(written for IT'S TIME TO SHOUT!)
On the 26th of November, 2004,
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Two weeks before that, I was at a meeting
with my gynecologist, Dr. Ueda,
for my regular check-up.
Looking at the echo image monitor,
Ms Ueda told me in a somewhat gloomy voice,
"Oh, your right ovary looks swollen,
I think you had better go to hospital
and have a MRI scan as soon as possible."
I had never heard of that before.
At this moment in time, I was completely unaware
of the urgency of my situation.
I did not feel any different
and I had no symptoms of itching, pain or bleeding.
The sad fact was, that this was the beginning of
a long journey for me.
I was forty five years old.
Looking back now, I could see a pattern
of events happening to me.
Perhaps these events, was a kind of omen,
warning me of things to come.
When I was at the age of forty four,
I had a sudden, nasty attack of acne.
This left me with red and very swollen pimples
all over my face.
I thought it was unbelievable
to have this at my age.
I tried tons of medicine, supplements,
and cosmetics, in the hope of getting rid of it.
But as soon as one spot healed,
then another would explode on my face.
Nothing seemed to work at all.
Finally, I decided to visit a local dermatologist.
This doctor prescribed me a medical skin cream
and some antibiotics.
This course of action did help a little
to start with, but as time went on
my condition just got worse.
My face was now covered in fiery red spots.
I did not want to go out and socialize with others.
I would not even answer the door bell when it rang.
You can cover the red spots by thick make-up,
but it is powerless to the uneven skin itself.
I felt like I was a hermit.
I could understand how the Phantom of the Opera
must have felt.
Next I went to consult a cosmetic dermatologist.
It was decided that I should have a chemical skin peeling treatment on my face, using a type of acid.
This was very expensive, but I felt desperate
to have it done.
In a way, my skin condition took over my life.
The treatment was not a great success and
seemed to go on forever.
I felt very dark about the whole thing in the end.
It was only later that I realized that
my skin condition was down to a hormonal imbalance.
I was forty four and at the start of my menopause.
So, searching the web, I found a gynecologist by the name of Dr. Ueda.
She was a woman about the same age as myself, fundamentally for me, she too had had also suffered from Endometriosis.
She had also written an account of this on her web site. I knew right away that
this was the doctor I was looking for.
My intuition proved me right, about a year later.
I first embarked on trying out some
Chinese medicine, but this proved to be unsuccessful.
I was then prescribed some estrogen pills.
Again, this had no real effect.
Finally, I tried an imported medicine called Accutane. It was a little risky decision, as this medication was not approved here in Japan.
Amazingly, Accutane seemed to work, dramatically removing the hot bed of acne.
But there were side effects.
My skin became extremely dry and began to itch unbearably, in the end I had to stop using it.
Eventually, Dr. Ueda said to me,
"You must be suffering some kind of mental stress,
to effect your skin in this way."
Then referred me to a psychiatrist.
I was really taken aback by this, as I considered myself to be mentally balanced and normal.
But thinking back now, when my acne first appered,
I had been working hard in my work, perhaps too hard.
I had worked a ten hour day, for fourteen years and seldom took a long vacation in that time.
Compared to some of my work colleagues,
who took regular holidays of up to a month or more,
I had been so busy working, that I had not noticed how tired I had become. I had also tried not to admit my negative feelings towards my work and colleagues.
I had without realizing it, become depressed.
So, now I was prescribed an anti-depressant
This was effective and within a few months,
my face, to my joy, had completely cleared of acne.
This by no means is the end of the story.
As I told you in the beginning, Dr. Ueda, had found something wrong with my ovary.
During my consultation with her, she asked me
what hospital I wanted to go to for my MRI scan.
"The closer the better", she said,
"What about the Keiyu Hospital?
They are renowned for their gynecology department."
The name, Keiyu, made me sit up.
"Doctor, I was born there", I said.
I suddenly had a very dark thought.
