Fukuro Sabo Owl Cafe Kokubunji, Tokyo

You might have heard about the themed cafes here in Japan-cat, rabbit, bird, hammock, maid, butler- the list goes on.

Personally, they’re one of my favorite things in Tokyo because there’s very few themed cafes and restaurants in America.

In June my husband and I visited the Fukuro Sabo Owl Cafe in Kokubunji, Tokyo to celebrate our birthdays (he is 1 day older than I am).

The cafe itself is about a 15 minute walk from Kokubunji station and is situated in a residential area, so prepare for a short walk downhill.

It is very small and seats maybe 10 people, so be sure to consider that if you decide to visit the cafe. You might even have to wait outside for a table, but you can pass the time by watching the huge brown owls who live just in front of the indoor cafe space. I do not know the species, but they are really large and beautiful.

The staff speaks virtually no English, and back then we spoke and understood even less Japanese than we did now. We still had a wonderful time even though we couldn’t talk with the staff as much as we wanted to. Now that I think about it, we might go back there since we can at least understand more of the language, even though we both struggle to speak it.

The menu is also in Japanese, but there are pictures of a few of the items. If I remember correctly we just bought soda, but they offer coffee, tea, sweets, spaghetti, and a few other simple menu items. You are also given a picture menu of the owls they have available for you to hold and pet.

You eat first, then the owl is brought out so there’s no worry about getting feathers in your food! First the staff brings a leather glove and a few towels, then they gently place the owl on your arm and show you how to pet him/her. You can take as many pictures (without flash) as you want, so it was a really nice experience.

I chose to hold Shiro, a barn owl. I told the staff that it was our birthday and she let me hold the other barn owl for free as a present! The Japanese people never cease to amaze and humble me with their hospitality and kindness.

This was an unexpected experience in the center of a large residential district, so if you get the opportunity to visit the Sabo Owl cafe, please do so.

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Kawaii Neko (Cat) Marshmallows from Japan

I saw these neko (cat) marshmallows on the internet somewhere a few weeks ago and decided I had to check it out!

I am fortunate to live in Japan, because these marshmallows are not sold in stores, kind of like a direct mail-order situation.

However, fear not fellow foreigners!

With their popularity exploding thanks to the internet, the company created a version of their site that caters for foreigners living outside Japan. Their Facebook page also includes tips in English for foreign buyers.

It took about 2 weeks for these to arrive from Nagano to Tokyo, but I imagine it is because of how many orders they have received recently.

The cat marshmallows are my favorite, but the paws are cute, too. They float on top of your hot chocolate or coffee, and while they do eventually melt, they do their job. They entertain you while they’re solid, and taste great once melted.

The texture is just like mochi, and I think they’re the best tasting marshmallows I’ve ever eaten.

I hope you enjoy these pictures, and I hope you’ll think about ordering a box of your own!

 

Burger King Japan- Kuro (Black) Diamond Burger

American living in Tokyo, here.

Japan seems to really like promotional and limited edition items, and I’m starting to enjoy the novelty of it, too!

This October I finally was able to get my hands on a kuro (black) burger from Burger King Japan while visiting Akihabara.  The kuro burger has a black bun and black cheese colored with bamboo charcoal and squid ink ketchup.

I meant to try the kuro earlier in the summer, but with my whole cancer thing all my plans got put on hold.  Once I was feeling better I was relieved to learn that the kuro burger was still being served and that I hadn’t entirely missed it.

I rarely eat fast-food, but I was willing to give this a try since we never have anything like this in America.

So, how did it taste?

The bun was crispy; in fact, the bun was my favorite part.

I don’t like fast-food cheese slices, but I still ate it since it was limited edition. It tasted fine (remember, this is coming from someone who doesn’t like fast-food cheese).

The burger was good- the typical Burger King patty.

Would I eat it again?

Since I don’t like fast-food I have to say no.

But, hypothetically… if I was someone who regularly ate fast-food I’d say yeah, totally, but without the cheese. It tasted pretty good for fast-food!

Kuro Diamond Burger King wrapper

Unwrapping the Kuro Diamond burger

 

Kuro Diamond Burger King

Burger King Japan’s Kuro Diamond Burger

 

 

How Thyroid Cancer and Hypothyroidism Changed My Body

Here’s a link to my post detailing my Cancer diagnosis and treatment timeline .

