Cancer Update: Third Quarterly Check

Things seem to be proceeding in a satisfactory fashion… but once I sat down and started writing, this blog suddenly became unexpectedly long!

After visiting Daegu again last Tuesday, I made sure to text Professor Kim on the Friday morning reminding him about letting me know the results as soon as possible – and reminded him again by text the following Monday morning (just in case, you understand). He very kindly obliged a short while later with his usual reassuring “nothing to worry about” response.

However, as if a mere text message (from the Male Professor Kim) were not enough, his locum last Tuesday, (the female) Professor Kim actually called me yesterday (Tuesday) lunch time to pass on the news. Which surprised me, firstly because I tend to receive very few calls on my cell phone at any time, and secondly precisely because of that exact time, as it would otherwise (probably) be one of those annoying advertorial-type robotised calls from the phone service provider (in this case, LG), which has been a regular irritation ever since I first signed up with them. Unfortunately I have (after fifteen long years here) still not learned enough Korean to understand what their automated calls are actually about, so they remain a noisy, jangling and rather pointless mystery. I realise that this is Korea (where English is not the native language), but surely, by now, there is a sufficient quorum of native English speakers to justify at least a minimal English language service?

We might now ask the question: where to from here on? As this is the third of four quarterly blood tests, the last will be in February and will include a (hopefully final) CT scan to give a visualisation of any otherwise undetected neoplasms. Not sure right now how frequently after that it will be necessary to keep checking, but rest assured that despite a constant feeling of tiredness (due to having to hit the bathroom several times each night), I am feeling well, with only the odd twinge of still-unsettled fatty tissues resulting from the operation itself to remind me that it ever happened… and starting to think about what I will be doing next year.

Looking back over the previous twelve or thirteen months, the remarkable thing has been how painless the detection, treatment, removal and convalescence have been in the course of all this. Using the robot for a laparoscopic procedure avoided a lot of the tissue damage that would have resulted from a more conventional (i.e. open) abdominal technique, and hence faster recovery and much less post-operative pain. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that I would have been much happier remaining in my previous job than having to find and secure a new one. This would have made the immediate post-operative period much less stressful – not to mention less expensive.

Something does need to be said, however, about the reactions of other people to the process, as my rapid recovery may have made them think that everything was normal. I assure you that this is not the case; although I may appear to be walking around in my typical manner, it is simply not possible to lose a foot of irreplaceable large intestine and not experience adverse effects. That part of the body is largely responsible for the removal of water from your solid wastes (as digestion is largely focused in the stomach and small intestine), and removing it compromises this function. This means that you need some kind of pharmaceutical intervention – the Lopmin capsules – to slow down the natural process of peristalsis and increase the residence time of food in the gut, thereby allowing it to remove water to a more normal consistency of stools. Alas, perhaps, my gut seems to be quite sensitive to Lopmin and the result of this is that I have made a habit of coming off the treatment temporarily at weekends to allow it all to pass out, as even the most minimal daily quantity still seems to be slightly too much, resulting in a regular ‘plug’ of drier material which is difficult to void at first. Having said that, the feeling afterwards is wonderful, but you do start to feel somewhat bloated by the mid-week…

Part of the reason for this is that the differing lumen diameters at the two joined ends make voiding (and retention) more difficult than they were originally. The part of the gut removed was that which (under normal circumstances) is perhaps less involved with desiccation and more with storage prior to voiding. This meant that semi-liquid digested food would otherwise be difficult to contain until at least some of the storage function could be restored – but to achieve that, the narrow lumen in the upper part of the anastomosis (the point where the upper and lower ends were joined) has to expand sufficiently, and the simplest way to achieve that, it seems, is to relax the smooth muscle in the gut wall so that the wall itself can expand to accomodate what needs to be, er, retained. It is no exaggeration to say that without Lopmin, retention would be impossible and I would always have to be a short dash from the nearest rest room; I kid you not. So that bloated feeling does at least give some reassurance that you are not going to shed a stinky load in a public place at five seconds’ notice, which was much how it was immediately after the operation. For this reason, I am also hanging on to my small supply of adult diapers…

All of which has meant that another regime of health management has had to be incorporated into my lifestyle. It is not hugely taxing, as in reality it amounts to little more than acquiring a few additional minor habits, but one’s social life is affected by all of this, and diet also. For example, I would not wish to be out every Friday or Saturday night because nowadays I am using this time to allow the release of several days’ stools, meaning that I have to stay at home for convenience; likewise, it is not a good idea to eat too much because what goes down must, eventually, come out, and one may become rather bloated by midweek without some attention to what one is eating. Finally, it is worth remembering that there is something of a moratorium on alcohol consumption with a view to avoiding the retardation of the healing process, at least for the first post-operative year.

