Japanese TV personality recovers from stroke and breast cancer

This is the first installment of a two-part story on how TV personality Kuniko Asagi recovered from a stroke and breast cancer.

Work was going well for Kuniko Asagi in her late 40s. Known as an entertainer with both beauty and brains, she was busy appearing on TV news and quiz programs, and also as a book critic for magazines. Soon however, she would face two serious setbacks--a stroke and breast cancer.

"Although I didn't like exercising, I did eat nutritiously and my medical checkups were all fine. I had confidence in my health, but...," said Asagi, now 50.

In December 2010, when she was locking her door, her right arm and right leg suddenly began to shake and she couldn't move them.

About 30 seconds later, the trembling stopped. But as she often appeared on a TV program covering health and medical problems, she realized something could be seriously wrong. Only one side of her body was affected, so she suspected she might have suffered from a stroke.

She asked the TV program's staff to introduce her to Tokyo Women's Medical University. She had an appointment for tests five days after the initial problem.

In the days leading up to her tests, the same thing happened three or four times a day without warning, such as when she was cleaning the house or driving.

When she was taping a quiz program two days before her tests, her right hand seemed to freeze up just as she was about to write an answer.

She suddenly recovered and managed to answer before time ran out.

"Although the symptoms were not serious enough to call an ambulance, I thought if it kept happening, I might die suddenly. I spent the days before the tests in fear and anxiety," she said.

A battery of tests ultimately revealed a small stroke in the midbrain, which controls posture and transmits audio and visual information.

But no specific disease or disorder could be identified as the cause.

Her doctor said, "Although rare, there is a chance that stress caused the symptoms." This reminded her of something.

Around the time of the episodes, some problems with her former husband surfaced and she had been chased by reporters every day. She even had to take some time off from work.

"I didn't know which, the disease or the stress, was harder for me. When I was younger, I didn't have much work for many years and I was worried about losing my job. I kept worrying and the attacks occurred, but I took medicine to deal with the problem" she said.

However, the medication was not completely successful.

At press conferences, she held her right hand with her left so people would not notice her trembling. It took her about two months to recover her mental stability.

Once a person has had a stroke, recurrences are likely.

She took medicine to prevent recurrences and changed her way of thinking. "I can't do anything about what has already happened. It will be all right if I'm careful in the future," she said.

"Humans are stubborn. Because I had so many checkups, I was confident that I was fine," she said.

After that, the results of her checkups were all fine. Just as she regained her confidence, however, another serious ailment struck.