Tuesday, April 07, 2015

My once a year, big health exam 2015 (ningen dock)

Friday, March 27th, I had my once a year, huge big health exam. In Japan it's called a "ningen dock" you can pick a 2 day test meaning you stay overnight and get tested for 2 full days.  Or you can get the 1 day one. I have kids at home and as you know March was busy for us. So, I really only have time for a full day one. Besides that tests for tons of things. I get these every year and have ever since I hit age 35 (before age 35, I got yearly exams too, but less thorough ones). My husbands health insurance pays for mine entirely (unless I ask for an additional test, which I did this year.) My appointment was at 9am, and it was in Ibaraki which is close, but this specific hospital is about a 45 minute drive from our house. So not too close, but not too far away either. Noboru went with me for moral support. Love this guy! Sweetest guy ever! I went to each room alone though. But he knows, I really dislike going to this big yearly test. So, he goes for moral support. And for that, I really appreciate it. They sent to my house a week or two before, 2 fecal tests, they wanted me to collect at home the week of my appointment. Sorry a tad TMI, but if you ever have one of these coming up, it may help someone to know. It's not too terrible though, they provide you a plastic stick you swab the outside of your poo, careful you do not stab said poo, lol, just swab the outer area.  ( I think we're all adults here) and then put it into a plastic tube type thing. It's all clean and tidy. I did put my sample/tube containing specimen/test in a small ziplock. Also they sent a huge questionnaire for me to fill out. Noboru filled mine out. I don't understand why I have to fill every single thing out, every single year. Meaning shouldn't it be in their file already? And what I mean like, questions like, "has your mother, father or grandparents ever had diabetes?" My answer was no. And yet they ask me every year. Granted, perhaps it could change from year to year. But for me it hasn't. Another question. Has you mother or grandmother ever had breast cancer? We write down, my mother. And every year, they ask me the same painful question. And I keep having to answer the same thing, "yes, my mother had breast cancer!!!" Just wish this was on file, so I wouldn't have to keep reliving certain questions again and again like groundhogs day. Again granted perhaps someone new...quite possibly their parent could have gotten cancer since their last screening but for me...90% of the questions will stay the same. Oh well. So we filled out the form. Had the form and sample all set for that Friday. They also send a note saying you may NOT eat anything the night before after 9pm. And to not eat anything the morning of, not even a glass of water. They wanted absolutely nothing in your stomach. So, we get there. Hand the lady all my stuff. She in turn gives me a ladies medium size hospital outfit. Like a weird polyester type outfit. All people inside are wearing the same outfit. She points me to the ladies changing area. She also says, you may not wear a bra, but you may wear panties and socks. So, into the changing room, I went. An older grandma type was in there changing and my foreign-ness shocked and surprised her. : ( Gosh don't you hate that... when it happens. : ( I mean...I am a ball of nerves at this point. I keep thinking about the barium stomach test. Meanwhile I have to deal with super shocked half naked granny. So, I went to my locker and took off my clothes and switched to my outfit. The grandma starts chatting with me. I chat back. And then she was very normal and relaxed. I left the changing area and went and sat down in the huge waiting area. There were many doors. A TV on. A magazine rack. And about 25 people all in the same exact outfit, I was wearing. I was weighed and they got my height and my weight. I'm 2kg less than last year apparently. I can't personally see a dot of difference in my weight but, you know...she was the one with the file. : ) Then I went to another room, they gave me a heart test, she also measured my waist. Then I went to another room/area. We went through the paperwork Noboru had filled out. She wanted to go through each question with me. However, she was so cute and she used English with me. So, in the end we did a hodgepodge of English and Japanese.  I don't mind when people want to use both languages with me at all. I do know, it makes some people mad. But, I don't mind a bit. : ) She also took my blood, 2 tubes of it. I also was asked to give a urine sample as soon as I changed my clothes when I first came into the building, sorry I left that part out. Also, there was a poster about HPV on the wall. That test is an additional 3000 yen, $30 US. It tests to see if you are at risk for cervical cancer. It checks the DNA apparently. And online from what I see how they do in America, they say you should get a regular pap smear yearly, but they are also recommending American women to get this DNA HPV test for any woman over age 30. So this sounded like something, I should get. And if your test comes out clean, you only need to get it every 3 years then, meaning this HPV DNA test. So, just something, I thought I should get. Apparently cervical cancer...women die most from 2 specific types of HPV and this test checks for it. This is what it says online. Granted, I am no doctor, but the test sounded like something I should get. I am a woman/girl/female and I would prefer not die from cervical cancer and yeah, I'd like to know, if I am okay down there. So, besides getting my regular papsmear that day, checking for other ailments down there, during my pap smear, we also had them give me the additional HPV DNA screening. Just peace of mind. After that, I went downstairs for my mammogram. My mammogram did not hurt last year or the years before, but my mammogram hurt like hell this year! It was pure yikes! However, given my mom had breast cancer, I know it's seriously, a very important test. In between they checked my eyes and my hearing. And then I was sitting in front of 2 barium testing rooms. Waiting for my name to be called. And really dreading this test. Sigh. : (
