Health Update

I went for this month's blood test and to get my next prescription for Nolvadex-D. As I had experienced no side effects, I was given a 28 day prescription instead of 2 weeks worth. I'll be going on January 17th for a bone scan. The Japanese word was the Chinese letter for bone and phonetic characters SHIN and CHI, which apparently come from scinti, as in scintigraphy, which took me a while to figure out. I had the general idea that isotopes would be injected in the morning and images would be taken that afternoon but that "shinchy" word didn't have any equivalents in the on-line dictionaries. A quick search on Google for isotopes, bone and test brought me lots of pages with the necessary vocabulary to mire my way through the release which must be signed before the test.

The Nolvadex-D is about $1.35 per pill after the 70% National Health Care discount. Unfortunately, generic drugs have not reached Japan. I'm thinking of forgoing the NHI coverage of the drug and ordering at my own cost from a reliable online pharmacy in Australia for about 42 cents a pill including shipping as the generic version is so much cheaper. I will, of course, continue to make use of NHI for my monthly doctor visits.


Stocking stuffer bubble bath is put to use immediately after breakfast. Posted by Hello

No more pink rain boots! Posted by Hello

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa! Posted by Hello

Christmas Eve Chez Nous Posted by Hello


Oh the suspense!

I had no place to hide Santa's presents this year, with closets at full capacity, so they're all under a pile of clean laundry for now. There is very little danger of anyone accidentally finding the presents as the children know that even touching the pile will result in an invitation to fold clothes, so they stay away.


It's Beginning to Feel a Little Like Christmas...

I acquired one of the two 1,700 gram (less than 5 lbs) frozen French turkeys in the local store this morning and it is thawing in the refrigerator as I write. Now I have to figure out what else to serve for Christmas (Eve) dinner tomorrow evening.
With such a small bird, I won't have to start too early; instructions to roast at 200 deg. C (about 390 deg F?) for 30 to 40 minutes were included.


The Great Pretender

Almost 6 years ago, a soon to become good friend called, wanting to set up a local playgroup for children and moms to play in English once a week so our kids could experience English outside their homes. I had a few kids at the right age for such a group and another on the way and was glad to join. M, N and L enjoyed songs, games and stories with a nice group of people from around the world before they were immersed in the Japanese education system. The founder's children have also graduated the group, but members with younger children are keeping the group running so successfully that there continues to be a waiting list to join(Too many babies and toddlers in the small meeting space detracts from the fun.).

Thursday afternoon was the annual Christmas party at a small cafe/restaraunt a few stations away from here. I've taken all four children a long time ago, but have missed a few parties because of work and other scheduling problems. I was told alumnae were welcome and I didn't have any classes on Thursday, so I RSVPed for L, N and myself (a room full of babies isn't so exciting for M and J so they opted out.) The organizer called to confirm and ask if I might be able to play Santa for them this year. I happened to have a full Santa suit with a beard and a hat from the local equivalent of the Dollar Shop (Hundred Yen Shop) and I knew that we'd be arriving late so I agreed.

The Santa suit was just big enough to fit over my own clothes and my coat covered most of it so N and L weren't too embarassed as I rode them through the dark, late afternoon back streets to the party on my bicycle. I sent N inside first so the organizer could come outside with the presents she had prepared for all of the children. After a minute or two, I made a big production of peering in the window, looking for kids, and waving in big, slow motion moves when I found a cafe full of them. The children were all young enough to look wonderfully amazed and shyly happy to accept their presents. Some of the older ones even said "Thank you Santa." A few older siblings knew who I was from our playgroup days and were happy to be in on the secret and play along. After about 5 minutes, Santa exited, dramatically waving and excusing himself to get ready for his Christmas Eve gig.

People in the street were a little surprised to see Santa emerge from the small shop and peel his suit, beard and hat off to reveal a tall, blue eyed brunette woman, almost as rare as Santa in that neighborhood. With a wink and a smile I waved, deposited the costume in a paper bag in my bicycle basket and re-entered the shop with a flustered "Hello! Am I late?" to which a few of the older kids replied that I had missed Santa's visit. "Aw man! I've been trying to meet that guy for years now!" They showed me the bags full of goodies Santa had given them and I sat down to enjoy a pleasant dinner of genmai (brown rice) sushi salad, fried chicken, spaghetti with several types of Japanese mushrooms in cream sauce, salad and finally cheesecake and coffee. N and L had a good time with their friends too.