The impression has come upon me that my apparent wellness has demonstrably been misleading to onlookers, who think that I am fully recovered and able to resume everything one hundred per cent. right now, but this is far from the truth. For example, I have been told that it would be helpful to lose weight, and I cannot do this if people constantly insist on offering me food. Sugar in particular is known as the primary fuel of cancer, and it has been proving difficult to transition to a more suitably ketogenic diet; the environment here does not seem to support it – indeed, from a sugar-avoidance point of view, Korea is getting worse due to a rise in the presence of franchised, Westernised-style restaurants, coffee shops and other places like the Paris Baguette and Tous les Jours-style bakeries. Professor Kim’s original admonition to avoid carbohydrate and err towards more animal protein has one unfortunate aspect, in that it requires spending more on food at a time when my salary is being squeezed by things like paying for my own accommodation, and repayment of the operation (and other associated) costs. Whic I think is also slowly tapping this job on the head!

At work, the offerings at the restaurants are essentially for younger people who need a lot of energy for their daily exercise, and hence there is a lot of carbohydrate available in the form mainly of rice. I am not saying that there is anything bad about the rice, as it makes the other food easier to eat, but it is a kind of food to avoid most of the time if a recurrence of the cancer is to be avoided, for reasons which have been discussed here previously. Anything alcoholic (other than, say, wine) necessarily tends to have associated sugar components if only to make the alcohol more palatable, so this should really be avoided, too. Even the beverages we have in our office are essentially laced with sugar and sweet creamers, as they come in sticks and the ones without sugar are virtually undrinkable. It is for this reason that I recently purchased a new coffee maker (as the old one was truly dying the death), as strong black coffee is actually a good thing – especially when you stagger out of bed of a weekday morning. Maintaining a low-carbohydrate diet is proving unexpectedly difficult, however.

All of which is making me think that a situation like last year would be much better – same style of employment, housing and diet – but that would mean losing this job and (probably) relocating to a new city, too. The bottom line, however, is that the expense of changing my diet (and other elements of lifestyle) would be far easier if I did not have to lose so much each month on renting my apartment, something which is almost unheard of among foreign English teachers in Korea. So we come to the run-up to Christmas this year with something of a quandary – stay in the current job and lose money on rent which would otherwise be helpful for my diet, or give it up and find something more suitable.

Decisions, decisions…

Third Quarterly Check: November

Here we go again…

A brief(ish) mention of my overnight trip back to Daegu for the third quarterly blood sampling to check that I am still non-cancerous… and how time flies! After some confusion about exactly when my (ahem) employer was going to permit me to take a day off, I got permission for Tuesday (today) and so went to work yesterday morning with a sports bag (black, of course) packed with bed wear and a second set of everything, made my way by taxi to the local train station, and… had to wait two hours because I was too late for the 6:15 train to East Daegu Station. What a surprise. Not.

Some time later (over two hours later, in fact) I was finally able to board the waiting Mugunghwa [1] train and make my leisurely way to my destination. Alas! The arrival time was 10:40 p.m. and I had been out of bed at 6:00 a.m., so the evening was to pass by slowly with me trying not to drop off, as I first had to make my way to my now-customary doss close to the University Dental School (and I knew about this because I stayed there the first time I wentto Daegu, because the new apartment, just across the road, was standing vacant), then went to see if my favourite small watering-hole-cum-eaterie was still closed, as it had been the last time I was there…

Imagine my surprise to discover that it had actually changed ownership, and the new incumbent had installed a huge, stainless steel booze dispenser with taps for not only Guinness and Indica, but also Lindemann’s Kriek (cherry ale)! A customer could simply refill their glass at a rate of 340 won for each liquid ounce. But I stuck resolutely to a small amount of vodka and tonic, which cost a mere 4,000 won and did not appear to be the cheapest (because the cheapest vodkas available in Korea resemble battery acid all too closely…). This was used to wash down a small plate of cheesy potato fries with a hot chili sauce, after which I went back to my room, thinking that 12:30 a.m. was still a bit late considering that an early awakening was necessary (even on a day off work) due to having a 9:30 a.m. appointment.

Back to the room, picked up two cans of Somersby and drank part of one after a shower… and woke up in agony later that morning, having absent-mindedly allowed myself to have a quick stretch, and forgetting that this usually results in a painful Achilles tendon… I lay on the bed cursing in agony until the pain subsided, but thereafter was hobbling around (I can still feel it now that I am back home). Morning ablutions and packing completed, I handed the room key back and wandered out into the morning sunlight.

I made my way to the hospital via the subway and didn’t have long to wait before seeing “another” Professor Kim (female this time) and she asked me how things have been, and I responded that there seemed to be no problems other than occasional twinges from the robot’s entry wounds, and she said that this was normal. They also said that some time before the end of the first post-operative year, they would like me to a second CT scan, and of course, this immediately creates issues, as I have a job that I am expected to do and have to travel between towns each time there is a check-up, and the cost of this also adds up. So I will have to get back to my original Prof. Kim about that to arrange a time.