I used to have a very predictable, dependable body. I knew how much exercise I had to do to work off that cookie I had at lunch. I knew how long it would take for me to recover from vacation/travel eating. I knew my body really well. Then I got cancer.

I think an active list of my symptoms might not only help me, but might benefit someone trying to figure out their new life as a hypothyroid patient.

I am not a doctor, so please track your own symptoms and discuss them with your doctor.

Symptoms I have experienced so far:

  • weight gain
  • hair loss
  • insomnia
  • nightmares
  • pungent body odor
  • brain fog/forgetfulness
  • language/writing problems

 

1. Weight gain

After my other thyroid was removed I gained 10 pounds in a month. While I understand that 10 pounds is not much when compared to other thyroid patients, it is unusual for me. It is also a significant amount of weight for a petite person like myself. I am thankful for only gaining a small amount of weight, but I must note it as a way that thyroid cancer and hypothyroidism changed my body.

I have lost 2 pounds since my RIA (radio-iodine ablation) mid- September 2014, but that’s the most my weight has budged.I have 8 pounds to go to be at my pre-cancer weight.

I eat a calorie restricted diet and try to aim for high protein, low carbs. I eat a lot of fish, and soy.

While soy consumption is controversial, my endocrinologist advised that I can eat soy, I just have to eat it 4 hours after taking my thyroid pill.

Resolution (for now): 

Yesterday (11/18) I started a 2 workout a day plan. I am not doing strength training, but have read that strength training/weight lifting might help with weight loss for someone in my condition. I don’t have easy access to weights, but I’m looking into how to change that.

2. Hair Loss

After the second time my Levothroxine was increased I noticed that my hair began falling out. It isn’t coming out in huge clumps, but it does come out daily. I find it on my pillow, in my brush, in the shower, and in my bicycle helmet. This has never happened before.

When I get my hair cut it is even worse, so I avoid going as often as I should. I had to explain to my Japanese stylist that I was taking medicine that made my hair fall out so he didn’t worry when he saw all of it come out as he cut.

3. Insomnia

For the past 5 months I have been taking Levothroxine at night (per my doctor). I have never suffered from insomnia before, but I would lie awake for about 3-4 hours on average.

Resolution:

I decided to start taking my medicine in the morning (which is what is on the bottle) on 11/6.  The day of my first morning dose I had a lot of energy (ran/biked 2 miles) and I fell asleep within 30 minutes and had no nightmares.

A week later and I still have had no more nightmares and no trouble falling asleep.

4. Nightmares

I would also have terrible nightmares every night. It became normal for me, but just a few days before switching to a morning dose my husband commented that I have had persistent nightmares. Over time I just stopped noticing.

Resolution: (see #3) 

5. Pungent body odor

I have tried many things to alleviate the body odor that has accompanied my thyroid condition. What was strange is that after I had my surgeries the odor was gone for a few months while my thyroid medication was very low. Once it increased to 125 mcg the odor came back.

I don’t drink coffee, only 1-2 cups of black tea a day. I don’t drink much soda, maybe 1-4 diet sodas a month.

I’ve tried washing my armpits with baking soda, stainless steel (smooths stone) soap, rubbing alcohol, lymph drainage massage, antibacterial body soaps, and all kinds of deodorant+ antiperspirant.

I shower twice a day, sometimes more.

One arm is stronger than the other, and it’s opposite the side of my body where the cancer was present. Very strange.

I have tried a variety of laundry techniques, too. Baking soda, vinegar, ammonia, sun drying, boiling water, several different sports detergents and laundry scrubs. That worked for a while, but once my hormones start getting out of control the smell comes back.

 Resolution (for now):

I learned about transdermal magnesium chloride therapy while talking to another hypothyroid patient on Reddit. I figured that I had nothing to lose, so I bought a bottle on Amazon.

I have been using it for 3 days, and my body odor is minimal, even while on my period. I did not ask my doctor about this, because he told me he does not believe that non-prescription methods work. He also did not believe that my strong body odor was related to my thyroid issues. I am not a doctor, but this is my body, and I disagree.

6. Brain fog, forgetfulness, scatterbrain, thyroid brain

I have always been known for my amazing memory and ability to complete tasks quickly and efficiently. However, after the most recent dosage increase I noticed I could no longer remember even the most basic of things.

