6. Hard life
I graduated from school in March, 1948, and I began to work for a clothing shop my uncle and aunt had just opened in the shopping arcade street, Hondori. However, soon after I began to work, my mother suffered a stroke. She had developed peritonitis. Her belly was swollen with an accumulation of fluid, and she looked bad. She must have exhausted her energy after my father died. The stroke left her with paralysis, and she was hospitalized. When the money for hospitalization at the Red Cross Hospital was finished, she left the hospital, but then her condition worsened, and she went back into the hospital. This cycle was repeated on and off for 20 years until she died in November, 1967. Even after she was discharged, she was feeling sick and lay in bed.
I paid 4,000 yen to the hospital out of the 9,000 yen I earned at the clothing shop of my uncle and aunt. With 5,000 yen, I had to make a living, but that money was not enough for my three growing brothers to satisfy their hunger. My oldest brother was a middle school student, and my two younger brothers were elementary school students. When we had nothing to eat, we went to sleep without eating anything. If I had lived alone, I might have committed suicide. My grandmother worried about us and sometimes brought some food. I sometimes borrowed some money as an advance on my salary. Every time I got an advance, the same amount was withdrawn from my salary the next month. In this way, we kept food on the table day by day, and I managed to have my brothers graduate from middle school. Each of my brothers entered a part-time high school and began to work during the day, and I didn’t have to feed them any longer.
None of the three schoolmates of my age near my house returned, and their parents often said to me, “Why are YOU alive?” which was the hardest thing for me. This made me feel guilty about having survived.
After I began to work for the clothing shop, I had some marriage opportunities. However, as soon as I said that I was an A-bomb survivor, I was rejected. A-bomb survivors faced severe discrimination. The same thing happened several times, and I came to avoid the marriage issue. In those days, the rumors were believed that A-bomb diseases would be infectious, that A-bomb diseases would be hereditary, that A-bomb survivors wouldn’t be able to give birth, that their children would be born handicapped or that A-bomb survivors wouldn’t live long.
When I was 22 or 23, my uncle and aunt employed a young man named Kazuo Kajimoto. They recommended me to marry him, saying that he was a sincere and good man, but I was not so willing to accept their advice. However, they strongly urged me to marry him, saying, “Mr. Kajimoto doesn’t have prejudice against A-bomb survivors. This may be your last chance.” So, I got married in 1957 at the age of 26 after my youngest brother graduated from middle school. My aunt made the marriage preparations for me. Later, we were blessed with two daughters.
Since I began to work, I have not been in good condition. I didn’t know much about the A-bomb disease, but my symptoms were similar to those of the A-bomb sickness known as “A-bomb bura bura (chronic fatigue) disease.” It was very hard to go to work every day. Though I went to the hospital, I couldn’t find the reason of my symptoms. The “A-bomb Survivors’ Medical Care Law” was enacted in 1957, and I began to get health checkups twice a year. Since then, I have been told that I have a high white blood cell count, probably due to the effect of the A-bombing. In 1960, around the time I gave birth to my second daughter, my teeth began to become loose. Due to bleeding from the gums after the A-bombing, my gums had retreated. Finally, I got a full set of dentures when I was 55. I often caught a cold all year around. A stomach cancer was found in 1999, and I underwent surgery for it. In 2016, a brain tumor was found. I’m now under follow-up observations. Recently, I have the symptoms suspected of skin and colon cancers, and I will have an examination for those soon.