Finding moments of strength with every step of my cancer journey | The Japan Times

Julia Marino
4 min readOct 23, 2019
A new ‘do: Julia Marino’s husband took this picture at Lake Miyagase to show off her new hair. | COURTESY OF JULIA MARINO

A year ago I visited a doctor in Tokyo and heard the words nobody wants to hear: “You have breast cancer.”

These words are crushing in any language. As an American living in Japan, however, there was an additional twinge of anxiety as to how I would deal with my diagnosis in this foreign country.

My husband, Julien, and I came to Tokyo in 2017. Though we spoke no Japanese, we were committed to embracing uncertainty and a home here. But facing cancer was an unexpected and unwelcome challenge.

At first I thought little of it, a lump in my breast. I thought breast cancer was unlikely as more than 80 percent of such lumps are benign and there was no history of breast cancer in my family. Besides, I was only 34 and women aren’t advised to get mammograms until they’re 45.

I then came across a poignant picture for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) in my email inbox, and my parents, who are health professionals, encouraged me to get it checked out.

So I walked down the street to the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Shinjuku to see a breast surgeon. The process was remarkably efficient and he ran all the tests — ultrasound, mammogram, CT scan and biopsy — in one day.



Julia Marino

Let's make the world better, one step, one breath, one bite at a time. life designer. food lover. nature explorer. seeing beauty in the imperfect.