Interview concluded, I paid for my tests, got the receipt and went to the open phlebotomy parlour, waited my turn and put out my left arm for the attentions of Dracula (actually a young female phlebotomist). I had to strip off a number of items of clothing beforehand, as the November weather had been getting to me and I was now wearing an extra layer or two, then put them back on again a few minutes later. There must be a more efficient way of doing this!

Then I paid another visit to Jamie, my former manager, who was in attendance in her office down the road even though there were no lessons on a Tuesday, and gave her an update about how things were going in Jinju over a small cup of warm tangerine tea. The university buildings were very quiet, as usual, and our conversation was punctuated only by the brief presence of a maintenance technician (I would never refer to such a person as an ‘engineer’ like they do here) to reload the photocopier with a new toner cartridge, plus a small number of phone calls. Then I said goodbye, and returned to the subway to get back to East Daegu Station.

As luck would have it, there was a KTX going south and due to arrive in only a few minutes. The problem? The girl behind the ticket counter had quite a strong accent and I had difficulty hearing her over the counter, but we eventually understood each other and I grabbed my ticket and quickly made my way down to platform 7, and was soon on my way. Without even time to grab anything to eat or drink. But I got back to Jinju, grabbed a taxi home, picked up some more allergy pills on the way and made my way back to the apartment.

Anyway, I arrived back feeling rather tired – not a lot of sleep the last couple of days – but lessons are basically finished for the duration and much of what remains is merely paperwork, which will occupy the rest of my time this week. The second CT scan will have to wait until next month. Perhaps. Possibly. Maybe. We’ll see what happens – the results of the blood tests should be available soon.

1: “Mugunghwa” meaning, we are told, “Rose of Sharon”. Sounds a strange name for a flower for a country in East Asia, but who am I to comment?

The Love (and Lack) of Reading

With space dwindling on all my drives, I lost it this weekend and ordered a new 2TB hard drive for my main machine.

The fact that my new KT Internet keeps flipping out every morning is hardly pleasing me, either…

It seems to be one of those things these days… when I was younger and didn’t have the level of personal technology that I have now, you would routinely find me with my nose in a book or a magazine novels by Michael Moorcock, Fortean Times, that kind of thing. Alas, my needs these days, where moving between cities has been costing an arm, a leg and perhaps several other limbs over the years, things have contracted. I am not buying books routinely, not because I dislike books or even that I cannot afford them; no.

The trouble has been that I have encountered a number of impediments to relaxed and undisturbed reading. Many of the apartments have been unfurnished and without a bed to sleep on, never mind a comfortable reading chair; and when I got my last pair of glasses, the lenses (courtesy of Carl Zeiss, would you believe) came with a varifocal profile and two reading dimples placed in a position for an upright (rather than comfortably recumbent) head position. In addition, the kind of central room lighting here is terrible for extended sessions of reading, but I never seem to move between apartments without losing more appropriate reading lamps. My own personal preference is low-intensity ambient lighting, especially for reading, ideally from proper bulbs and not from LED shit, which is enriched in blue-wavelength emissions known to damage human eyesight [1]. So my actual domestic environment for reading has not been good for a long time. I really want to change that, and with a little reaasonable effort, that’s precisely what I aim to do over this coming winter.

In the meantime, however… ironically, the oldest working HD that I have is the original 80Gb drive I used to build my first machine in Korea back in 2004. The only reason I don’t use it any more is because all the new mobos I’ve seen don’t have IDE interfaces any more – only SATA.

If not for that, I’d still be using all my IDE drives because – so many years after I bought them – they are all still working. The biggest are 500Gb and they are now idle due to a preference on the part of the mobo manufacturers for SATA; go to Gmarket and, likewise, you will see that IDE drives are rarely new. This is the way the technology has gone since I arrived here.

Contrast that with the stupid 1Tb Western Digital drive I bought the other year. Never worked. Until I came to Korea, WD drives never failed. I still have a ten-year-old WD 160Gb portable that works, even though the USB situation has changed since then. And back at home in the UK, I always bought WD and never. had. any. issues. with them.

That last one, however, I refused to exchange at the time because hey, if it fails you have to send it to their office in Malaysia (!!!) at your own expense (by which they mean by international courier, of course). Which meant that to get a replacement would cost more than buying the original, and when confronted by that and having therefore wasted the money on a dead loss, I ordered a replacement from Seagate and WTF, no. trouble. ever.

