[From September Issue 2011]
TORIGOE Shuntaro is one of Japan’s best known journalists. He’s also known for his work as a TV anchor and commentator. Torigoe, who’s been called an “artisan of news,” was diagnosed with colorectal cancer five years ago. Though shocked, his journalistic spirit made him decide to leave an objective record of his experiences a cancer patient behind.
Torigoe recalls that period. “Up until then, books on cancer were written by either doctors as specialists or by patients describing their feelings. After I was diagnosed with cancer, I became curious about what goes through people’s minds when they find out they have cancer, what kind of problems they face during treatment and what members of their family think.”
Torigoe was born in Fukuoka Prefecture. He joined the Mainichi Newspapers Co. Ltd. after graduating from the Kyoto University. After working in the Social Affairs Department and doing a stint in Tehran as a correspondent, he became editor in chief of the weekly magazine “Sunday Mainichi.” He left the company in 1989 to work for TV.
He encountered all kinds of dangers while reporting. In 1984, at the height of the Iran-Iraq War, there were rumors that Iraq was using chemical weapons on the frontlines. One day, the Tehran bureau of Mainichi Newspapers received an invitation to enter the war zone from the Ministry of Islamic Clerics. Other media companies shrank from such a dangerous assignment. In the end, Torigoe was the only Japanese journalist who accepted the invitation.
The place was quite literally a frontline where Iraqi fighters often came and dropped bombs. Torigoe says he thought, “I shouldn’t have come. My curiosity is going to get me in trouble after all.” He met with danger numerous times on other war fronts, too, but he always came out unscathed. So he used to consider himself a man with luck on his side.
In the summer of 2005, something unexpected happened. He suddenly lost his taste for beer, a drink he had previously liked so much. He then found blood in the toilet bowl. He consulted a doctor at a hospital. He saw his own cancer on the endoscope’s monitor. It was the beginning of his fight with cancer.
In the last five years, Torigoe – a stage IV patient – has gone through treatment, experienced metastasis (the spread of cancer) and was operated on four times. But he’s got a positive outlook. He’s a member of an athletic club. Even though he’s 70 and a cancer patient, his work output has tripled.
The book “Cancer Patient,” about his cancer and life, was recently published. The tale, which is an account of his mood swings during the cancer’s progress, his family, work, hopes and “will to live” despite being a cornered man, has struck a chord with readers.