Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
“Okinawa is such a beautiful place, not just the ocean and scenery and culture, but the people. I’ve been treated well and taken care of by many people here in what has become ‘My Hawai‘i.’”
— Colin Sewake
Aloha “My Hawai‘i” Readers,
Merry Christmas, Mele Kalikimaka, Merii-Kurisumasu, Feliz Navidad…whatever language you say it in, I send you my holiday greetings from Okinawa as 2020 comes to a close.
It’s been over a year since I’ve written a “My Hawai‘i” column, so I thought I’d send an update before another year goes by. Some of you may have heard that I underwent three brain surgeries in Kagoshima in 2019 to remove an acoustic neuroma tumor (right side) that had grown back from the initial surgery in 2015 when I was first diagnosed with a 3.5-cm tumor.
About 25% of the tumor had been left behind to preserve the facial nerve during that first surgery in Georgia in 2015, but it grew back. To take out the tumor in 2019, I was fortunate to be under the hands of Dr. Takanori Fukushima from Tokyo. The most well-known and sought-after neurosurgeon in Japan, Dr. Fukushima normally resides in North Carolina, where he is part of the Duke University staff. But he returns to Japan several times during the year to perform surgeries here and also travels to other international locations outside of the U.S.
Removing the tumor was a difficult task, because it had attached itself to the surrounding area. Long story short, I had to undergo the three surgeries in August, September and November of 2019 and experienced facial paralysis after the last one. As a result, I’ve been unable to smile and blink on my right side which further caused the eye to dry out, causing scratches to the cornea. A year later, my distant vision has returned to near what it had been before the surgery, but I still have double vision and don’t feel comfortable driving. So I’ve been mostly at home taking care of the house and doing some part-time work via the computer, in addition to going to numerous doctor’s appointments, mostly for my eye.
Dr. Fukushima said that of the 24,000+ surgeries and cases that he’s worked on in his career, I’m in his top five most difficult ones and that if I didn’t have the tumor removed in another month or so, I would have experienced a stroke because of the pressure against the brainstem.
Despite all this, I’ve been doing well and have gotten a little more active in recent months, especially in the area of eating out more, so that I could collect stamps for the Yomitan Marugoto Stamp Rally. The rally was created to help the local businesses of Yomitan. Local residents could collect stamps from participating shops; for every completed card of three stamps, they would have their name put in a drawing for prizes. I completed 14 cards but wasn’t contacted by the FM Yomitan radio station after the Dec. 10 drawing. So I guess that means I didn’t win anything … shucks!
I’ll be on the lookout again for stories and info to share from here whenever I can get around. I hope you’re all doing well and staying safe.
Colin Sewake is a keiki o ka ‘äina from Wahiawä, who was assigned to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa in December 1994 to fulfill his U.S. Air Force ROTC commitment. There, he met his future wife, Keiko, and decided to make Okinawa his permanent home. Colin is now retired from the Air Force and the Air Force Reserves. He and Keiko have two children and live in Yomitan.