So this time it will be another Seagate, at a fair price, twice the size of the previous one, which has filled up to about 85% in the space of three years. Well, I can’t imagine why, of course, it’s another great Mystery of Asia… but in particular, I really think it’s about time to drain my fifteen-plus years of e-mails from Yahoo, which seems to have gone so far downhill (and seems to have become some kind of disgusting NWO shill, if much of its so-called “news” is anything to go by). That, however, is currently just under 290Gb in size, and it will have to be dumped somewhere, and if I decide to dump my Facebook, too… well, you can see where this is leading.

As for the cancer front, unbelievably (for an English bod like me) the next blood test is scheduled for Guy Fawkes’ Night – November 5th! The day when a pre-Elizabethan crowd failed to blow up the old Houses of Parliament with King James actually in attendance. That’s on a Monday, too; time to book a day off in advance! But as always, I’ll let all two of my readers know what happens…

1: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/10/23/near-infrared-led-lighting.aspx

The Censors! The Censors! … Er, Please Hold My Beer While I Platform Myself…

I’m not going to spend much time on this because I have had a surprisingly tiring week even though we had a day off on Wednesday for Independence Day (1). I have four new bookcases due for delivery about midday tomorrow (which is thankfully a Saturday) and would like to spend as much time between now and then examining the backs of my eyelids, because a big cleanup and rearrangement of my apartment plus necessary job-related work will be keeping me busy.

Having said all of that…

We find ourselves in the middle of what appears to be a Silicon-Valley-sanctioned take-down of a number of personalities online. The reasons we are being given are clearly spurious, and the results may be catastrophic for those taken down. However, I feel that there is an important point to be made here; several points, possibly.

The first point is that accounts are being taken down from what appear to be (in their most basic forms) free sites for which (at the beginning) no levy was made by the service provider and which the account owners may eventually have developed into something lucrative as it became possible for them to receive remuneration. Names such as Facebook, Twitter etc. are being mentioned. More advanced arrangements are different, of course, because of their scale (the particular case of Alex Jones springs to mind here).

Second point… quite apart from the fact that many of these platforms are on the skids anyway, why is everyone complaining about being suspended or banned from their services? Have you not done some research and found other platforms like MeWe, BitChute and Steemit? Even more importantly, have you not examined the options for self-platforming, the better to avoid these things if you are not looking for remuneration but just want to express yourself? I’ve been doing this for five years now. The cost is not great and there are plenty of free add-ons that you can use. Why worry about whether FB and the like approve of your viewpoint when you could have a platform of your own? I pay sixty Singapore Dollars per annum for the right to express myself, with other add-ons like free fora and chat rooms for no extra cost. The sad part? Despite repeatedly stating that I have made these private spaces available for people to use, and from which (at least within reason) they are far less likely to be cast out on their ear, they don’t make use of them. There seems to be an element of psychological dependency involved here. Or is narcissism for free more important to you?

If you don’t agree with your chosen platform’s attitude, you’re a fool to stay with them when other free or paid alternatives are available, and since those alternatives are available, what is it that keeps you there like a frog in a hot cooking pan? What are you afraid of? You could start up your own blog, fora and social web site as well as e-mail, chat site etc.

Hint: go beyond your comfort zone, look for your own platform. You could start at a place like https://www.singaporehost.sg. They have everything you need. Just choose a nice-looking WordPress site template (like I did), pay your annual subscription (about ₤40.00/year) and start blogging. Look at the services available in your cPanel and add them. But don’t complain about the cost. If you like to go out regularly for a drink, if you waste a lot of the food you buy and then do not eat or if you drive a lot, those can only be false economies at best and you have better things to do with your time and money. You also get private e-mail and all kinds of other things at no extra cost (unless you decide that you want more).

I express my attitude here at http://www.myeasternhorizons.com/wp/ (among others). I also have presences at (for example) the Vivaldi browser community (again, a free platform, better than its predecessor at Opera, and 5Gb of free e-mail account!!!). Dig into my blog to see my involvement with both of them historically. My personal blog there costs me money but I could have five times as much server space and not bat an eyelid, financially, each year as one year’s subscription to a 5Gb disk space (and unlimited bandwidth) would still be less than one month’s winter gas bill here in Korea. I kid you not. Do not complain about false economies!

Understand that there are elements of both false economy and hypocrisy involved not only in the deplatforming of established users but also in not voting with your feet because you are too cheap and lazy to platform yourself and tell your existing platforms to go take a hike. There, I said it.

Remember, as long as you stay with them, they own your opinion and control it.

What are you afraid of? I’ve done it, and so can you, so bite the bullet.

1: Independence from Japan at the end of WWII, that is…

Cancer Diary: Update 2018-08-08

As it happens, I made my way to Daegu yesterday evening, happening to be at the station shortly before the KTX departed from Jinju, which is turning out to be something of a pain for travel, as I live in the extreme north of the town, whereas the train station is some distance out to the south in an area which is currently being developed; somewhere in between is the bus station, but every time I go there, the buses are already fully booked. This is what happens when you cannot afford a car!!!

