A trio of junior high school students from Aichi Prefecture organized an exchange event for children who are undergoing cancer treatment and their family members, hoping to attract young participants to share their feelings on the difficult subject.
The first event, called cancer philosophy cafe, was held on Feb. 11 at a medical facility in Mizuho Ward in Nagoya and the three students plan to hold the gathering once every three months.
The event was organized by 14-year-old cancer patient Kodai Nakamura and his two classmates, Eito Hikoda, 14, and Kyosuke Yuge, 14, who are attending a junior high school in Nagoya. The mothers of Hikoda and Yuge are also undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
Nakamura was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was a second-grader. Though he underwent treatment, the cancer returned last spring. He is currently hospitalized for rehabilitation as the left side of his body is paralyzed.
When Nakamura was first informed of his relapse, he recalled thinking, “I was able to accept my condition quite naturally, but I was worried when the doctor told me that I would stop growing due to the treatment.”
At the hospital, he saw many children the same age facing painful treatments under similar situations.
That was when he met Dr. Okio Hino, a professor of Juntendo University’s medical department, who has spread the concept of cancer philosophy clinics nationwide with an aim to offer places for patients and people working in the medical field to communicate and relieve their worries.
After Hino suggested that Nakamura open a clinic in his town, he decided to organize one, believing his experience could be useful.
“There are others who are feeling stress with family members who are suffering from cancer, or other children like me who are worried about their treatment,” Nakamura said.
Hikoda and Yuge are among those who felt anxious when they found out their mothers have cancer.
Agreeing to Nakamura’s proposal to start a clinic, the two created pamphlets and solicited participants on behalf of their classmate who was in hospital.
Hikoda’s mother, Kanako, 46, provided the space for their first event at her workplace.
At the event, Hino explained how he initiated his effort. After his speech, 25 participants, including former patients, nurses and physical therapists, were divided into three groups and discussed their thoughts about cancer treatment.
“At the time I felt familiar with death,” said civil servant Chotaro Okumura, 59, who battled cancer in the same hospital room as Nakamura. “But I am glad to see you all again.”
Teacher Manabu Sawada, 30, welcomed the event, saying, “I may be able to learn various things by joining the event frequently.”
Nakamura was surprised to see the event draw many participants. “I think I was able to create a place where people can speak comfortably,” he said.
There are currently 120 cancer philosophy clinics in Japan, but this event was the first one organized by junior high school students, according to Hino.
Hikoda and Yuge expressed hope that people in their age group will participate in the event, saying they want people to come and chat in a relaxed atmosphere.
This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original articles were published on Feb. 9 and Feb. 12.