Singer battles intractable disease with friend's music

Singer battles intractable disease with friend's music
Ayako Ozawa sings a song written by a friend who died of muscular dystrophy in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 21.

A young woman is fighting against muscular dystrophy by singing songs written by a friend who died of the same disease.

With a purpose

And a dream to live

Now I can live

Whatever happens to me

Ayako Ozawa, 32, sang a song titled "Ureshi-namida ga Tomaranai" (Can't stop crying tears of joy), while sitting in front of about 60 people at a Christmas show sponsored by a disabled people's organisation in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 21 last year. Her dignified singing voice resounded through the room.

Ozawa supported herself with a red cane - she became unable to stand up without it eight years ago. She suffers from muscular dystrophy, an intractable disease that gradually weakens the muscles of the entire body.

Despite her physical troubles, however, Ozawa continues to relate her experiences to others and singing songs composed by her friend who suffered from the same disease.

She hopes her activities will give other people the energy to keep living.

When Ozawa was a fourth-grade primary school student, her body began to swing slightly from side to side while she was walking. Her body would not move the way she wanted, and her classmates ridiculed her walking as strange. She was hurt but pretended it was nothing because she did not want to worry her parents. She shed silent tears in bed.

When she was a third-year middle school student, she visited a hospital for the first time and was told that her problem was not a disease, only an individual difference. She wept bitterly with frustration at not being able to convey the strange feelings she had.

Ozawa went on to high school and sang songs in a band with her friends at the school's cultural festival. The exhilaration she felt in singing made her forget the changes in her body, and she became even more hooked on singing. However, the problems worsened and she could not keep up when walking with other people in college.

Finally, Ozawa was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when she was 20. She was told there was no effective cure and that she would need a wheelchair in 10 years. She became extremely depressed and thought her life had no meaning.

Thinking no one would understand her feelings, she closed her heart to others, telling nobody about her disease except her family. Eventually, however, the words of a doctor in charge of her rehabilitation got through.

"You'll be able to move your body less and less," the doctor told her. "If you imagine what you'll be in the future, you'll realise you've got to do a lot of things now."

Encouraged by the doctor, she got a job at an information technology company in Tokyo in 2006 and started participating in a band with colleagues from her office.

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