It turned out to be an evening of minor pleasures and pains: I got down to the Kyeongbuk National University Hospital area and decided for practical reasons to book in to the Mellow Yellow motel first, and here was a pleasant surprise: cheaper rooms available for ₩40,000 a night. I didn’t stay in for long because I was hungry, and made my way across to where the Pasta & Burger restaurant was – or rather, used to be; it was locked up!

Thereafter, I thought: “Hmm, what about the WaBar?” – so I made my way there, but even using Google Maps on the cell phone, it couldn’t be located, because it, too, was no more.

Finally, I thought: “Well, the sausages and chips at the Brewer’s Brothers are not amazing, but I do know that it’s still there.” – and it was. So I ordered said sausies and chips, and washed them down with three bottles of Chat Noir French cider (I shouldn’t, but…). Then made my way back to the motel, which by this time was quite a way.

That was when the fun began: very often, since my body started settling down in the post-operative phase, the urge to let it all out falls late at night rather than preferentially during an earlier hour of the day. It kept me up until about 2:00 a.m., so I didn’t get a lot of sleep before the alarm got me up, but in the morning I had plenty of time to complete relieving myself before hitting the subway to the hospital.

I actually had to wait about an hour before being dragged into the Professor’s consulting room, but we had a fairly lengthy discussion about how I had been feeling and the fact that I had been experiencing a quite strong reaction to the Lopmin muscle relaxant, so that I had to reduce dosage to a virtual minimum to avoid shitting dry, fossilised wood… he in turn told me that the only real concern based upon the previous set of test results was that my Vitamin D level was very low. I pointed out to him that I was taking some quite strong Canadian oil capsules for the Vitamin D, but he said that sunlight exposure would be more important (as Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin when exposed to sunlight).

Food-wise, red meats are apparently no longer frowned upon (as according to him, newer research has cast doubt upon their presumed link to carcinogenesis) and as these are a good source of cholesterol (which is very important, because Vitamin D is also synthesised from cholesterol), and I was definitely doing the right thing abstaining mostly from the stodgy work meals and taking vitamin supplements. I need to get more exercise, more sunlight and eat, therefore, food containing more Vitamin D precursors to make them available in the skin; and lose more weight.

The next test appointment was made for November, and the Professor apologised for not forwarding materials to me for his proposed review of the surgical method, but excused himself due to the recent death of an elderly relative. I again reminded him that I need some materials such as photos, diagrams, and information before I could do as promised, then bade him goodbye until the next time, and stepped out to get my blood samples taken…

The next port of call was my former office up the road and getting them up to date on what I had been up to, what had been happening and what they also had been doing. Not surprisingly, they were only running a weekday course as there had not been enough prospective students for any of the weekend courses; one student was unable to do her video presentation due to some unspecified illness. Again, I bid my ex-manager Jamie goodbye until November and made my way back to the subway, and thence to the East Daegu train station for the journey home.

Alas, the minor pleasures and pains had not ceased yet: I was too early and the next KTX to Jinju was not for another three hours!!! So I got the ticket and then walked down the concourse to see where I could sit comfortably while I was waiting. Holly’s was the place, so I got a coffee and dug out my charger to keep the phone going while I hit Facebook on a dodgy wifi link.

After returning to Jinju, I got a taxi back to the local Top Mart and bought some meat, yoghurt and other stuff, and then picked up some more cider on the way. My intention was certainly to hit the sack early tonight, but make sure that I was going to sleep!

Next week, I will be back in work, trying to avoid falling asleep because there will probably be no lessons until the end of the month and a lot of the “work” therefore involves sitting down at my desk; no doubt co-worker Jonathan will have some pithy observations about the period of my absence. Results from the latest batch of tests will be due soon, who knows, maybe by Friday. So now, I’m waiting.

Cancer Diary: Update 2018-08-03

Time for another one…

Three months (almost) since the last update, as we head towards the second quarterly blood sampling (which falls next Wednesday, how nice to have it during a vacation!), it’s probably a good time to take stock of the whole situation. What has been happening over the last three months?

Firstly, it has been difficult settling in to my new job, to the extent that I am already starting to think about what comes next. The reason for this was that the spring semester was so fragmented – we arrived here (co-worker Jonathan and I) pretty much in the dark about what was happening, and there were constant interruptions to lessons due to things like mass medical examinations and a week-long training exercise in Jeju which we only found out about relatively late in the proceedings; by the end of the semester, my scheduling was a mess. I have no desire for that to be repeated when the new semester begins in September.

