When I started this website I thought there would be no need to write about personal matters. All this site was made for was to write about my game project developments but the recent fatal event in my life made me rethink about this.
About two weeks ago, on Sunday the 30. September 2012 my dear wife Izumi Watanabe whom I have been married for over eight years passed away after a long battle with cancer. She has left her family, her friends and me behind full of grief and deeply saddened for a very long time. There are no words that can possibly describe the sadness I’m feeling now that she is gone, about that she has left so quickly and unexpected and that she still had half of her lifetime before her.
In late 2000 I became very interested in Japan and while looking for friends in Japan we both came across each other, in particular due to the fact that we both were former Commodore Amiga users, something actually quite rare in Japan. I then visited her in 2001, things went well together between us, she visited me back in Germany in 2002 and we finally decided to marry and that I move to Japan in 2004. That’s were I have been most of the time since, with Izumi, who was a professional Graphic Designer, always at my side. I’ve started to work as a freelance Flash developer and many times we’ve worked together on projects for various agencies and clients.
We weren’t rich but we were happy. But in late 2009 she suddenly fell ill with what was diagnosed as tongue cancer. She never smoked and never drunk much alcohol and she lived a relatively normal, healthy life. Her father died about seven years ago from cancer so I don’t know by how far this fate was pre-written but I believe that everyone can influence how the way goes. First she was treated with all the therapies that orthodox medicine has to offer. The tumor was removed and she received chemo therapy. After that all was well for one year after which it was found that the cancer had spread to her neck. She received an operation again which left an ugly scar and there was more chemo therapy and radiation treatment. These treatments were harsh and damaging, as a friend of mine put it right: it’s like shooting with canons on sparrows! The first time cancer is found you are still hopeful that it was harmless and will not return but the second time it comes back you should take it very serious. Most people receive chemo therapy and/or radiation treatment which is a guarantee to make matters much more worse on the long run. The radiation treatment around her neck and mouth damaged the tissue inside the mouth without being able to ever fully recover. As time went by, eating became more and more tiresome, first spicy and sour foods caused harm and the lack of saliva production made eating generally unpleasant and slow.
I’ve tried to convince her to try alternative therapies based on diet but she was reluctant, she wanted to enjoy the foods she liked and I can’t blame her as I’m sure I would have reacted the same way and in fact if there was one person who was eating more healthy than me, it was her. We were looking for other therapies like for example Hyperthermia but Japan hings behind in such matters and they are generally not covered by health insurances so one has to be be very rich to afford them. There is a lot of hit and miss, half-thruths, vague information and fraud on the web regarding alternative treatments and if there is one thing I’ve learned from all this mess then it’s the fact that we are still living in the stone age regarding cancer treatment. I’ve also learned that if you get very aggressive cancer there is almost no chance, no matter how hard you fight. Izumi was fighting very hard!
The cancer at the neck was treated successfully even if leaving her somewhat disfigured. But only half a year later we received the very shocking news that a tumor was found in her lung. It was just about a year ago and was such a great shock for me at the time. I thought it was the end but even though the prospect of a lung tumor sounds so severe it doesn’t have to be fatal. So after she lost ~20% of her left lung she did actually quite well again afterwards. We were making serious efforts by now to care more about much healthier nutrition than before. Only shortly later she was complaining about pain near the lower end of the backbone which wouldn’t go away. First I didn’t expect this to have a relation to cancer and the first diagnose showed that it wasn’t cancer but after a second check it was eventually diagnosed as bone cancer. Again there was light chemo therapy but it didn’t help. The doctors could not do anything, an operation in the area was too risky and would sacrifice too much. So she had to carry on like this, always taking lots of medicine, pain killers, opium and more medicine against the many side effects of the other medicine. The bone cancer grew and caused more pain by the time.
We’ve lived together for eight years in a much too small apartment where mold came out of every corner but in March this year we could finally move to a nice and large apartment which improved our life quality a lot. We’ve bought some nice new furniture and appliances and it was mostly Izumi who made this apartment a comfortable place to live in and she had many more plans with it.
But no matter what, the cancer wasn’t impressed by all this. Except for the pain it all wasn’t so bad until early August when her condition suddenly got worse quickly. as it was found later in the Hospital a brain tumor had developed, probably since June or July and was growing quickly. Her mind changed during the last months. She became more absentminded, quiet and lost and at first I thought these were side effects of the medicine. Her lower legs swell, she lost more and more muscle mass and got very thin. First she could only walk slowly, then she needed a stick to help her and soon she couldn’t walk alone at all anymore. The pain grew and the opium didn’t help much anymore, sitting down or laying down caused too much pain. She was often just standing while eating or caring about other things. She couldn’t walk upstairs to the sleeping room anymore, I had to carry her up and down. The last two days before she entered the Hospital she could only sleep for three hours. These last months were such a painful and desperate time full of worry and fear for us.
I remember two days before she had to enter the hospital I was helping her to her desk, walking in such a slow speed and I could only start crying while seeing what has become of her and what the illness has done to her. She really didn’t deserve all this. If there is one person that I know of who did not deserve this suffering, it’s her! She has helped and supported me so much all the years and without her I wouldn’t know what would have become of me but it’s save to say that it would have been nothing positive.
She entered the hospital on September the 6. to receive palliative care. The prospect of loosing her was very real already but there is nothing that could prepare one for such a devastating loss. She received treatment against the pain which was quite successful so she could at least sleep well again. But the doctors long gave up about the cancer. She and me however, we did not give up about it. We had still hope that this can be overcome. She told us that she wanted to make it at least until new year. She didn’t expect to go so early.
The week before she died I bought a new iPhone 5 for her which she was very much looking forward to. She still ordered a new MacBook Air 11″ for her which she even couldn’t receive anymore because it came two days too late. She was a techie who loved the Internet, Apple computers and all kinds of gadgets. She was an Amiga user, she liked the Dreamcast and Arcade-style video games, she loved MUJI and Zen Style, my mother’s two boxers Romeo and Mexx, her own, late dog Rai, our two cats Thasa and Shimao, good books, music and movies, Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, good Coffee, Unagi, Mexican beer, traveling and going out shopping. She was also a fluent English speaker and a creative tinkerer who loved sewing and handcrafting a lot and she left many self-made clothes and accessories back in this world as relics that remind me every day of her. She was such a smart and thoughtful woman and I only now came to realize what a unique and special wife I’ve lost.
She died in my arms in the afternoon shortly after falling into a coma. At the time she left, a typhoon was approaching Tokyo on that full moon Sunday and the world went dark. I believe she went away without pain.
With her loss a chapter of my life closes – the most precious and important chapter in my life! In front of me is now a vast, empty sea of sadness, grief and regret. Everything in my life now has lost it’s meaning. The work, my hobbies, our plans, the future. There was this special and unique relation that Izumi and me had for 12 years and now it’s gone, without a chance to undo the things that happened. There is nothing that can bring the person that was known as Izumi Watanabe back into life, she is gone forever and never again in time will this special relation, friendship and love between us happen again. We all have to die at some point but she just died much too early! It was never supposed to end as sad as this!