Japanese TV personality Mao Kobayashi has died after battling cancer for about two and a half years, her husband said Friday. She was 34.
Kobayashi, wife of kabuki star Ichikawa Ebizo, was named in the 2016 edition of the BBC's 100 Women list of inspirational and influential women because she broke her silence about having breast cancer, which spread to her bones and lungs, and began writing a blog to help others.
Speaking at a press conference, Ebizo said Kobayashi died Thursday evening at her Tokyo home while being surrounded by her family.
"She said 'I love you' with her last breath and passed away," said Ebizo in tears. "I thought she was an amazing person as she shared her sorrows and happiness with people with the same illness and others who are also suffering," he said, referring to her blog.
On her blog, Kokoro., in which Kobayashi shared her daily life and battle with the illness, she said she left her hospital in late May. It was last updated on Tuesday with a post about the fresh orange juice she drank with a picture of her smiling.
When she was chosen among the 100 women, she was quoted in a commentary published on the BBC's website, "If I died now, what would people think? 'Poor thing, she was only 34'? 'What a pity, leaving two young children'? I don't want people to think of me like that, because my illness isn't what defines my life."
"My life has been rich and colorful -- I've achieved dreams, sometimes clawed my way through, and I met the love of my life," said Kobayashi at the time. "I've been blessed with two precious children. My family has loved me and I've loved them."
Kobayashi married Ebizo in 2010, and the couple have a daughter and a son. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and her husband revealed her illness at a press conference in June last year.
Mao Kobayashi's last blog post
For the last few days, I have been drinking freshly squeezed orange juice every morning.
To be more accurate, I don't have the power to squeeze myself, so I eagerly wait for my mother to wake up and squeeze oranges for me.
The awesome tastiness of oranges, sweet and sour, surpasses the pain of mouth ulcer now!
It makes me smile from the morning.
I hope something that makes you, too, smile will happen today.
On her first post on the blog, she wrote that thanks to her doctor's advice "not to hide behind cancer," she realized how her identity as a cancer patient had dominated her mind and life, and led her more and more toward the shadows.
"I have decided to say good-bye to the me who has been hiding behind cancer by using this blog as a tool, because I want to become a woman who lives her life vigorously and also be a strong mother for my children," she said.
On the blog, she depicted her feelings when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and when she lost her hair due to the side effects of cancer therapy. While reporting on her daily life with her family she also acknowledged her worsening health, at one point saying her cancer had spread to other parts of her body.
She sometimes posted photos of herself with her haggard-looking but smiling face.
"I always pray to God 'Please give me a chance to support actor Ichikawa Ebizo as his partner,'" Kobayashi said when she appeared on a TV program featuring her husband aired in January.
Fans, who have been following the blog, expressed their sorrow.
A 34-year-old woman in Tokyo, who has an 8-month-old baby, said she was inspired by Kobayashi's positive messages online and "felt a connection (to Kobayashi) as I am a mother of the same age and with a small child."
"I cannot imagine what it is like to die leaving one's children," the woman said.
Eiko Yamaguchi, a 37-year-old Tokyo resident who is also a mother, said she was "shocked" to hear of the former newsreader's death and had hoped she would get well.
Since Kobayashi came out with her story about fighting cancer, Yamaguchi said she herself became more conscious about her health, and believes that "many women, motivated by the blog, went for health checkups."
The couple endured some hardships after their marriage. Ebizo sustained serious injuries in a bar brawl in November 2010, half a year after the marriage, and refrained from theater performances for months due to the scandal, which along with his outspoken nature drew some public criticism.
Ebizo's father Ichikawa Danjuro died in February 2013 at the age of 66.
When their son Kangen made his debut on the kabuki stage in November 2015 at age 2, Kobayashi supported the performance from behind the scenes while battling her disease. Ebizo later said she had been "prepared for anything."
She died at her home in Tokyo, with her parents, her elder sister and freelance announcer Maya Kobayashi, and her two children and husband at her bedside, Ebizo said.
"Today, I have cried more than I have ever done in my life," he wrote early Friday on his official blog.