KOCHI, Japan -Yuriko Yasuoka, 65, still cannot forget the lonely voice she heard on the phone two years ago. The caller was a man in his 40s who was battling blood cancer. He asked for her advice, explaining that he had quit his job and could not pay his treatment fees. He also had his elderly mother to look after.
"If I give up (treatment), things will work out," he said, and the line disconnected. Half a year later, Yasuoka heard about the man's death. She remembers thinking, "With money, I could have saved him."
This April she set up a fund at Kochi Cancer Patient Support, where she serves as chief director, to pay part of the medical expenses of cancer patients. Under the newly established system, patient applications and funding will be examined by doctors and others.
The foundation has collected only about ¥600,000 (S$7,380) so far in donations from people who have asked for advice about cancer. The committee plans to hold an event where patients can talk with each other in Kochi on May 31. The event is also expected to be an opportunity to collect donations. "I want to expand this event every year and expand our support," Yasuoka said.
In 1999, when Yasuoka was running a cosmetics shop, her 22-year-old daughter developed refractory stomach cancer. Yasuoka supported her daughter by reading specialised books and talking with a doctor until the cancer was fully cured.
In the cancer consultations she started in 2002, Yasuoka not only listens to patients, but also takes them to doctors appointments. Understanding well their anxieties and loneliness, she cannot leave them alone.
"I am not a doctor, and it's not like I can cure cancer, either. However, I want to do everything I can," she said.