Breast Cancer Survivor – A Symbol of Hope

Kathy Matsui, photo courtesy of Kathy Matsui

As Goldman Sachs Japan Co. managing director, Kathy Matsui tries to “give good advice to investors regarding Japan’s stock market economy — where it’s going and where to invest.”

While Matsui is an expert in her field, having been voted top strategist by Institutional Investor in 2000, 2001, and 2006, her road to success was far from easy.

Matsui, in fact, had to put her career on hold when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001.

The Nikkei spent months living with her parents, Andy and Yasuko Matsui, in their Pebble Beach, Calif., home, as she endured chemotherapy and radiation.

Yasuko Matsui, herself, has battled the disease.

Matsui was able to rely upon a wide network of support from family members, friends, and colleagues, while undergoing treatment.

Andy Matsui noted his daughter’s straightforward and determined approach to fighting the disease, he said. “She isn’t a person to cry a lot. She always tries to solve her problems.”

Kathy Matsui’s determination is likely gained in part from her father, a Salinas, Calif.-based orchid farmer and philanthropist.

Today, the 44-year-old Nisei welcomes opportunities to “serve as an example as someone who was able to survive… to give people some hope.”

Matsui also acknowledges her faith in God for having “put me in my place, and allowing me to help people along the way,” she said in a phone interview from her office in Roppongi.

In spite of her willingness to speak as a survivor, in Japan, cancer is “still, frankly, a taboo disease,” she disclosed.

People don’t talk about the disease publicly nor are there many support groups for cancer survivors in her adopted home country, said Matsui.

Whereas many cancer survivors opt either by necessity or by choice, to simplify their lives following their diagnosis, Matsui has not shied away from the rigorous demands of her job.

While Matsui’s travel schedule is so heavy that she says she doesn’t even count the days that she’s out of the country and you won’t find her complaining about being too busy.

“I could never survive being a stay-at-home mom. To me that [is or would be] almost more stressful than what I do now. That’s just my personality,” the mother of two said.

The importance of hard work, and the “true value of money” are lessons Matsui learned at an early age.

Despite being “poor farmers” from Nara Prefecture in Japan, the Matsuis, who had never attended college, sent their four children to Harvard University, Kathy Matsui said.

Over the years, the Matsuis’ perseverance and determination paid off. Earlier this year the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco cited Andy Matsui’s efforts to further “international cultural understanding,” and his creation of scholarships for “disadvantaged youth,” as making him worthy of a commendation.

Like her parents, Kathy Matsui believes in giving back.

In addition to balancing her work and her time with her children and husband, she is actively involved at her church, Tokyo Union Church, and sits on the board of the Asian University for Women Support Foundation.

While Kathy Matsui was quick to praise her parents’ numerous sacrifices to benefit their children, the Nikkei believes, that one’s economic situation, is often dependant upon luck. Sometimes, “it just so happens you’re born into a situation where money isn’t an issue, or it is a huge issue.”

Rather than just waiting around for good luck to happen to her, however, Matsui is committed to doing something for others.

Matsui insists upon doing “something that makes someone feel good” each day, an investment that keeps on giving.

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