Mariko credits her husband, children and yoga for helping her through two diagnoses of breast cancer and leukaemia.

“That first time I had breast cancer was really difficult” says Mariko. “We lived in Singapore and we didn’t have much support. I had gone to get my tests results from the Oncologist on my own because I really wasn’t expecting bad news so when he said I had breast cancer my brain went blank. I could not believe what he had just told me. Like most people who have disaster strike them, my initial response was, “Why me?” A mixture of anger and sorrow overwhelmed me for several days. Then I went for surgery the next week.

After I returned home from surgery I was feeling physical pain in my chest, as well as emotional bruising and shock. My yoga teacher came to visit me and showed me how I could start some simple movements to regain the range of motion that I had lost due to the lumpectomy. She also taught me how to breathe better to relieve the pain, and to be with myself as I was.

How grateful I was to her for reaching out to me.  In fact, I was grateful for many other things – grateful to be alive, to have family and friends who support and care about me, to be able to just breathe, and to have my simple yoga practice, just to name a few.

Looking back, this was a major, if not the turning point in my life, because from then on, yoga became a part of me and a way of life. I started noticing visible improvements in my physical strength and arm and shoulder mobility on my surgery side as well as in my mental as well as emotional states. It was especially encouraging to feel less pain and also to see that I could move my arm a bit higher every day. Within 3 months, I was able to raise my right arm without pain or strain.

Although yoga gave Mariko strength it was her family that provided that constant source of support. Mariko is incredibly close to her oldest daughter, Hannah. She was just 10 when Mariko was first diagnosed so her parents chose not to say anything to her and her two younger brothers but when Mariko had a reoccurrence six years later they thought Hannah should know.

Mariko said “It sounds strange, but the second time was actually easier because I had my family of cheerleaders rooting for me. My husband stopped traveling for work to be there for me and Hannah was great.”

“I heard about Breast Cancer Haven from a friend when I moved to London. I was attracted by their therapies and the support network. I was living in a new country, my family were eight hours away in Japan and I wanted to meet other people who had gone through what I had.

It was somewhere I could meet people who had been through similar experiences. I had an orientation day where I found out about all the different support they had to offer, I had some shiatzu and yoga and had some life coaching. It was immensely helpful”

It’s clear that Mariko and Hannah are very close.  “My mum is hilarious even though she doesn’t know it – which makes her even more hilarious. She always gives great advice and is a great cooking buddy and eating out buddy and she is definitely my best friend” says Hannah. She was just 16 when her mum had breast cancer for the second time and although her parents protected her from the worst of it, she knew her mum needed her support.

“My parents just said “It’s a little lump and when it’s been removed everything will be OK. They definitely spared me from the worst and tried to keep life as normal as possible – I guess that’s just what parents do.”

Having breast cancer has been life-changing in many ways for Mariko and her family. It’s brought them all closer together – the mother-daughter bond is evident as they laugh together on the sofa during our photo-shoot. It has brought yoga into her life – she now teaches yoga so that she can share the benefits that it brought to her. But Mariko sums up the change perfectly when she says:

 “Every morning I wake up and think that this could be my last day – what should I do?”