Lab Results

My surgeon showed me page of cross sections of the removed tissue and tumor and told me that he is confidant that he got it all and radiation isn't necessary. He also confirmed that as no cancer was detected in the 4 lymph nodes he had removed, I won't need chemotherapy either. He did say that if I felt more comfortable, I could have the follow up radiation for peace of mind, but that he didn't feel it was necessary.

The tumor was estrogen receptive, so he prescribed Nolvadex-D (30.4mg of Tamoxifen Citrate which is equivalent to 20mg of Tamofixen) daily for the next 5 years as a preventative measure. Japanese National Health Insurance (NHI) will only permit 2 weeks of medicine at a time, so I'll go back in two weeks to get my next 2 week prescription and a blood test, just before the New Year's holidays.

After another visit in mid January, I'll begin seeing the doctor at a smaller, not-so-far-away clinic where he arranges appointments two days a month as a visiting specialist. He said to expect monthly check-up exams for five years, and that he will arrange to have other doctors at the smaller clinic to write prescriptions to be filled between exams. The smaller clinic is about 15 minutes by bike, instead of the 40 minutes it took me today with L on the bike up a big hill to the university hospital.

Speaking of NHI, I found out that if my 30% (NHI covers the other 70%) of the bill at a single medical institution exceeds about 700 dollars in a calendar month, the excess will be refunded to our bank account in two months. S didn't believe me and had me take my receipts from November to city hall to learn more. He was very relieved that we'll be getting about 1,300 dollars back in February.


Belated photos

The friends who went to the local university festival with S and the children last month while I was in the hospital e-mailed some photos today. I just had to share them.

Hey! What is S doing in MY Reebocks? And what is N watching?  Posted by Hello

L learns he has to hold on tight or let his father tie the balloon around his wrist. His Donald Duck shirt was a girl magnet at the local university festival. Posted by Hello


The tree looks a lot smaller now that the smallest child is so much bigger. Posted by Hello

Carrot Cake Posted by Hello


Lunch Out

Well, I've had a rather busy week. On my birthday, a friend met me near our house and treated me to lunch, bringing flowers, fruit, herb tea and other treats to celebrate my release from the hospital and my birthday. It was a very pleasant way to celebrate. Then, after school, the kids wanted cake, so I baked a small carrot cake to have our own little party. Another friend stopped by with a souvenir tee shirt from Hawaii. She had returned the day before and wanted to see if there was anything she could help out with. She also brought some NIKU JAGA (previously described meat and potato dish, Japanese home cooking) which was good in the kids' lunch boxes the next day.

I had a check-up at the hospital on Nov. 30, and was a little disappointed that my lab test results weren't back yet. The doctor promised that they would be for my next visit, on Dec. 14th. It will be good to know what to expect.

Last Friday the doorbell rang and it was the postman with a package which was too big for our box downstairs. I accepted it, racking my brains to remember if I'd ordered anything from Amazaon-dotcom. Inside was a shipping notice with Elizabeth's name and a very informative book about breast cancer. I have to get her phone number from Mom and Dad to call and thank her personally. It was very reassuring to read and learn that my interpretations of the doctor's explanations were accurate and comforting to have so much information at my disposal anytime now.

I saw a few friends yesterday at a Christmas cookie exchange. Not having time to bake anything, I brought a large bag of chocolates and was forgiven. Was it Roosevelt who said "Speak softly and carry a big bag of chocolate."?

Today, two friends who had wanted to invite me out for my 40th arranged to meet me near our station and we went to a nice Italian pizza restaraunt between the station and our apartment. The woman who runs the restaraunt came out to speak with one of my friends, telling her that there were 18 adults and almost as many children. My friend looked a little flustered as I thought "Huh?!"

"Surprise!" Actually 17 of my friends, most from the English playgroup, and the parents of one of them who happened to be here from the States treated me to lunch, flowers and Maxim De Paris cookies. The tiny restaraunt was wall to wall friends, (well-behaved) preschoolers and babies. What a nice gushy warm feeling to have so many friends, some from quite far away now, get together to ease me into my forties!

Tonight the kids and I are going to see the new Studio Ghibli (Japanese animated) movie with friends who happened to have eight free tickets. The mom and two girls will come here for curry rice after the movie so I should probably get some rice rinsed and cooked and hide the mess.