Speaking of which, despite actually being in the middle of my vacation as I sit here typing this, I have already had to go in to the office three times in the last two weeks due to only belatedly being informed about writing up the new schedule for the fall semester. These (there are two: one for writing and one for speaking, as each class has two lessons each week) were completed last night, and it was hardly taxing (bearing in mind that later changes, i.e. during the semester itself, are expected, and after the way the last semester went, I can certainly believe it), but as we both (Jonathan and I) agreed, we could have put it all together in less than a day, at least two or three weeks ago; he (Jonathan) was actually on vacation in Thailand when he started getting text messages about it last week! As my spatial relationship with our office is less than optimal due to the public transport here, this is especially annoying (as I do not have my own car, of course) – the most convenient bus, which takes me actually into the base, comes only once every hour.

Another thing is that since the vacation is an extended period (due to having an extra five days of “business trip” allocated just before it began), I have been slipping back into my nocturnal habits, as I have never been a “morning person”, but with about nine more days to go I am getting up earlier to re-condition myself back into the necessary timeframe.

The big surprise (perhaps) is just how much sleep I have been needing during this vacation. There is little doubt in my mind that the stressful combination of having (and then paying for) the operation, being fired and having to find both a new job and new accommodation during the convalescence period all whilst already in the new job and planning and executing lessons has left me drained, but again, both Jonathan and I have been complaining about the fact that in too much of our non-teaching time, we have been essentially left to our own devices, and since we really only need maybe two lesson plans per week, this has led to a lot of thumb-twiddling (in his case, playing his favourite game on his Alienware laptop; in my case, reading e-books; in both cases, often falling asleep at our desks). This is a terrible waste of time, not to mention the fact that it is so unhealthy.

On the other hand, health-wise, things have felt fine: no pain, I am usually awake and alert with little tiredness after a mug of rocket-fuel fresh coffee in the morning. However, this lifestyle makes weight loss difficult, so I am increasingly trying to cut things out, especially wheat-based and other starchy products, as I may not have much opportunity normally to exercise them off. Another disadvantage of this new position is that the food given in the restaurant often has a high energy content, as it is intended for younger service staff who are expected to maintain a much higher exercise level; consequently, I have reduced the number of visits to the canteen.

Paradoxically, my main ‘issue’ seems to be the minimal medication prescribed for me by the Professor: the Lopmin capsules, to which my gut seems quite sensitive, to such an extent that, firstly, I had to reduce regular dosage to the minimum possible (one cap at a time), and secondly, with the obvious dehydration to be expected during a hot Korean summer, approaching weekends normally see me come off the medication temporarily so that I can empty my bowel properly. This has become a problem and I will have to mention it to the Professor next Wednesday; recall that the reason for the medication is to help the resected bowel stretch and slowly normalise its function (thus avoiding the need for frequent visits to the bathroom). Also, although in this situation additional dietary fibre should be advised, in practice this has often led to excessive loosening of the bowel (and too many visits to the bathroom), so I am also being careful not to consume too much fibrous food regularly.

Since the bowel has effectively become a trap for digested food due to this medication, there is also a ‘feedback’ sensation which recalls one of the symptoms experienced prior to the removal of the tumour: a feeling of nausea due to the backlog of partially-digested food, which has also been putting me off eating somewhat, which actually cannot be a bad thing – after all, if you are overweight, you can be pretty sure that in most cases, it’s due to (a) eating too much, (b) not enough exercise or (c) both. Something to bear in mind…

Another thing to bear in mind is that as well as reducing the amount of unnecessary biochemical energy (as sugar), there are also dangers inherent in consuming too much protein regularly. As it happens, another mail from Joe Mercola slurped its way into my Inbox overnight (1) and in it, he discusses the excess foods to avoid, the reasons why you should do so, and the benefits of intermittent fasting, something I have been trying to do but the medication seems to be getting in the way, as its action leads to accumulation of digested food in the remanent large intestine and difficulty in voiding it, making my abdomen alternately swell and contract. I have, however, been reducing the amount of yoghurt in my diet, which I was consuming in large quantities as soon after the operation as circumstances would allow (essentially for a convenient form of digestible protein), but the disadvantage is that most mass-manufactured yoghurts are firstly largely devoid of the fat content of a traditional yoghurt (due to the food industry’s reaction to Ancel Keys’ flawed research)(2) and secondly, to compensate for the alleged lack of flavour of fat-depleted yoghurts, due to the addition of digestible sugar, which nowadays, I presume, is largely fructose, which brings terrible effects of its own (3).

An additional point we might bear in mind is that a number of online health advisors (for example, Joel Marion (4) and Mike Geary (5)) have been pointing for years at the digestible carbohydrate content of dairy products as a possible reason why many people seem unable to lose weight and keep it lost. This is probably because of too much focus on glucose when there is in fact a variety of digestible saccharides coming into the body from a variety of foodstuffs; the focus on just glucose is therefore illogical and misdirected.

