Alicia O'Neill
Alicia O'Neill

"Wa": What We Can Learn from the Japanese Culture
Thursday, June 01
As I — no, as WE — anticipate our seventh Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma (MM4MM) trek and take on our fourth continent, Asia, to climb Japan’s epic Mount Fuji in July, I find myself fascinated with learning all I can about the country. I know very little about Japan, with its amazing history, an economy that is the third largest in the world (behind the United States and China) and cultural norms that in some ways are so different than ours.

In particular, I am fascinated by the Japanese cultural concept of “Wa,” which underlies the way people operate in Japan and is integral to their society and culture. “Wa” is loosely translated to mean “group harmony,” where the good of the group is valued over individual success, a Western concept. 

Interestingly, the advances in myeloma research in the last 20 years have depended on “Wa.”  Indeed, the medical research community, thankfully, has moved more toward a collaborative model, understanding that the collective work of thousands of scientists will accelerate cures for cancer; that a cure will not come from one researcher, one doctor or one academic medical center. And yes, “Wa” was at the core of the success of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) landmark CoMMpass Study, where over 1,000 newly diagnosed patients with multiple myeloma shared genetic data over the course of more than five years, helping fuel recent breakthroughs in multiple myeloma research and providing the largest genomic data set in all of cancer, so that scientists all over the world can tap into these findings to advance ALL cancer research — not just multiple myeloma.

The MM4MM partnership has flourished since we took our first epic steps up Mount Kilimanjaro in January 2016: TOGETHER, with patients, doctors, clinical trial managers, nurses, caregivers, scientists and family members, we have accomplished so much:
  • We have raised over $1 million, 100 percent of which goes to the groundbreaking and life saving research of the MMRF. 
  • We have raised incredible awareness, both nationally and locally, about the progress being made in multiple myeloma treatments, the urgent need for more research and treatments and the commitment of the three partners to accelerate cures.
  • We have been recognized by advertising and pharmaceutical organizations for the innovative and successful partnership between the MMRF, Takeda Oncology and CURE Media.
  • We have 77 MM4MM team members, including 20 patients, three doctors, two nurses and three clinical trials managers hike these incredible mountains with patient family members, caregivers and others closely connected to this difficult disease.
Together, we have inspired the myeloma community with our stories, giving hope to patients and loved ones. We have demonstrated that incredible progress in myeloma treatments has made it possible for patients — who wondered if they would ever be able to walk to the mailbox — to be able to now scale mountains.

We are honored to venture next to Japan, the home of Takeda. We are humbled to take on the most sacred mountain in Japan, 12,389 feet tall. We are proud to work together as a team of 20, and to support each other as we learn from the amazing Japanese culture so that we can continue to move mountains.  
Interested in multiple myeloma updates from CURE®? Sign up for our newsletter!

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

View our interviews with climber Chuck Wakefield