First Check-up: 9th May 2018

So it happened… unexpected time off work (semi-official) coincided with the due date for my first post-discharge medical checks, which actually held a surprise which explained a few things… as usual in the medical context, there was not any actual “good news”, as samples were taken and as of this writing, results are pending, but there was some “sort-of bad news”…

Despite not knowing whether we would be having both Monday off (as Children’s Day unfortunately fell on a Saturday this year) plus the following three days (while Korean co-workers are around the country canvassing possible new students for the near future), I had arranged with the Professor to bring the due date for the first scheduled check-up forward by about a week to coincide with it. However, the appointment was at 9:30 a.m. and as it would have been difficult to get to Daegu from Jinju on the same day, I took my usual step of travelling to my destination the previous night and staying in a motel until the morning.

Previously, the Professor had told me to lose weight, get more exercise and avoid alcohol (I was in fact to learn the missing pieces of this and other information which he had not given me in this latest meeting). However, readers will probably understand that between having the tumour and its removal, losing my previous job and moving into the new one, which involved a lot of travel, great expense and (almost) the expiry of my visa, staying away from the pop was anything but easy, although I tried my best; it was easiest at the beginning but became progressively more difficult due to the stress level and the need to relax. More on this in a moment.

As it happened, I had previously received a letter (in Korean, of course) which suggested that I should turn up at the Jinju Tax Office. It was impossible to understand why I needed to do this, as I had never been to any Tax Office in Korea during my whole fifteen years here (since, like so many others here, I always left that side of things to my employer), and as I was about to discover, the location information they had placed online was now in error because they had since moved to new offices; I had gone to the old location easily by bus, but on arriving there found only a large Lotte building opposite the Galleria store. Enquiring at the Nonghyup Bank there, I was redirected to the correct location and took a taxi for convenience. One there, I presented myself and there was the usual confusion, including a call to my old boss in Daegu, Jun at Study Factory, which also turned out to be in error… eventually we were able to get onto the computer system with the paperwork, with the upshot that there were some ₩177,000 owing from 2016 and 2017, so I paid the larger one on the spot with my credit card , then made my way home by bus and paid the smaller bill at the local Nonghyup Bank. Then I went home and packed for the journey.

This time I was fortunate, because the train was actually waiting at the platform when I arrived, and I only had to pay for the ticket and walk through. This was an SRT train, and there were not many passengers, but there was Wifi. However, as the train rolled along the track to Daegu, I spent my time mainly looking out of the window and watching the countryside passing by… perhaps the most heartening thing about Korea is that despite its modernity and (in places) conspicuous overdevelopment, there remain still plenty of pockets of relatively undisturbed rural areas which you can see when you travel this way, and it has to be said that as a solo foreign traveller with nobody to talk with en route, it does make the journey much more enjoyable.

Arriving at DongDaegu Station, I took the subway to the Kyungbuk National University Hospital and walked to the immediate vicinity of my first apartment in Daegu, back in 2014, because – as it happens – when I first went there to meet Mr. Park, the owner of LSE (the adult hagwon where I was working, and which became defunct within a month) to sign the contract, I stayed overnight at the Mellow Yellow Motel, and this time, what a surprise! The nightly fee there had gone down by ₩10,000! After a brief change of clothing, I made my way over to Burger & Pasta in Jung-gu and ordered first their No-Bun Burger, and then – amazingly for me, still feeling hungry – I ordered the Chilli Cheese Potato Wedges and washed the lot down with four Absoluut Vodka and Tonics, and may I say, most refreshing they were, too.

It was still early when I paid the bill and started walking back to the motel. A 9:30 a.m. meeting with the Professor meant an early start, so I made sure that my alarm was set (6:00 a.m.) on the cell phone before booting up the motel room’s (XP Pro!) computer to watch some YouTube, as the cable TV had no UFC etc. to see. I didn’t sleep too well as I felt the urge to go to the bathroom a couple of times, something which I now know I could have avoided…

When the alarm sounded, I got up, put the news on the TV, had a shave etc. and then packed my bag to make the journey to the hospital, which was not difficult from there, being only four stops away southwards on Line 1. I got out at the Hospital station and made my way first up the usual four flights of steps, and then around the blocks and up the hill to the hospital itself. As might be expected, the place was thronging with patients and their family (and other) attendants, as well as various medical and clerical staff; the place is never still during opening hours. I had arrived there at about 8:30, so I had about an hour still to wait and watched the two waiting room screens, the left-hand screen with the order of consultations and the right-hand screen with the rolling news on cable. Eventually, after a line of tottering oldsters had seen the Prof., it was my turn and after further waiting outside his room for about fifteen minutes, I was ushered in.

