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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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Streaming Stories of Survival

Jun. 6, 2016

A cancer survivor is breaking down barriers by reaching out to patients with a webcast. He's tackling sensitive issues in a casual format.

The National Cancer Center of Japan predicted last year that nearly one million people would be diagnosed with cancer before the year was out.

But the situation is not all grim.

Thanks to breakthroughs in medical technology, more than 60 percent of patients have the potential to survive 10 years or longer.

One of those survivors is attracting attention by using the internet to reach out to cancer patients. Toru Kishida hosts a webcast aimed at making life better for those hit by the devastating disease.

Kishida works part-time in public relations at one of the top cancer research centers in Tokyo. He also hosts his own webcast to provide information for free.

The webcast is open to the public and is held in the cafeteria at the center twice a month.

The volunteer staff consists of cancer survivors, medical students and office workers. They didn’t have any previous experience in webcasting. But they support Kishida because they feel he is providing a valuable service.

One recent guest, Yohei Nishiguchi, was diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct.

"You were deeply depressed, weren't you?" Kishida says.

"Yeah, I couldn’t feel anything. My mind became a complete blank," Nishiguchi replies.

Kishida tries to determine what cancer patients really feel about such issues as money, family, and work.

"Be honest. Roughly how much have you spent so far?" Kishida asks.

"I've spent around $5,500 in terms of medical fees," Nishiguchi says.

About 50 people including cancer survivors and families members gather for the webcast.

Kishida started the project 2 years ago. He wanted to create a place where people could voice their concerns.

His own cancer experience is what inspired him to start the webcast program. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer about 4 years ago and it spread to his lymph nodes.

"When I was diagnosed with cancer, my mind went blank. I never imagined that I would be a cancer patient," Kishida says.

He immediately started chemotherapy and later underwent 2 surgeries. The cancer forced him to think about his own mortality.

"After the surgery, I just woke up in the middle of the night. At the time, I couldn’t breathe at all. I thought this is the end of my life," Kishida says. "I think when people face death like that they tend to look back on their own lives. I wondered what I had achieved in my life. Is there any impact I made on society? I really thought about what I gave back to the community."

He started the project even though his health wasn’t good. He was also facing a recurrence of his cancer.

When Kishida was diagnosed, he had a difficult time finding out information about his cancer.

He had countless fears about the aftereffects of the treatment, and the influence it would have on his job and personal relationships. So he tried to reach out to other cancer patients to hear about their struggles.

"I think a lot of survivors feel that cancer is a bad thing, so they can’t talk to anyone," Kishida says.

"I think if people speak out about it, they could get more information. The more information we get out the easier it could became for survivors to go back to work. That’s the kind of society I hope we can create."

Kishida’s wife, Erika, is also a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with skin cancer 4 years ago. Erika has followed the blog Kishida began writing when he started treatment.

"It could be taken the wrong way if I say what he wrote about cancer was funny, but it made me wonder why he was so strong," she says. "I'm getting interested in him as a person, not necessarily in a romantic way."

They dated for 2 years and were married last February. They’re happy together, but still face many difficulties.

Kishida still goes for a check-up once a month. Last summer, he underwent surgery to remove another tumor. He is currently under observation.

"I don’t see any problems with your tumor markers or your x-rays," Emi Noguchi, of the National Cancer Center, tells him. "I’ll see you again next month."

There is a possibility of a recurrence. But Kishida said he wants to enjoy every moment of his life.

"I want to live a life without regrets. I make each day worth it. Of course, the cancer brings countless bad things. If I think about it too much, that would be wasting my life. I want to enjoy my life. So even if I die right now, I won’t have any regrets," he says.

Now Kishida is trying to expand his project because he wants to continue his webcast.

He considers ways to generate revenue from his program as a business. He has decided to sell his webcast know-how to companies.

"I think if I collaborate with various companies, we can help create a better world for cancer patients and survivors," Kishida says.

He thinks that every company has a unique working style. He thinks if they have their own webcasts, they could provide useful information for cancer patients and survivors.

Kishida decided to ask a business consultant for advice on his plan. Yuichi Fujita is the president of a cancer insurance agent.

The 2 got to know each other at a lecture about cancer.

"For example, if a patient is forced to quit their job, or can’t return to work, I think that’s a loss for the company as well. I think it is important to tell the companies that it is a lose-lose situation," Fujita says. "The company needs to know how they’ll benefit from this service. Otherwise they will just think you are a volunteer."

There are a lot of things Kishida must consider. He took the chance to pitch his business idea.

Electronics company NEC has been interested in his project, and he hopes it will be the first step to get corporate sales.

"Our project aims to create a future where cancer patients can stay positive and brighten their outlook," Kishida says. "We are hoping to create and nourish a space where cancer patients can speak up. We would like to tell you what our project could do for your business, and what each broadcast will consist of."

Kishida talks about how it would help not only the workers who have been diagnosed with cancer, but also those who are currently healthy. He explains it will raise awareness of the illness and help people suffering from it.

But company officials show some hesitation about the webcast.

"You’ve created a business model and want to try it at our company. I don't think it could work like that right away. I think first we should work together at some outside events and see how it goes," says Mayuko Tainaka, an NEC official.

Tainaka suggests they work together for webcasting a public event.

About 2 years ago, he started his webcast because he wanted to know more about his illness himself. Now, his desire is to help others get the information they need to survive.

"I’ll be sorry if I die in the next 3 to 5 years. I think that would be regrettable, to be honest. But I think now that I have a team, someone can carry on my desire. For now though, I still plan to be on the front lines, moving things forward," Kishida says.

He's now looking for chances to expand his business. His webcast program will be one of the training courses at a major pharmaceutical company next month.