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Thursday, November 14, 2013

On a little personal note

*Important Announcement*
Pigeon Dynamite will be donating 20% of its profit made between Nov 1st to Dec 25th 2013
 to UNICEF USA to help children affected by super typhoon in Philippine 
for more information, please go to UNICEF website and check details in Pigeon Dynamite facebook page.

I've been talking about various kinds of things on this blog despite the fact that sometimes I felt that I should be talking about my jewelry (Pigeon Dynamite) more often.
And I honestly feel every post I've made so far has been more personal than I initially planned. It's probably because I like reading materials to be meaty and more real.
I don't find "oh, everything is great, every day is wonderful" kind of things-really, pretty much with any thing that has superficial, pretentious kind of shiny coated things-interesting or attractive.
And this time, I wanted to talk about something that is quite personal to me, but more importantly, felt more necessary to share my story. Specially with women. And no, I'm not talking about vaginas.

About 4 yeas ago around this time, I was going trough thyroid cancer surgery.
I was hospitalized in Kobe, Japan and that was my first surgery.
My family did not, until me, have any family member to have cancer in the family history.
It was an accident that they found a "tumor" in my throat back in early 2009.
I got a really bad flu and turned out it was strep throat.
As the doctor was checking up on my neck, he felt something around my throat and asked me how long the lump had been there.  I was aware of this large, hard lump in my throat but I didn't know what it was or since when it had been there.
He recommended a specialist and I did go see the doctor, but he told me that I was fine after a long period of time running place to place for testing.

So, that summer, I decided to go see the Japanese thyroid doctor for second opinion since I happened to go back there for vacation.
I cannot stress enough how efficient the tests I took in Japan were, compare to those I did in America. It took a day in one place for the whole test, whereas America it took a month to take tests in three places, not including the diagnoses.
The Japanese doctor told me the diagnosis would take a week but I already had my ticket to go back to the states, so they told me as soon as they found out, they'd contact me.
I remember talking with my doctor in Osaka, after he finished all the blood test, biopsy and ultrasound test, he said it might be cancer. But for some reasons, I never believed it.

Then, five days later, they contacted me possibly the worst timing.
When they called, I just checked into a Japanese hot spring hotel in Hokkaido (northern Japan) with my parents as I always wanted to go back to Hokkaido and that was my first time family trip since I left Japan.
I probably would have said nothing to my parents at least during our family trip if they hadn't called my mom's cellphone since I did not have my own in Japan.
Obviously, my parents knew that the doctor called me so I had to tell them what they said.
There was this hopeless silence in our hotel room for a little while.

Thyroid cancer is not as life threatening as other cancers, in fact, in some cases you can die with it-not of it.
Thyroid diseases may vary but about 10% of the thyroid disorder reported to be cancerous.
I don't remember if I knew any information about thyroid cancer at that time, but I was very calm when I was told the test result showed that I have cancer. And, weird enough, even more so when I told my parents. My dad even asked me why I was so calm but I had to tell them we were there to have fun and eat well. In any case, even if I was having a panic attack, the fact that I have cancer wouldn't change. And more importantly I had my mission to gorge myself with sea food there.
We had great time in Hokkaido for the next two days but I wish that call had not been the first day of our trip.
The whole time I was calm and so were my parents, but I have to confess that I was disappointed by the test result.
That certain kind of guilt that I felt is still somewhere in me.

After I came back from the trip, I cancelled my flight ticket (and took a semester off) and the doctor in Osaka wrote a recommendation letter to the hospital in Kobe that is known as the best thyroid treatment center in Japan.
From there, it was all the same tests-blood test, ultrasound, and the biopsy.
Then, the doctor who told me "yup, it's cancer as you knew" became my surgeon.
In my case, the large tumor that was initially found was not the cancerous tumor.
 There was a smaller tumor that was behind it with cancer cells.
Luckily, all of them were on one side of my thyroid gland (its shape is like a butterfly and is located in center of your neck) so they left the other side untouched.
In Japan, they tend to prefer leaving the other side, if possible, so that there would be no necessary for the patients to take any thyroid medicine usually for the rest of their lives.
On the other hand, in America, they'd normally take the whole thyroid gland to avoid any possibility of cancer relapse. 
My surgery date was picked, but it was nealy three months later; the hospital was too busy for having many patients from all over Japan for the surgery.
The surgeon told me that even if I would wait for the surgery next six months, I'd still be fine.
But it was something he also said sooner the better situation.

Surgery went well and left me a pretty big scar on my neck for a while.
I called myself Frankenstein but the medical tape to cover the scar that hospital gave me to use for a few months worked very well, the scar is hardly visible after 4 years.
 After the surgery, I was hospitalized for about a week then came back for the study of my tumor.
The surgeon told me they studied the tumor and confirmed it was cancer and also cancer cells spread on my lymph gland as well so he took them out with other tumors.
I asked him if I could keep my thyroid tumors but he looked at me funny and said "well..why, I guess you could but..why, I mean, why?" I think my dad was there and said "don't, hey, stop it." I wanted to make them like an art collection but they didn't let me keep it.
there really was not many photos to here's the hospital food..
After a few days from the surgery I was allowed to start eating solid food again.
I LOVED their food that I never wanted to leave..
Since then, every year I go back for annual check up and I have to do this for 5 years.
Next year is hopefully my last check up.

I wanted to help raise awareness of this disease. 
It is said to be more common among women who are 40 year-old and up, but I was in my early-mid 20s and now know there are more younger women with thyroid diseases.
And they do not know why and how the thyroid cancer happens, so it could happen to any one like myself having no family history of any cancer.
(Though, in north east Japan, after Fukushima nuclear reactor incident, there are reportedly more younger people diagnosed as thyroid cancer. This was also common in Russia after Chernobyl in Ukraine disaster.)
It is also reportedly growing the number of patients who have thyroid disorders in America, even though it's still not as known and common as other cancers.
 It is rather difficult to find the disease since the symptoms can easily be misdiagnosed or dismissed, but most of the thyroid cancer is curable.
There is numerous information out there and you can learn about the thyroid cancer.
It may not be the kind of cancer to be scared of, but if you could choose to live without, that's the kind of cancer you could.
And it is very important for yourself and for your loved ones.
Although it left me a big scar on my neck for a while, I have never been more thankful to live without cancer through my life.

Thanks for reading. 
(I thought of putting maybe one picture of my neck after the surgery but it was too graphic so I decided not to. If you're interested though let me know..) 

Pigeon Dynamiteは11月1日からクリスマス迄の売り上げの20%を
フィリピンの子供を支援する為アメリカンユニセフ を通して寄付します。

(自分のビジネスそっちのけで→ Pigeon Dynamite)



そ して両親に伝える時はそれ以上に落ち着き払っていたので、父迄も何でそんな落ち着いてられるん?と聞いてきた程でした。どのみち慌てたところで病気という 事実が変わる事もないので、それより私はそのときは北海道で美味しい魚介類を食べるという決意があったので、あまり病気の事は考えていませんでした。
その場合、薬を取らなくてはいけない人生を余儀なくされるので私は日本で治療できてラッキーだったと 思います。




聞こえはそこ迄恐ろしい病気では無いかも 知れませんが、でも癌のない人生を選べるのであれば、それが治療できる癌なのであれば、可能な病気です。



  1. Great post! I would have asked to keep the tumour as well......preserve it in a glass jar....

    1. Btw this is Joyce lol I don't know why my name is unknown lol

    2. Hi Joyce! Thank you for your kind words! A glass jar sounds like it'd have been a cool thing to do, right?? damnit.