It is now around my one-year “cancerversary.” On October 22, 2018, I visited a doctor and heard the words no one wants to hear: “you have breast cancer.”
A month later, I had a mastectomy with lymph node dissection and it has been a long and winding road since: eight preserved embryos, genetic testing, 18 rounds of chemotherapy, 25 radiotherapy sessions, hormone therapy, and all their accompanying side effects.
But throughout this process, I’ve been blessed with a cutting-edge and caring medical team in Japan, and supportive and loving family and friends by my side. Thank you for being there, for listening, for letting me cry, for making me laugh, for lifting me up. I love you so much!
I’m learning a lot on this journey. I’ve been reminded of the shortness and fragility of life, and somehow that helps me let go of anxiety and anger and find strength. I’ve also become more aware of the significance of self-care and breast self-exams, especially in young women who might overlook the symptoms.
I’m trying to heal, inside and out, to fill up my cup with love, nourishment and knowledge, so that I can give back in the best way I can. I want to help create awareness about cancer, especially among the underserved.
Now that much of my treatment is done, and in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I started the fundraiser “Kumano Kodo for a Cure.” A registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kumano Kodo is an ancient, sacred pilgrimage route that stretches across the mountainous Kii Peninsula.
From October 22 to 27, I walk the classic Nakahechi route and stop at healing hot springs to help adolescents and young adults at every step of their journey facing cancer.
It has been my dream to hike the Kumano Kodo as it is the sister pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago in Spain that I walked four years ago. Many of you know what the Camino means to me, and it feels special and symbolic that I circle back to this spiritual path.
So, I welcome you to walk alongside me and support an important cause that touches my heart and many lives. After talking with my oncologist about the needs in Japan, I chose to forward all contributions to the AYA Oncology Alliance. Of the approximately 1 million people newly diagnosed with cancer each year in Japan, roughly 20,000 are aged between 15 and 39.
Although cancer diagnosis and treatment have a tremendous impact on our lives, not enough attention is given to early detection or the unique anxieties that young people with cancer face, such as how treatment can disrupt school, work, fertility, and relationships at a time when we should be going after our dreams with momentum.
Cancer might slow us down but of it doesn’t have to stop us. AYA Oncology Alliance envisions a new healthcare and social environment where young people can thrive with and beyond cancer. Donations will enhance clinical activities, promote research, and raise awareness
I invite you to see my journey as a symbol of the journey of all people who go through this difficult disease and walk with us in solidarity and generosity. My hope is that with your support, we can help young cancer patients through every step of their journey facing cancer.
You can donate from 500 yen ($5) with the “Support” button at the bottom right of the screen. Please feel free to make a donation and forward to your friends! My target amount, 500,000 yen (about $5,000) is based on the reported median out-of-pocket cost of surgery + systemic therapy in Japan.
* All donations will be donated to the organization, excluding the settlement fee.