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After battling cancer, Ryuichi Sakamoto learns about its cause

31 5 22

Award-winning musician Ryuichi Sakamoto couldn't believe it when he found himself among the 1 million people newly diagnosed with cancer in Japan each year.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Sakamoto says he discovered the ultimate cause of the disease after having cancer himself and giving serious thought to it.

The interview was conducted ahead of World Cancer Day on Feb. 4.

Born in Tokyo in 1952, Sakamoto formed the Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) with his bandmates in 1978. The composer received a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for Best Score for a Film for “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” released in 1983.

He became the first Japanese winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Score for “The Last Emperor” in 1988. Sakamoto moved his base to New York in 1990. In 2014, he went public when he was diagnosed with oropharynx cancer.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

* * *

There may be a time in your life when you are faced with a series of difficulties.

I never thought I’d face cancer, believing that I had a one-in-10,000 chance to develop it. When I was younger, I was fine even after pulling many all-nighters in a row and I even boasted that “talent boils down to physical strength,” and paid attention to my health after I turned 40 so much so that I could say I was a health freak.

In June 2014, when I was 62 years old, I felt something was wrong in my throat and saw a doctor, who diagnosed me as having oropharynx cancer. It was between stages II and III. I felt like, “No way.” I became conscious of death for the first time in my life. The word “cancer” was too much to handle.

To begin with, modern medicine has developed in the past 100 years or so, hasn’t it? In an earlier time, I might have been dead just like that. That may be a natural way to live, but I thought I wanted to live. I looked into every option and decided to put my life into the hands of the standard of care, whose statistically based survival rate has become evident.

I thought about many things, like, “Should I delay my treatment for my work?” and “No, I can work while I receive treatment.”

But my primary doctor advised me, “You can’t work unless you are alive,” and it calmed me........

© The Asahi Shimbun