Leukaemia 'thousands of times harder' than expected: Japan swimmer Ikee


Tokyo (AFP)

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

"It's tens, hundreds and thousands of times harder than I thought," the 18-year-old said on Twitter on Wednesday.

"I haven't been able to eat for more than three days. But I don't want to lose," she tweeted.

Ikee said last month she had cut short a training camp in Australia after feeling unwell and had been diagnosed with the illness on her return to Japan.

The news sent shockwaves through the sporting world and well-wishes have flooded in for Ikee, a genuine title contender at the 2020 Olympics in her home city.

Japanese media said the country's main bone marrow bank was flooded with donation inquiries after Ikee reported her diagnosis.

About 16,000 people, including leukaemia patients, replied to her tweet 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.

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

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

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

The swimmer, who has been hospitalised in Tokyo, tweeted last month: "If treated properly it's a disease that can be beaten.

"I will devote myself to my treatment and strive to be able to show an even stronger Rikako Ikee."