Be it Christmas, New Year's, or Oshogatsu, the end-of-year holidays are never as joy-filled for those suffering from cancer. However, those in Japan fighting the dreaded disease received a very nice Christmas present in 1999; Internet-based access to those going through the same fight.
Gan Support went online December 20. The Web-based message board and information database is the idea and creation of third generation Japanese-Canadian businessman James Nakagawa, whose own father died of cancer in 1998.
"Two Japanese friends of mine died of breast cancer not too long after my own father," Nakagawa told Computing Japan in a telephone interview. "I couldn't help but compare his experience with the disease in Canada to what my Japanese friends went through. I was shocked. The level of emotional support for cancer patients is virtually non-existent in Japan."
After his experiences, Nakagawa started doing some research into how cancer is perceived and treated in Japan.
"I was amazed to discover that the databases are not integrated between the many departments at the Ministry of Health, so they were not able to give me a complete list of cancer hospitals in Japan," he said. "I also came across other people diagnosed with cancer who were so desperate for information they would have English-speaking friends call the help lines set up for foreigners looking for answers. No one cares [about cancer patients] here."
Nakagawa then made plans to put together a Web-based Japanese-language source of news, information, and--most important--contacts for people diagnosed with any type of cancer. Thus, people from all over Japan could easily contact someone willing to discuss the difficulties they are going through and how to cope. Gan Support (gan meaning "cancer" in Japanese) is also open to friends, family members, caregivers, doctors, and anyone interested in learning about the decease or discussing it anonymously online. The site also has information on nutrition and online greeting cards, and a section set aside for children.
Most of the financing for Gan Support has come out of Nakagawa's own pocket. Masahiro Ikuta, Chairman of the Web Design Consortium of Japan, assisted on the project.