Today, he had an obvious understudy sitting in the corner listening as best he could to the conversation, which was all in English. We discussed mainly my new experiences in Jinju but I got around to the current range of symptoms, mentioning that the starchiness of the food regime at work was mainly unsuitable – despite its obvious very good quality – and that I often try to have intermittent fasting days to try to lose more weight. He asked me how many times a day I would normally have to drop a load, and it was at this point that a penny dropped, because the Lopmin capsules he had prescribed me previously were (he now informed me) to relax the gut wall and allow it to expand, as the part grafted onto my, er, original anus had a narrower lumen and it normally takes about three years or so for it to expand and restore the function lost temporarily as a result of the surgery.

The trouble here was that his instructions when he issued me with the original prescription were somewhat vague; what should have happened was that I would be taking several of these each day, allowing me to more comfortably retain stools and dump them more conveniently, but his description had missed out some essential clarity. So he gave me a repeat prescription for the capsules, and then dropped the really bad news on me – avoid alcohol for the rest of the year!!! According to him (but I should know this already, of course), alcohol is often a causative agent in the ontology of an oncology, so I really couldn’t disagree. We then shook hands and I reminded him that I was still waiting for him to send me information and materials so that I could produce an English-language review of the FDD for him; he, in turn, apologised on account of his own being rather busy, but promised to send it to me as soon as possible. I left the office and then waited for my receipt, then went to the Appointments desk to pay for the later blood tests and the appointment and repeat prescription.

Alas, in the months since I was last there, I had started forgetting where everything was, and had to ask for directions for the out-patient phlebotomy team who, in fact, were literally just around the corner! Duhhh….. I went there and had a needle stuck in my arm, again, and rendered four small samples of blood for testing. Then I put my jacket back on, put on my shades and backpack, and made my way out and downhill to my old office, where manageress Jamie and my sort-of replacement, Chris the Canuck, were conducting things as usual. I chatted with them (Chris had to return to his lessons) and updated them as to what had been happening since they last saw me. We then hit the local KFC (I had a Twister, not a burger) and we chatted some more. Then we went to the office for a while before I wanted to get on my way, and Jamie came with me to the pharmacist across the road while I got my prescription. Then we said goodbye and I walked back to the subway.

The ride back to the DongDaegu Station was uneventful, but there was a lengthy queue for tickets (lengthened by one clueless old lady who seemed to be having trouble paying for her ticket). Then, of course, the unwelcome news that the next train would be some two hours waiting (unlike the previous evening, when the train was already waiting at Jinju Station and was off some five minutes later), so I walked down to see what was happening in the cafes. Holly’s was full, so I went back to the Caffe Pascucci and had a latte there, at the same time digging out the tablet to use the free wifi to check up on things and update the apps. This turned into a piece of pure frustration, initially caused by having changed my Google password recently, but eventually it was possible to get it all done. The battery was going down all the time while this was happening despite being plugged into a wall socket, but finally everything settled down with about thirty-five minutes to go before departure, so I packed everything back in my bag and then walked to the platforms; the information I needed was already up on the display so I just took the escalator down and sat on a bench, waiting.

Again, the ride home was uneventful, but having had a fraught couple of days, first with the tax office, then travelling to Daegu, and then the rest, I found it very difficult to stay awake; thankfully the KTX terminates at Jinju so there was no danger of missing my stop. I took a taxi home from there (because I still haven’t figured out which bus I can catch to travel between the two), and after picking up some food and bottled water from the local Top Mart, walked home and put the washing on.

So, a new set of samples was taken for testing, and I shall expect some news about the outcome shortly from the Professor; but having to mainly avoid alcohol from now on (as one hundred per cent. abstinence may be difficult) is a killer socially. I remind myself that I have a job to do and will often be busy; and probably, once the bookcases and other furniture are in place, I should be thinking about more reading when at home… and with that, thoughts of sleep are rattling through my head, so I shall take my leave of you, dear Reader.

One Response to “First Check-up: 9th May 2018”

  1. Andrew Says:
    May 10th, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Here’s something I saw linked to my Facebook this morning that’s not kind of unrelated, diet-wise:

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