(and boy he received some nasty tweets in response...)
Yasumi Iwakami is arguably one of the best known independent journalists in Japan covering the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, particularly among net users. I happened on Iwakami's live netcast of TEPCO press conferences on his USTREAM channel very early on in the crisis, and have followed him and his reporting since.
He was one of the independent journalists allowed inside the plant compound in February this year on the second plant tour for the press (first one was in November last year). And ever since, he seems to have been plagued with one health discomfort after another. He tweeted about them on April 10, and someone compiled a "togetter" - a string of tweets.
First, the translation of Iwakami's 15 tweets as they appear on the togetter, with Iwakami's express permission to translate:
As I've been having you worried, I thought I'd give you a progress report. First, to tell you about what has happened so far: on February 20, two days after reporting from Fukushima I Nuke Plant, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Then I started to have fever, and was finally diagnosed as having appendicitis. After 5-day fasting treatment, I recovered. And I thought appendicitis was a transitory (one-time) illness. But then...
My diarrhea continued even though I continued to take medicine to control intestinal function, and I had occasional fever. This weekend, I was knocked down by the 4th fever in a month and a half. I consulted my doctor about my poor physical health in March, and we decided to test for tumor markers and do the colonoscopy. Yesterday evening, my doctor explained to me the result of the tests.
The biopsy of the polyp found in the colonoscopy turned out be benign, not malignant. It was "adenoma", so it was the third stage [there are 5 stages]. This polyp and diarrhea were not related, according to my doctor, and his diagnosis was "irritable bowel syndrome". The cause was "stress". I had a sore throat and fever that day, but that was a common cold, according to the doctor. When I asked him why I was having a cold this often...
His answer was "weakened immune system". What caused it? "Stress", he said. I wasn't convinced with his explanation that everything was caused by stress. I have had a stressful life all this time. So I told him that I had never had a string of ill health like this before, though I did fall ill occasionally.
My doctor said, "There is a threshold to stress tolerance. Once people cross that threshold they succumb to stress." It was the effect of radiation I had been exposed to by entering and reporting from Fukushima I Nuke Plant that concerned me. But my doctor had been totally negative on that.
He had said to me repeatedly, "Effect of radiation has nothing to do with your ill health. It's only the thyroid that is affected by radiation exposure, and that has been medically proven." Then, when he explained the test results to me yesterday, he said, "According to the result of the test for tumor markers, there is an abnormality in the thyroid. You need a more thorough examination."
甲状腺 意表を突かれて言葉が出ない。そこ 甲状腺以外の腫瘍マーカー検査項目はすべて正常値。甲状腺の検査項目、サイログロブリンだけが基準値を若干オーバー。「放射線の影響が出るのは甲状腺だけ」と断言していた主治医との間で、気まずい空気が。
Thyroid? I was speechless at this unexpected announcement. Other tumor markers were all normal. For markers for thyroid, thyroglobulin was slightly above the reference value. We felt awkward; he was the one who had declared to me that it was only the thyroid that would be affected by radiation exposure.
検査機関から返されてきた検査報告書にも、「甲状腺炎や甲状腺腫の可能性もありますので、甲状腺の画像検査をお受けください」と書かれている。つまり、こ れは被曝の影響ということだろうか？ その問いには主治医は直接答えず、「数値も、若干のオーバーですから、深刻に考えずに」と。
The test report from the lab stated, "Since there is a possibility that it is thyroiditis or goiter, please have [ultrasonic echo] diagnostics done on the thyroid". Did this mean it was the result of radiation exposure? My doctor didn't answer my question directly, but said, "The number is only slightly above the reference range, so don't take it too seriously."
It's not that I want to emphasize the causal relationship between [my ill health] and the radiation exposure from reporting from Fukushima I Nuke Plant. I'd rather think there is no effect. I don't want that effect. Somehow I'd always thought it would not be possible that I would get sick. I wanted to visit Fukushima again and again and report. But...
For now, the reasons for my ill health are stress and weakened immune system. Whether that has anything to do with radiation exposure is "unknown", or "not clear", and that is the diagnosis of my doctor. Through my report of "100 stories from 100 people", I have heard about many instances of ill health from people in Fukushima: nosebleed, diarrhea, fever, fatigue, dermatitis, heart palpitation, etc.
I think I finally understand the helpless feeling these Fukushima people must have when they tell me about their ill health. What is the cause? What can we do to improve the condition?
To be fair, my doctor is a good doctor. He is kind, and he explains things clearly. He underestimates the effect of radiation exposure, but that is the result of having been trained in the modern medicine and not his personal prejudice (I think). It must be true when he says, "If you go past 50 years of age, your physical strength suddenly collapses".
Well then, what should I do? Whatever the cause (aging, fatigue, stress, radiation exposure all combined, maybe), it's not that I could remove the radiation that I've already been exposed to. (According to the dosimeter from TEPCO, my exposure was 74 microsieverts.)
In the end, all I can do is to strengthen my immune system. Reduce stress, enough rest and sleep, and eat healthy food (this is difficult). I'll make sure I get tested regularly. Patiently nursing myself back to good health is what I should do. My doctor said to me, "Go to karaoke and sing." Well, that too.
It so happens that I will interview Mr. Matashichi Oishi at 2PM tomorrow. He is a former crew member of Daigo Fukuryu-Maru, who was irradiated [near Bikini Atoll]. And the day after tomorrow, I will interview Shuntaro Hida, on the completion of "Nuclear Scar" (核の傷, movie). As you know, he is a medical doctor who was exposed to radiation in Hiroshima.
To this togetter, there are many, many comments ridiculing and taunting Iwakami. Just one or two example would suffice to get the gist of them:
Oh I see. He hasn't gotten enough victims of radiation, so he's claiming he's one of them.
He brought it on himself. Looking at these comments here, it's so apparent how much Mr. Iwakami is hated, what sinful things he has done...
I don't know where this vitriol is coming from. As with other prominent journalists and researchers, experts on Fukushima, I don't agree with Iwakami 100% on many issues, but without doubt he is one of the most dedicated journalists tirelessly covering the plight of people in Fukushima, incompetent handling of the accident and the aftermath by TEPCO and the government.
I think Hayakawa got it right when he said this is a war, that there are two very distinctive groups of people in Japan whose take of the nuclear accident and outlook on life after the radiation contamination are so vastly different that there is no ground for compromise.