In Japan, people rarely talk about cancer. You usually only hear about someone’s battle with the disease when they either beat it or die from it.
But 34-year-old newsreader Mao Kobayashi decided to break the mould with a blog – now the most popular in the country – about her illness and how it has changed her perspective on life.
Popular television presenter Mao Kobayashi has been battling “serious” breast cancer for about 2 years and is undergoing treatment, her kabuki actor husband, Ichikawa Ebizo.
He said the disease is “spreading really fast,” and doctors have warned the couple that they face a tough road ahead.
Two years ago, when she was 32, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her daughter was three, her son was only one. She thought: “It’ll be OK because I can go back to being how I was before once the cancer is treated and cured.”
But it wasn’t that easy and she still has cancer in her body.
For a long time she hid the disease. Because her job involved appearing on TV she was scared about being associated with illness or showing people her weaknesses.
She would try to avoid being seen on the way to hospital appointments and she stopped communicating with people so as not to be found out.
“But while wanting to go back to who I was before, I was actually moving more and more towards the shadows, becoming far removed from the person I wanted to be. “
After living like that for 2 years, her palliative treatment doctor said something that changed her mind.
“Don’t hide behind cancer,” doctor said, and she realised what had happened. she was using it as an excuse not to live any more.
The mother of two is receiving chemotherapy and has contemplated surgery. And Ebizo said Mao’s ordeal is compounded by her separation from their children.
“As a mother, she can’t be with her little kids. I believe she is battling a sense of devastation I can’t possibly imagine,” he said.
“I won’t run away from this ordeal. I will tackle it head-on,” he added. The 38-year-old kabuki actor, known for his outspoken style and brash demeanor, maintained his composure while speaking before around 200 reporters.
he confessed he was “completely at a loss” when he first learned of his wife’s cancer through a health checkup. The family had tried to keep her condition “top secret” but decided to go public.
Even their two children, 4-year-old daughter Reika and 3-year-old son Kangen, have only just begun to understand that their mother is ill, he said.
Ebizo called the past 2years excruciating, but said that while the ordeal is not over, there is still hope for a positive result.
“I hope that, someday, our family can all look back on this hard period of time and say it was a good experience after all. This is the kind of thought that gives us hope.”
Ebizo is a superstar of the kabuki world. Before marrying Mao, he was notoriously linked with a string of prominent actresses. In 2010 he ended up with a bloodshot eye after a late-night brawl in a Roppongi bar.
“This year, depending on my wife’s condition, I want to do something I’ve never done, which is to take days off for a vacation. So please don’t follow us around.”
How many people have breast cancer ?
Japan is a country where people are often reluctant to talk about any personal issues with others, let alone serious illness. When a tabloid newspaper reported about her illness as a scoop, many saw it as an intrusion of her privacy and it caused an outrage.
So Mao’s decision to start writing a blog three months later surprised many, including some in her family. But her regular updates about things such as how she is determined to attend her children’s kindergarten athletic festival have been inspiring not only those who are also fighting cancer but many others.
“I had been blaming myself and thinking of myself as a “failure” for not being able to live as I had before. I was hiding behind my pain.”
“Until that time I had been obsessed with being involved in every part of domestic life because that was how my own mother always behaved. But as I got ill, I couldn’t do anything, let alone everything, and in the end, as I was hospitalised, I had to leave my children.”
“When I was forced to let go of this obsession to be the perfect mother – which used to torture me, body and soul – I realised it had not been worth all the sacrifice I had made.”
“My family – even though I couldn’t cook for them or drop them off and pick them up at the kindergarten – still accepted me, believed in me and loved me, just like they always had done, as a wife and a mother.”
“So I decided to step out into the sunlight and write a blog, called Kokoro, about my battle with cancer, and when I did that, many people empathised with me and prayed for me.”
“And they told me, through their comments, of their life experiences, how they faced and overcame their own hardships. It turned out that the world I was so scared of was full of warmth and love and I am now connected with more than one million readers.”
“If I died now, what would people think?”
“Poor thing, she was only 34”?
“What a pity, leaving two young children? ”
I don’t want people to think of me like that, because my illness isn’t what defines my life.
My life has been rich and colourful – I’ve achieved dreams, sometimes clawed my way through, and I met the love of my life. I’ve been blessed with two precious children. My family has loved me and I’ve loved them.
So I’ve decided not to allow the time I’ve been given be overshadowed entirely by disease. I will be who I want to be.
22th June 2017
Her age is 34…