I repeat stories, I forget what I was doing, I have trouble completing work and household tasks. It is extremely frustrating for me. I have told my doctor, but the symptom remains untreated.

I asked about taking ginko biloba, but the doctor told me  that it probably won’t work and that it isn’t FDA approved, and left the conversation at that.

Resolution (for now): 

I keep forgetting to take it (go figure), but I think that taking my Levothroxine in the morning has helped. I am still foggy and forgetful, but it seems like it doesn’t disrupt my life as much as it did before switching to a morning dose.

7. Difficulty writing/editing

As a technical writer this is very difficult for me. My job involves writing, and having to proofread so diligently and STILL finding basic mistakes makes me want to scream. Writing and editing have always come naturally to me, but I can no longer do it in the same capacity that I could before cancer and hypothyroidism.

Resolution (for now): 

This one is tough. I keep making mistakes. I will keep making mistakes unless I am very careful with my editing. There are probably mistakes in this post that, even though I’ve combed over it a few times, I still don’t see. I just have to keep an eye on it and try harder.

My Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Timeline

I am a healthy woman who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 29. I do not smoke, drink alcohol rarely, avoid fast food, and exercise frequently.

Cancer is scary. While thyroid cancer is treatable it leaves us with completely new bodies. Nothing works like it used to, and trust me…that is frustrating.

I am writing about my experiences in a series of posts because I hope it can help somebody else who develops this condition.

One question I am always asked is “how did you discover you had  cancer?”  Well, that’s an interesting story.

People want to know how I found out I had a problem, so here’s my diagnosis and treatment timeline.

 

Late December 2012:

I went to the emergency room from work because I suddenly had pain with breathing. I called the nurse line and was told that because of my birth control I could be having a pulmonary embolism.

David was on the flight line, so I drove myself to the ER.

After several hours and many tests they discovered the real problem.

I had thyroid nodules/cysts that had gotten so large on the left side of my throat that that they had nowhere to swell too on my small frame, pushing the swelling into my lungs and throat.

Other symptoms that developed prior to this ER visit was a very pungent body odor. It wasn’t regular BO. It was worse than that. I actually blogged about it here.

Thyroid nodules are prevalent in my family, so I wasn’t too concerned.

I was released from the ER and told to schedule a referral to an endocrinologist.

February 2013:

More ultrasounds and tests in January.

By February I had the needle biopsy, but it was only done on the largest nodule. It came back clear and this doctor said he did some sort of DNA analysis on me and I am very low risk for cancer.

The swelling was controlled  over the months with an as-needed steroid medication.

We moved to Japan in November 2013.

January 2014:

The doctors here in Japan noticed that I had not had a followup since last year and made me go through the tests again.

I really wasn’t trilled about it, but went ahead with it.

The ultrasound showed the left nodule had grown quite a bit, and had visible black spots.

I had another needle biopsy, and it came back clear.

However, I was urged to consider tissue biopsy, so I did.

My nose was broken when I was 5 years old. During the consultation for my thyroid the doctor noted that he could also fix my nose.

The same doctor would perform a septoplasty, but he got military orders to move later this summer. This meant he would not be able to do my nose work unless we acted fast.

I asked him to do both the thyroid lobectomy and the septoplasty at the same time because I really felt he was the best surgeon for the work.

May 2014:

He agreed, and I had both procedures done May 28, 2014.

Strangely I had no symptoms (other than the swelling in my throat) until about 2 weeks before my surgery date.

I started having trouble waking up and getting moving. I started feeling the need to take naps, and I started feeling very unusual- not like myself.

The tumor that was removed was a little over an inch long and had big black spots.

The tissue biopsy results revealed stage i thyroid cancer- papillary with a follicular variant. The tumor was t2 in size.

June 2014:

I had the second surgery to remove my other thyroid on June 30th. The masses on the right side that were removed also had possible spots.

July 2014:

Despite the spots, the right side had no cancer.

August/September 2014:

Received a small dose of radioactive iodine at an Army hospital in Hawaii. This should have destroyed any remaining thyroid cells that were left in my body.

I will have regular blood work and yearly body scans to check for cancer. The radioactive iodine treatment does increase my risk of getting other types of cancer, but at the moment I am all clear.

Beware Orivet Genetics and AnimalsDNA.com

This is one of the worst shopping experiences I have ever had, so I feel obligated to keep other people from making my mistake.

PLEASE avoid Orivet Genetics (AKA AnimalsDNA.com).

