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Japanese univ. student shares struggles with leukemia through YouTube videos

Kuranosuke Takeuchi takes a video to upload on YouTube at his grandmother's house, in the city of Kochi, on July 2, 2019. (Mainichi/Buntaro Saito)

KOCHI -- A 21-year-old university student in this southwestern Japan city is uploading videos about his battle with leukemia on YouTube in the hope that the clips "will be seen by other people who are fighting against similar diseases and their families."

Kuranosuke Takeuchi began making such videos in March as he wanted to "connect with society and other people from inside the hospital room, even if only slightly." He has now uploaded a total of 35 videos including those he filmed after he left the hospital in June.

"It kinda feels terrible," the 21-year-old explains of his condition with a smile in one of the videos, which are sprinkled with humor. Takeuchi named his YouTube channel "Nyuin," literally meaning hospitalization in Japanese, as he was in a medical facility when he uploaded the first video.

Each of his clips is about 10 minutes long and shows him talking while sitting in bed or on a cushion. The video titles include, "Early symptoms and treatment," "Side effects still continue," and "Diagnostic tests I hate." When talking in front of the camera, he takes into consideration other patients and their family members who are in the same situation.

A screenshot from a video uploaded on YouTube shows Kuranosuke Takeuchi.

"Hair loss due to chemotherapy usually grows back, so don't worry about it," Takeuchi explains in one video. In another clip, in which he talks about the side effects of stem cell transplants, he emphasizes the need to prepare diapers before a transplant as it can cause diarrhea. "It doesn't work even if you try to hold it in," he says with a laugh.

Takeuchi was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 5. The doctor said he had a 0.1% chance of surviving the next five years, but his condition got better at age 12, after being repeatedly hospitalized for treatment including bone marrow transplants from his younger sister.

Wanting to try living separately from his parents, Takeuchi entered Okayama University of Science in the western Japan city of Okayama, and realized his dream of living alone. In November 2018, however, a test revealed a high white blood cell count. His leukemia had recurred.

He was admitted to a hospital to undergo a haploidentical stem cell transplant, in which he received cells that create blood components such as white blood cells from his 51-year-old father Hajime. "I thought, oh it's you again. I was shocked to have to leave my precious university life," said Takeuchi.

He came up with the idea to make YouTube videos in his lonely hospital room. The 21-year-old initially intended to make ones of him playing his favorite games, but his father said, "Why don't you explain about your disease?" Hajime's advice reminded Takeuchi about the difficult time he had with the disease as an elementary school student, and how his 50-year-old mother Ikuyo's upbeat attitude had helped him survive.

"Her cheerful manner saved me. I thought I could help someone by presenting my own life," which is why he decided to make videos on how he felt about his experiences.

Kuranosuke Takeuchi smiles in front of a laptop he uses to upload videos on YouTube, in the city of Kochi, on July 2, 2019. (Mainichi/Buntaro Saito)

Through his videos, not only does Takeuchi offer explanations about his disease, but he also mentions the fact that children with cancer need support from their parents and people close to them. "Please adopt a cheerful and positive mindset when interacting with such children. That's the most effective cure," he said in a message for adults.

Though his videos do not get that many views yet, he receives comments such as, "Keep up the good work," and, "I'll continue to watch you getting better."

Takeuchi stated, "If I didn't start uploading, I might have spent most of my time sleeping after leaving hospital. It's encouraging to think that someone's watching. I want to convey some things that only a patient can, with a positive approach."

Takeuchi's videos can be seen on his YouTube channel "Nyuin" at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm1c0cszrcpXY5hHCvTGmUg (in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Buntaro Saito, City News Department)

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