Popular Japanese Blogger Dies of Cancer at 34

A Japanese woman who won a myriad of followers after blogging about her cancer has died of the disease.

Mao Kobayashi, 34, died at home in Tokyo on Thursday, leaving husband Ichikawa Ebizo, a kabuki actor, and two children, daughter Reika, 5, and son Kangen, 4, behind.

Photo via Mao Kobayashi

The family gathered earlier in the day after Mao’s mother’s notice that things made a turn for the worst, Arama! Japan noted.

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Mao originally kept her condition a secret, fearing that it would put her away from being “the perfect mother.” She was working as a newsreader.

“For a long time I hid the disease. Because my job involved appearing on TV I was scared about being associated with illness or showing people my weaknesses. I would try to avoid being seen on the way to hospital appointments and I stopped communicating with people so as not to be found out,” she wrote via BBC last year.

Photo via Mao Kobayashi

It was after a visit to the doctor, who advised against hiding behind cancer, that Mao found the strength to “step out into the sunlight” and start a blog that would chronicle her battle.

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The blog, which Mao called “Kokoro” (“heart”), quickly won admirers who did not just empathize but also shared their own struggles in life. It was at that point that she felt more support than ever:

“It turned out that the world I was so scared of was full of warmth and love and I am now connected with more than one million readers.”

Her last entry, which was posted on Tuesday, described how she enjoyed her mother’s homemade orange juice.

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Screenshot via Oricon

Ichikawa said that his wife, who thought of her family until the very end, looked at him and said “I love you” before passing.

While Mao’s death is a sad event, she will be remembered not because of her illness, but because she became the person she wanted to be:

“If I died now, what would people think? ‘Poor thing, she was only 34?’ ‘What a pity, leaving two young children?’ I don’t want people to think of me like that, because my illness isn’t what defines my life… I’ve decided not to allow the time I’ve been given be overshadowed entirely by disease. I will be who I want to be.”

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Photo via Mao Kobayashi

To everyone who found encouragement on Mao’s blog, Ichikawa said:

“I think those who were encouraged by Mao’s blog are the reason why we’re here today having this conversation [about cancer], and I think she would be pleased about that. To whose who supported Mao during her struggle, her legacy will live on within all of us. Thank you for everything.”

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