Anyway, I am feeling okay and looking forward to a brief trip back to Daegu next week for the blood sampling and a discussion of things with the Prof., and in the following two weeks I shall be back in the office. Hopefully, several issues will be resolved by then – a set of four new bookcases to be delivered from Gmarket (after an erroneous attempted purchase of cupboard doors without the attendant bookcases to which they were supposed to be attached – it can be difficult to extract information from Gmarket web pages sometimes!) and a few other bits and pieces. But I remain confident.

1: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/09/03/too-much-protein.aspx

2: See, for example: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/07/saturated-fat-cholesterol-heart-disease.aspx

3: Take a look at: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2018/08/01/liver-damage-growing-epidemic.aspx

4: For example, http://transformationinsider.com

5: For example, http://www.truthaboutabs.com/good-carbs-bad-carbs.html (but see the whole site)

Bang on the Button

Came across this on FB randomly this evening, and I agree with him all the way… so I’m sharing it here, too:

Max Igan: Everything is a Lie

Max is saying precisely what I am trying to adumbrate in these pages.

Cancer Diary: Update 2018/06/01

Some kind of progress…

Despite the stress of the last six months or so, things finally began to pull together this week as the last of the deposit on the new place was paid (liberating a lot of much-needed cash in the near future), although this really means having to live mainly on credit for the next month. Now, however, I can think seriously about replacing my lost bookcases and getting most of my possessions off the floor… meaning that there will be much more space available, sort of soon-ish.

From now on, things will normalise quite rapidly, and it seems to be working out likewise medically, also, as the reduction of Lopmin dosing loosens my insides and makes for more comfortable (if not entirely predictable, yet) sessions in the bathroom.

This is actually important: higher doses of Lopmin led to longer retention time for my stools, and as the function of the lower intestinal tract is (at least in part) the removal of water from whatever material is contained in the lumen before it is released, this has (up till now) meant having to void some very dry material, and it became clear quite quickly that some modulation of both dosing and the actual quantity of food consumed were necessary – as well as more serious consideration of how the matrices of the various food types being consumed were interacting with the other components of the system (imagine shitting large pieces of dry, fossilised wood). The question of water input (in terms of daily liquid consumption) seems something of a red herring at the moment, its effects possibly being disguised by those of the Lopmin; also, for a long time now, I have been consuming cashew nuts as a form of fibre but these need to be chewed well to avoid large (and sharp-edged) chunks passing through – good from the POV of digestive function, but possibly painful to pass (WTF, I’m alliterating again…).

In my own case, it seems to be a quite powerful drug, meaning that a relatively low dosage (one capsule = 2mg active component) has a relatively strong effect, which can be considered “adverse” in this context of preventing the retention and formation of (ultimately) very dry stools which can be painful to pass (bearing in mind that they have to pass through an area of the body which is still healing from surgery). The reduction of anal soreness as they soften is a welcome sign.

I contacted the Professor by text message to let him know what I was doing, as well as to inform him that we would have a quite extensive (about five weeks) summer break during which there would be plenty of time for me to work on his proposed English-language review of the FDD, which would also require additional input from him in terms of initial information about the structure, materials and original rationale of the FDD, its intended function, how it is operated, its interaction with a patient’s body and the intended timescale of usefulness (which was normally in the three weeks following the operation, during which it would be inserted into position, and then removal under the assumption that healing had progressed sufficiently). Some ready-made illustrations would be nice, too…

At work, as my students were in Jeju for most of this week, there have been no lessons, so I have been reading up on Korean language, linguistics, and also re-read Philip K. Dick’s “The Maze of Death”, thinking whilst so doing that it would be a good idea to read his “VALIS” at a later time, although to be honest, it has been difficult to stay awake during the afternoons… I do miss all of my Michael Moorcock novels back at home in England, but question whether it would be a good idea to have them sent here on the grounds that contracts for foreigners in South Korea are mainly for a year and you never really know what will be happening or where you will be a year after signing; this has never struck me as satisfactory, but on the other hand, since I left Mr. Lee’s hagwon in Changwon back in 2009, there has been little by way of stability in terms of location; my two years in Daegu seem to have been an exception rather than a rule.

Alas, I also had to say goodbye to my Speaking lesson co-worker of the past two months, Hoony, as he is returning to civilian life as a teacher, and his replacement will arrive on Friday, so that afternoon could be quite busy, but does at least have the advantage that all of the classes on Monday are the same (and hence so are also the lesson plans and materials), plus the first lesson is not until 11:30 a.m., so we can take things at a fairly relaxed pace.

Anyway, everything seems positive as we move into the summer.

