Twelve years ago, Naomi Sakurai was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Then aged 37, she was a chief designer at an architectural firm in Tokyo. But her hard-won career trajectory was cut short by illness.

After eight months of temporary leave for surgery and chemotherapy, Sakurai returned to work. But being still in the early stage of recovery, she found herself fighting a new battle: It was difficult to carry heavy loads — and hard even to click a mouse after several hours of computer use. She sometimes had to miss important meetings when they coincided with her monthly hospital appointments.