That I might end up spending
my last days there too.
I tried to shake myself out of this,
by telling myself that lots of women
had swolen ovaries and most of those
In fact, a friend of mine, had surgery to
remove one ovary and she went on to
have three children afterwards.
I had nothing to worry about, I thought.
I did not know it at the time
but I had already contracted ovarian cancer.
Two weeks later, I was at the gynecology department
of the Keiyu Hospital for a further check-up.
You have to wait for a long time before
meeting a doctor in a large hospital.
Even if you have an apointment, you still
have to wait a long time.
So I waited and waited, the more I waited,
the more anxious I became.
Feeling tired and worn out,
I was finally called into Dr. Yamamoto's office.
As soon as I had sat down,
Ms Yamamoto told me without hesitation.
"I don't usually tell my patients my diagnosis
at the first consultation.
But in your case, I must tell you, Ms Nishiyama,
you have ovarian cancer.
There is an urgency, that we act quickly
and decide on a date for surgery."
OUT OF THE BLUE.
No, that's not possible,
I feel fine, I have no pain or bleeding.
Look at me!
I'm well, aren't I?
Surely they must be wrong!
"What about the the 14th of December?" she asked.
That was only in eighteen days time.
"Too soon", I said.
"I must organize and get someone to
take over my work for me, while I am in hospital. Doctor, couldn't we postpone untill January?
I have to arange lots of things before surgery."
She looked at me and said,
"Whose body do you think it is?
YOURS!! What if your ovary explodes?"
"Ms Nishiyama", she went on,
"You must give this the highest priority.
Your LIFE depends on it."
During that day, I had to undergo further test,
and by the end I was numb and totally worn out.
When I went into the nurses' station,
I could not help but burst into tears.
One of the nurses came over and tried to console me. Patting me on the shoulder, she said,
"I know, I know how you feel.
You're so tired, poor thing.
Once you are in hospital,
you can relax and feel at home."
Before I went home that day,
I went up to the lounge floor for hospital workers. There, facing a window I cried alone.
This is a large hospital, I thought.
No one will wonder why I am crying.
There must be lots of people here with problems.
I cried and cried.
On the 24th of December 2004.
I had both my ovaries and uterus removed.
Before the surgery, my mother had opposed to
Dr. Yamamoto's plan to do all this.
"Can't you just take out one ovary
and save the uterus?" she said.
Calmly, Dr. Yamamoto explained that
by removing both ovaries and the uterus,
it would prevent any further outbreak of the cancer.
I understood how my mother felt.
But I was fourty five, unmarried,
had no plan to have a child at all.
Now I wanted no ovary nor uterus.
I wanted to SURVIVE.
I wanted to LIVE.
When I woke up from the anesthesia,
Dr. Yamamoto was standing by my bedside,
still in her surgeon's gown.
I heard her soft voice telling me,
"It's finished, Ms Nishiyama,
The ovary had not exploded,
the cancer was contained".
"Thank you, Doctor."
I reached out for her and we shook hands.
The surgery was a complete success.
In fact, I did not even need to have chemotherapy.
I can't thank enough Dr. Ueda who found my cancer.
If it were not for her, I would not be
telling you my story today.
I stongly recommend you to have
a dependable gynecologist as your home doctor.
And to visit him or her for regular check-ups,
Even if you are in the best of health.
Also, your skin is sometimes a good indicator of what condition your body is in.
Be aware of any changes that might take place on your skin condition.
If you have sudden troubles such as acne,
go and see not only a dermatologist
but also your gynecologist!
It's been six years since my surgery
and I'm doing pretty well now.
I'm taking a hormone replacement tablet
to prevent on menopausal problems.
If you ever have to have your ovaries
or uterus removed, remember,
you'll never stop being a woman.
You will always be a woman.
As long as you live.
(Many thanks to Mark, who helped me with writing in English. I could not have completed this without you.)