I wanted to see what one of our cat’s DNA looked like out of curiosity and after much research I found a company that claims to support breeders and individuals.

I’m honestly not sure how a breeder could work with them considering my one cat’s results have not been produced and I ordered it on February 18, 2014.

It is now August 12, 2014.

Below is the status of my test as of today.

—- DNA FINGERPRINT (PROFILE) – CAT Pending Tue, 18 Feb 2014

I searched my inbox and found 11 emails from the company since March 12 in reply to my questions about where my cat’s results are.

Each email promised my results in 1-2 weeks. Some even gave a specific date or day of the week.

Their emails contain excuses for the delay including :

  • they forgot (wow, really?)
  • that my several emails sat in Junk mail for a few weeks
  • that their email system was down for a long period of time
  • and that they had to “sit down” with their geneticist for a stern talking to.  That stern talking to happened June 27 and I have heard nothing since.

I was given 2 test results that I did not order as a consolation, but honestly I’m not sure if they even ran my cat’s sample to make those reports.

I imagine that falsifying cat DNA reports might be fairly easy by someone who knows how to do it, so I’m not even sure if the 2 reports I received are legitimate.

Please, please do not buy any DNA tests from this company. They have proven themselves to be both unprofessional and untrustworthy.

 

UPDATE 10/7/2014

After a few unanswered emails I got fed up and send another email that I had contacted my credit card company for a charge back/ transaction dispute. That email was answered within a business day and I received a PayPal payment. With the currency conversion and PayPal fee it wasn’t quite the full amount I originally paid, but I’m just thankful to get any of it back.

I still stand by my warning because it took 8 months to get a refund. Be careful when you do business online!

 

Living With and Without Cancer

This might end up being a post that I regularly update- I’m not sure yet.

“I’m not sure yet” pretty much sums up my life lately, both with and without cancer.

It’s almost mid August and I still mentally feel like it’s June (before I had my first cancer removal surgery). That’s weird. It’s weird that I still expect to celebrate my birthday and July 4th, and do all sorts of other summery things..but those have already passed.

I’m here, but I’m not here. That’s also strange. I’m here, but it’s not the me that was here before I had surgery. My entire body is different now.

I can’t even process alcohol the same way. I had 2 small drinks and thought I was dying the next day. I threw up all morning and in to the afternoon. That’s never happened in all my younger good-time-having years.

What worked for me to maintain my figure doesn’t work anymore now that I don’t have a thyroid.

I have developed a small protruding belly. I can’t run as fast as I used to be able to. I don’t feel as motivated to lose the weight because nothing I do seems to work.

I worry I’ll get to the point where I say “meh, I can’t get back to where I was- might as well have this big [soft pretzel/doughnut/piece of pizza/12 inch sub sandwhich]…” The old me would have turned my nose up at that junk.

I already ate well and watched my caloric intake before. I am swimming and running/walking on alternating days (or as weather permits). I wear my weight loss workout clothing, but I still can’t break through my post-op weight gain.

It’s only 4 to 5 pounds, but on my petite frame it sits right on my stomach, which is really irritating. I know, I know- I’m thankful to be alive-really. I just miss the old me, the body I worked hard for. The body that responded correctly to my input and exercise. I can’t figure out what to do to get back there, or if it’s even possible.

The scar on my collar bone makes planking uncomfortable, but I started again today anyway.

My doctor told me I was eating too few calories for a post-op healing body (at 1,000-1300 a day, which is what I was eating before surgery). but I can’t eat more. My stomach is much smaller than it used to be a few years ago.

I’m sick, but I’m not sick. I look fine, except for my scar. I’m struggling at work to keep up with my projects and not be the weakest member of the team. I’ve never been weak and inefficient, but I am now.

I have to ask for help, I have to turn down projects, I have to explain to coworkers from other teams who don’t know me and get frustrated with my work that “hey, I’m normally not this stupid/inefficient/inept at my job but I was diagnosed with cancer this summer and I’m trying my best to keep up-I’m sorry.”

Asking for understanding and forgiveness from others puts me at a disadvantage- it makes me look weak. They’re nicer to me and more understanding afterward I talk to them about it, but I don’t like being the weakest link. I feel like they feel sorry for me, and I hate that feeling.

Cancer has taken a lot of people I love from me in the past, and now it’s taken some things I loved about me away, too.