Just over a week after 19-year-old Rikako Ikee posted on Instagram that she was back in the gym after having been officially discharged from the hospital in December, the Japanese superstar appeared on national TV to discuss the roller coaster she’s been on the past year.
The first-ever female MVP of an Asian Games, Ikee was diagnosed with leukemia in February of 2019, derailing her plans to shine in front of a home crowd at this year’s Olympic Games. Instead, sprint freestyler and butterflyer has made it known her plan is to go for the 2024 Games in Paris.
Speaking of her leukemia diagnosis and treatment, Ikee said that she tried to maintain positivity, but faced grueling physical effects of anti-cancer drugs, including nausea and pain.
“I couldn’t bear to hear noise, I didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to watch TV,” she told the TV Asahi interviewer. “I wanted to die.”
“If I hadn’t believed it would be temporary, I wouldn’t have been able to bear it. But then, as I turned the corner, I could go out and eat out, and that joy was unbelievable.”
Since her hospital discharge, Ikee has returned to school and has opened up about the pain she faced during the last year, something she says she never would have survived had it not been for the support of family and friends.
“How could I have felt that way when such enjoyment in life was possible?” she said.
“It’s a miracle that I’m alive, a miracle that I’m here. I never once thought, ‘If only I hadn’t gotten sick.’ Instead, I think of all the lessons it has taught me. I hope so many other people can take courage from my example of one healthy person.”
“This has been the big turning point in my life.”
Another positive step in Ikee’s recovery is the release of her exclusive line with Mizuno Japan. The collection of women’s and men’s suits was a product of Ikee’s direct input and design aesthetic and are available now for purchase.