I downloaded my Twitter archive today for my main account @makiwi. In March 2011, I tweeted 7,041 times. Most of that were my desperate efforts to try to keep people updated with news regarding the earthquake coming from Japan. What a crazy, crazy month that was.
But what a year 2011 was.
It started out well with the book tour in January, getting to meet some great people in Seattle - my first visit there, certainly not my last I hope. February was an iffy month since we couldn't stay in our house in France due to gaping holes in the wall and it being too cold, so we were in Zürich squished into a tiny studio apartment. Then in March - the earthquake.
As soon as the airlines would let me I flew to Japan, and spent about 3 months there. I talked to so many people and wrote about it a lot, mainly trying to convey that life was returning to normal for most people who did not live in the Tohoku region...
In June while I was still in Japan, I started bleeding very heavily. I'd always had irregular periods so I didn't think too much of it, even though it was really bad, and then it stopped. I flew back to Switzerland, then back France...but we still couldn't live in the house, so we rented an apartment in Aix-en-Provence for about a month. My mom came back with me, and she got to enjoy Aix at least. I couldn't go out with her too much because I was too tired all the time.
She went home in July...and my husband and I moved back to the house, which by now was semi-habitable, although we still had no kitchen. (We didn't get a kitchen until July 2012, and the work on the house is still not quite finished, although at least there are no more major holes in the outer walls. The floor in the living room was finally installed in December. Oh and there was the burglary. I guess 2012 was not uneventful either.)
A couple of weeks later, I started bleeding really, really heavily. But still I stupidly resisted going to the doctor. The reason? I had become so conditioned to 'toughing it out' when I lived in New York, and had a HMO with a very high co-pay. In my 20s and early 30s I could tough out most things without too much consequence of course.
On a Sunday in August, around 3am, I called my husband and told him that he better call an ambulance. He was very relieved that I finally relented I think. I was so weak that I couldn't walk the few feet from my room to the front door, so he pushed me to the door while I sat on my office chair.
They took me first to the clinic in our village, then to a maternity/ob-gyn hospital in Orange. I don't remember too much about the next few days in the hospital - I know there was an operation, and I do remember a ton of tests. Then the diagnosis: cancer, that was 'quite advanced'. This was hospital stay no. 1.
I left the hospital for a while, while a group of specialists conferred over how to treat me. (This is standard procedure in France by the way.) They decided that a hysterectomy followed by radiation therapy was the way to proceed. I had the hysterectomy in October in Avignon, which went well, all things considered. Lots of pain initially, but painkillers do wonders, and I was out of the hospital in a week. That was hospital stay no. 2.
I was prescribed a daily visit from a nurse - another thing that's included in your health insurance coverage in France. One came every day to clean my surgery wound. Things were going fine for a couple of weeks, but my wound was not healing right - it was getting infected. The nurse told me to go to the doctor (the first one, the gynecologist in Orange) right away. I went to the hospital in Orange thinking the doctor would just prescribe some antibiotics or something. Instead, he hospitalized me right away. I was in there for 2 weeks, until he was satisfied that my infection had cleared up. That was stay no. 3.
I finally left the hospital in late November. During the time I was there I hadn't checked my email or Facebook, and just glanced at my Twitter, because...well, I was too tired. I did have my phone and my iPad with me, but the most energy I could muster was to watch movies on the latter and listen to podcasts on the former. So as soon as I got home I logged on to my laptop - and there was a message on Twitter from my cousin Masato asking me to contact him right away. I'd never talked to this cousin before - he's a lot younger than me, and he wasn't even born when my family left Japan in 1980 to go to the U.S. There was also an email from my father's ex-girlfriend telling me to contact the Floral Park, New York police department right away. I knew then that something had happened to my father.
I called Masato, who lived in Mississippi. As I feared, my father had passed away, just a couple of days before. He'd been found dead in his apartment, and the only relative the police had contact information for in the country was Masato. (I guess the Floral Park police don't call international numbers or something if they can help it, and at the time my father was rather estranged from my sister Meg and probably didn't have her phone number around.)
2011 was quite a year.
Thanks for bringing back the memories, Twitter archive. I think.
P.S.: Whenever I hear myself bitching about something in France (e.g. Chronopost, Orange, the paperwork, etc...) I remind myself that their excellent healthcare system saved my life.