drinks vast amounts of alcohol his life expectency can't be I want to be an elderly woman alone in Japan? As my brain gets fuddled will I lose what Japanese language I have? Hopefully by then Japanese elderly care will be completly organised off-shore by teams of efficient Cambodians who will kindly speak English to me....

Bloody hot here...33 plus degrees in sapporo.Time to move away from the computer.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Happy Birthday Okaasan!

Okaasan's birthday!
Okaasan is 80 years young. Healthy in body, living with family and sometimes having a hard time with a thing called dementia.
Last night we went to Susukino, the nightlife area of Sapporo and had a big crab set dinner at a posh place. Okaasan loves crab. So we had a private dining room, a friendly Chinese waitress and 4? or 5? courses of crab and sake and beer!
All went well. She enjoyed the food, We enjoyed ourselves and all was positive.
The waitress gave us two little flasks of sake...Yujiro kept them on his  side of the table, and then under the table out of sight so he could ration how much Okaasan drank - she doesn't realize/remember how much she is drinking and it is very easy for her to become tipsy quickly. Sake is strong and served in tiny glasses...but before he secreted them away she did say a few times: "Is that sake? I like sake! I'll have some sake!"..about a minute after her glass was empty.

We came home by taxi and used one of those services where the taxi comes with two drivers, one to drive the customers in the taxi and the other to drive the customers' car.

Anway - a good night. Recently in Japan there have been some horror stories of elderly people/families we are trying to look after this lady and make sure her life is happy.
Today is actually her birthday so I'll get some flowers and package up a lot of the Kawagoe pamphlets as a dinner present for Okaasan.
I wonder if any other family will contact her at all? Birthdays are not a big thing for adults in Japan...but even so...80 is a good age to have reached.
Crab shabu-shabu with the rice and MORE crab added at the end.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

YES! She went!

Yup...Okaasan overcome all the silliness (for this week anyway) and went to hula dance class.
Yujiro's letter worked...she ate the bits of lunch on the kitchen table, got washed and dressed and WENT to the class.

Great. She enjoys it. She needs the exercise. She needs the social interaction with classmates.

In fact she then stayed out for hours and ate something downtown. Came home about 6.30 pm.
Ate dinner with Yujiro, and was pretty tired after a big day out.

Yujiro didn't ask her directly about hula and later he called the friendly classmate to check that she had actually gone.
Not only had she gone. But she'd been ther first to arrive and greeted everyone!

So that's alright then. For now.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Dear Okaasan, don't get negative...

Dear Okaasan,

Today your darling boy and that woman-who-can't-cook are out at work.

Today is Hula Dance class. It starts at 1 pm. The teacher invited you to join the Dance Performance last month, but you decided to cancel joining.
1.  There is rice and instant mis soup
2. There is main course under the food cover.
3.  Put the rice in the microwave for about 2 minutes


Ahhh...this guy is trying so hard! Instead of his usual: "Let it be, don't talk about it" he is actually being pro-active and stepping in to avert trouble before it happens.

This was the letter from son to mum on the kitchen table this morning...sort of translated by me.....
And it worked! Maybe.
I just came home and she isn't here.
It's Monday afternoon and she is out...did she go to Hula dance class?

We wait to see.

Rainy Sunday

Rained all day....Hokkaido is entering the Tropics.
We all stayed home in the mornng and did stuff...Yujiro and his Hangover, TV, kittens, housework, translation checking...

I got old newspapers and supermarket boxes out of Okaasan's room with her agreement. This time she didn't claim to be keeping boxes for Something Important and willingly gave them up - even showing me how to kung-fu kick the sealed end of the box open! I let her show me how to Correctly Tie Up a Pile of Old Newspapers (there IS a way you know, I think there are ranks and maybe a National Association of Newspaper Tie Uppers...).

Had a little Oyomesan vs Okaasan moment about who might take Yujiro's wedding suit dress shirt to a dry cleaners - I should have let her offer to do it, instead I said: no! no! it's ok....he can decide where he takes it himself etc...and Okaasan looked a bit surprised that I was letting a guy worry about dry cleaning. It doesn't matter at all of course - and it would have been a good thing to let her feel useful, she was just doing a motherly/woman thing for her son...but I didn't want to get into the whole drycleaning shop/money/ticket/pick-it-up-in-a-week scenario....and anyway, Yujiro is more than capable of doing his own dry cleaning.

In the afternoon I escaped with a friend to a tea shop and an exhibition of the Treasures of Pompei at the museum downtown, and came home with a box of sushi for Okaasan's dinner.
Then Yujiro and I walked - WALKED!!!!!- down to the subway station together and had a quiet dinner date in a local chicken-on-sticks restaurant.
Really my walking is getting better and better....I feel I can live again.