Professor Shinzo Kato, Faculty of Nursing and Medical Care, Keio University

The opposite of illness is not being well

──What made you in charge of chronic pathophysiology and end-of-life pathophysiology?

By chance, when I had to leave the Faculty of Medicine, there was a vacancy in the Faculty of Nursing and Medical Care. I was then selected as a professor in charge of the pathophysiology of chronic and end-of-life illnesses. I have seen many patients with chronic illnesses such as liver disease, and I have had many opportunities to come in contact with people who died of liver cirrhosis or liver cancer, so I accepted it. After that, when I was interested in the activities of the patient association and went in and out of the patient association, I had more opportunities to interact with patients with intractable diseases who were sentenced to their short life expectancy.
They have a lot of distress, but unlike the liver disease class, I was consulted that patients with the same terminal illness couldn’t talk freely because they were scared. Under such circumstances, we started the “Gottani Hot Pot Party” for patients with chronic disease. I wanted it to be an opportunity for people with progressive or difficult illnesses to get together and share their painful thoughts and experiences to understand each other. I thought it is significant that people with various illnesses, their families, people of different positions and generations could get together and give advice from different angles.
Through the repeated times, a good place was cultivated. Even those who participated for the first time felt that they could think, “I can talk about my own pains here.” I think that it is because each of them had experienced suffering so they really treated each other with kindness. The words exchanged at the party felt like prayer, including invisible power, wanting to be energized, wanting to be better, and wanting to be positive.
I often say that, “the opposite of illness isn’t being well.” The people who take care of the patient associations are all very well, even though they are ill. Perhaps it is because they can recognize the meaning of their life by taking care of people who have the same illness as them.
Then, the changes in the body occur. I feel that by increasing the power and motivation to live, some kind of power to overcome illness will come out in the body. In fact, I know a patient who had been sentenced to have a life expectancy of two years; but even after 14 years, he is still ill yet living well today.