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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Face illness in a way that is true to yourself

Rika Kayama

There are quite a number of cancer battle stories written by celebrities, but one that stands out is Shungicu Uchida's "gan (cancer) manga." The comic frankly details her path from a diagnosis of cancer of the large intestine, to undergoing surgery after chemotherapy. The medical tests and drawings of her treatment are also extremely accurate, and I recommend the manga to anyone who would like to become more knowledgeable about cancer.

    Cancer of the large intestine is increasing among women, and is now the second most common cancer after breast cancer. However, it does not stand out in the early stages, and is extremely hard to detect.

    Uchida also didn't notice her condition right away. She had just started a diet, and apparently chalked up the weight loss and constipation to the change in her lifestyle. When a man suddenly loses a significant amount of weight, the people around him might worry and say, "Are you sick? You should go get checked out by a doctor!" But in the case of women, just like in Uchida's case, people are more likely to say, "I'm jealous your diet was such a success," and a long time passes before the disease is discovered.

    Additionally, while there was blood in Uchida's stool, she just thought that she had gotten hemorrhoids. Worriers tend to get anxious and question if they might have cancer even at the smallest change in their condition, but it's not at all uncommon that a person overflowing with vitality like Uchida might assume, "There is no way I could have a serious disease," and ends up putting off a checkup.

    However, upon her diagnosis, Uchida started to behave very realistically. She told her four children about the seriousness of the situation, and brought her work schedule forward in preparation for her hospitalization. She never thought something like, "Why did I get a disease like this?" Instead, she accepted the reality with a clear head, which I think is also very crucial.

    Even understanding this completely as a cancer patient, Uchida still had times during her battle with the disease that shook her. While the doctor in charge of her examination warns that they would be "racing against time," the doctor wouldn't look her in the face as if they were scared themself. When she talks with her children about having cancer, her daughter asks her worriedly, "You're not going to die, right?" In that moment, she also felt anger and anxiety, but Uchida does not hide these moments either, reflecting them in her work.

    In our lives, it is inevitable that we will have to deal with some kind of illness. Even though we accept this reality, when it happens to us, anyone can get flustered or upset about it or decide to be positive or forward thinking about the situation. Uchida teaches us that either is completely acceptable; in the middle of all of that, one should face their illness in the way that best suits them personally.

    I would like those shouldering a disease, their family or anyone involved in taking someone for treatment to read this manga that is filled with plenty of laughs as well as hardships. Now I am looking forward to the sequel, now that Uchida is active again and singing at concerts. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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