Shit Happened. Frequently…

The last couple of days have certainly demonstrated to me that strange and unexpected things happen when situations are abnormal. However, some of what you experience is caused by others, and some of it is your own fault…

Being a patient person, as well as being a patient there, once I had given my blood samples back at the YUMC, I made my way home to Jinju (in unhurried fashion, as the Air Force had been kind enough to give us a few days off while our Korean co-workers were out and about around the province, looking for potential new grist for the high school’s mill when the current cohort disappears) and thinking: “Ah, it will take a couple of days for them to process those.”

So I waited.

And waited.

And a week later, I was still waiting…

Finally, the annual Buddha’s Birthday public holiday came around, almost two weeks later, and I would keep thinking to myself: “Hmm, wonder if the results were… not quite good?” and resolving to contact the Professor the following morning to find out.

In the post-operative phase, there is really nothing much to do (in the absence of anything requiring treatment) other than quarterly blood sampling and testing; only if there were signs of the thing having metastasised could you reasonably expect additional treatment along the lines of chemotherapy, and far be it from me to suggest that anything like that is even remotely desirable, except to note in passing, perhaps, that if all my hair fell out as a result of treatment, nobody would notice these days… But there’s the thing: in the absence of any further information, doubt constantly nags you. Are you in the clear, or not?

So, in the bus on my way to work, I texted the Prof and asked him about this, but dear Reader, not for that alone, oh no! You see, my single day of holiday, when I had planned to spend most of the day, er, sleeping, was marred by a gross (in every sense) gut malfunction. For several days, I had been avoiding the consumption of more than a little food, with the intention that I would not have to make frequent visits to the bathroom whilst not at work. The Professor had issued me with a three-month supply of Lopmin capsules and dosage instructions, and at this point, I had been following his bidding religiously for almost a fortnight. Then suddenly, my Poo Hole developed a dribble. This was not so unusual, as it had been a frequent happening while the FDD was in place, as indeed immediately thereafter, due to the fact that I had misunderstood the Prof’s previous instructions about what dose to take… but this was ridiculous. I couldn’t even lie down for any appreciable length of time before it was bothering me to take it to the shitter, but very little was coming out.

Then, early this morning, just as I was starting to worry that I would have to wear a double diaper again, it started to come but ohhh, dear, very hard and stiff. You see, dear Reader, while the upper portion of the intestine is geared towards post-stomach digestion of food, the lower portion is concerned primarily with dehydrating the remains, so that the body as a whole does not lose too much water too rapidly through defecation. Previous experience of delaying the departure of unwanted stools had convinced me that so doing was asking for trouble, as the rectum would then continue removing water until the stuff became stiff, hard and painful to pass; and that is precisely what, er, came to pass this morning. I had to go to work with a nasty, hard, stiff turd stuck in what remains of my once-capacious rectum, immobile and (truth to tell) somewhat painful; the jerky movements of the bus to work were hardly helpful. It wasn’t until the break between lessons this morning that I was finally able (with much grunting, groaning and moaning) to force the bastard out. After which a whole load came out more easily (but still not entirely painlessly), but I am sure that there is more waiting. You bet.

The Lopmin capsules I had been prescribed were (according to the Professor) intended to relax the part of the large intestine which had been grafted onto the forlorn remnant of my Poo Hole, thereby allowing it to slowly expand and eventually render a very similar level of storage function to that in the intact, pre-operative gut – this being necessary because the lumen diameter of the large intestine, which was attached to the anus during the operation, was much narrower than that of the segment which was removed; there was a diameter mismatch and hence, relaxation of the gut wall muscles (with Lopmin) plus time (he suggested about three to five years) should eventually cause the gut wall to stretch, hence restoring most of the lost functionality. The only trouble seems to have been that he was somewhat over-zealous in the dosing, with the result that the residence time for the average turd increased to the point where water withdrawal was maximised and so, alas, the necessary softness (for ease of passage, shall we say) was minimised. The result was much straining and pain… I have no doubt that it is in such circumstances that the Urban Legends of “Spiky Turds” emerge, the existence of which, paradoxically perhaps, the medical profession always seemed happy to deny (at least back in the UK).

To cut a long story short, after delivering the good news about the serological work, he suggested that I should reduce the individual doses to between one and three capsules, as required. Oh believe me, I certainly shall… during the first two weeks, I shat irregularly and probably only about two or three times a week, and when it finally emerged from my Nether Region, it tended to be large, stiff and difficult to disgorge. That Lopmin stuff is wayyy too strong... imagine shitting bits of dry, fossilised tree trunk. Like that.

Anyway, to conclude: despite the Prof’s admonition to avoid alcohol (and because of my training in biomedical science, I do know where he is coming from), I feel that some celebration of that type is due now. And at the weekend, come to think of it. Not crazy drinking, but just a little of what I have been mainly missing since last November.

Those were the outcomes of the first quarterly tests since my discharge from the hospital. The next tests will be due in August, and hopefully will return the same results.

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.

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