Cancer fight worse than Ikee thought

TOKYO • Japanese swim queen Rikako Ikee, the poster girl for next year's Tokyo Olympic Games, has said battling her recently diagnosed leukaemia has proved "several thousands of times harder" than she expected.

In her first posting on social media since undergoing treatment, she tweeted on Wednesday: "I haven't been able to eat for more than three days. But I don't want to lose out."

Last month, Ikee cut short a training camp in Australia after feeling unwell and her coach Jiro Miki then said he "had never seen her breathing as heavily as that". She was subsequently diagnosed with the illness after returning to Japan.

The revelation sent shock waves throughout the sporting world and get-well wishes have flooded in for the 18-year-old, who captured a record six golds and two silvers at last year's Indonesia Asian Games.

The Japanese media said the country's main bone marrow bank was flooded with donation inquiries after the news of her illness broke and that about 17,000 people, including leukaemia patients, replied to her tweet on Wednesday.

"It was tough and painful during treatment for me too, but I'm leading a normal life now. Believe you'll definitely heal," one Twitter user wrote, while another sent an encouraging message, calling on her to "stick it out".

Leukaemia is a cancer of blood-forming cells and there are different types of leukaemia, depending on the type of blood cell that becomes cancer and whether it is acute or chronic.

According to Cancer Research UK, treatment includes chemotherapy, bone marrow or stem cell transplant and radiotherapy.

While Ikee has not revealed which type of leukaemia she has, doctors believe that they detected it in its early stages.

The teenager has confirmed she will skip next month's national championships, which serve as a qualifier for the July world championships, to continue with her treatment.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2019, with the headline 'Cancer fight worse than Ikee thought'. Print Edition | Subscribe