This poster taken the day of my big health check right between both barium/stomach cancer checking rooms. This poster helped! It gave me the boost I needed. And Noboru also gave me some major pep talks too. I told him at first..."let's just sneak out of here." Noboru said, "I know, you hate this part of the test." So, we looked at this poster together. And it made me feel much better. In the green it basically says..."don't want to take this test, because it's hard?" I shook my head. No, I don't! : )  Remember I am not a professional translator here or anything, so I will do my best to tell you what this says. In white it says...STOMACH CANCER. 1 out of every 9 men will get it. 1 out of every 18 women will get it, in their lifetime. Did, you know, if found early enough...98.7% of stomach cancers can be cured. Not cured but...you know what I mean. Stopped. If caught early. And the end says, TAKE THIS TEST ONCE A YEAR. Sigh. You know...I hate to say it. But this poster was exactly right! Yes this test sucks!!! But it is so very important to take it! Some people wait until, it's so late, they can't even get helped and they die. Catch it fast and nip that cancer in the bud! So for me...yes I hate taking this test. But I know it is so important. So, as I sat in the waiting area, no joke...I could actually hear feel my heart beating faster. I felt very nervous. I felt really stressed out, right about then. Waiting....waiting for them to call my name. Secretly, hoping they don't *ever* call my name. : (  Then suddenly...they called out my name. And my heart sank and I looked at Noboru. And he said. You've got this! I said, I so DON"T got this. : ( I walked to the door and inside I went. In my room there were 2 super nice chipper overly peppy ladies. I wasn't quite feeling so chipper or peppy at that moment. I had gone through this very moment in my mind, a million times... these past few weeks. Now I was here, standing in this pure white room, with huge white medical equipment. One peppy lady went in the back. One peppy lady stood with me. She gave me... a shot glass size of powder, she wanted me to down that in 1 go. I did. No burping. I didn't want any do-overs. Then she handed me, a clear liquid small-ish but bigger than the first shot glass size. She wanted me to drink that in 1 shot too. I did. Both were disgusting. *But, a tolerable disgusting.* Then she gave me a huge honkin', styrofoam cup of white (the thing from my nightmares/memories of last year)...looks exactly like Elmer's glue. Or thick chalk water. This tasted so disgusting. This was the barium. And I will not lie to you...this was *so* beyond vile. So disgusting. This was most certainly NOT tolerable at all! She said to me in Japanese. Please drink this in thirds. Take your first drink now. So, I did. That taste. OMG, that taste. A taste you'd never forget. I thought to myself... "Do not vomit Gina. Do not even try it. We do not want to start from scratch here." The lady in the back was already checking out my stomach. While I was standing. How do, I know? Because she was now speaking to me in an Oz the Great and Powerful voice over a loud speaker and in a peppy voice, said..I can see your stomach now. @-@ I thought, okay. : ) Second big gulp. Oh dear lord... this was *worse* than the first drink. Thinking...I can't do this. This is every bit as disgusting as I remember last year. Think of the poster! Sigh. Okay peppy lady who was with me says..."time to take the 3rd gulp and then let's lay you down." My mind was racing...I took 2 big gulps of that, I think if I drink the 3rd and final gulp, I will vomit all over this room. Like, Stand By Me, and all those pies. Double sigh. I am now officially stalling. Couple more sighs. So, I said... to heck with it. Hope I don't vomit. I took largest gulp ever! And I still had some in my cup. Oh crap. Not much but around 20cc worth. And she looked inside my cup and said, okay you're done, and she tossed my cup into the trash! Oh thank you, I thought! Bless you kind overly chipper peppy lady! Bless you, for life! : ) Happy sigh. : ) I think, I can do this! So, I lay on the table and they ask me to turn left, turn right, the table moves even upside down and all the lady in the back wants.. is my stomach to illuminate, so they can see any cancer or anything bad. Keep in mind, I have a very empty stomach except...white gross flavored glue stuff. It didn't last too long, this test. I was just *so* grateful she didn't make me drink the entire cup. Hope, I get these 2 ladies of AWESOME-NESS next year. Best ladies ever! : ) I exited the room. And Noboru was like. OMG, you have white all over your lips and stuff.... go rinse your mouth. I looked in the mirror, in the rinse your mouth out area (between the men and women's changing area) and I looked frightening. White crud (barium) all over my lips. I was quite scary. But super happy. I did it. After all that, we waited and they called me upstairs to go over my main results with the doctor. All details will be mailed to my house. Noboru went in the room with me, in case there was some heavy medical Japanese, I didn't understand. And the doctor said, I am in top health. No diabetes. He said, and compared both my x-rays from that day and the year before. He said my organs are all fine. My heart is fine. Cholesterol fine. He said, I weigh less now than last year....he said, you are 2kg less than last year (the lady already mentioned that to me downstairs, lol). And apparently he was the guy I spoke to last year. He said...you look and seem quite healthy. I said thank you, he really had nothing negative to say and we both said, see you next year and we left his office. I went downstairs and went to the ladies changing area. There were afternoon people arriving for their health checks. I was done. And again another lady in the dressing area...completely flabbergasted when I walked in the room. I know in bigger cities, foreigners are common, but very uncommon in the inaka/countryside rural areas in Ibaraki or Chiba. Why, lady...why!!!! Foreigners do live in Japan. We own homes in Japan, go grocery shopping in Japan, have kids. Drive cars. Live lives. We get flu shots, get health exams too. Geeze Louise. You would think I came from Jupiter or Pluto or someplace. I try to keep a positive attitude about it and so I smiled and just went to my locker and quickly changed into my regular clothes. I got dressed quickly. And left. 
We stopped for ramen along the way. I could have gotten a free lunch at the hospital. But, Noboru and I prefer to go and have lunch together. We have now both been big health exam-ed for 2015. Later that night we went out for my birthday dinner at yakiniku. : )