Work helps cancer survivor remain healthy

Updated: 2015-02-20 16:02

By Huang Zhiling and Peng Chao(China Daily)

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Yuan Chao, 54, is so busy with post-quake reconstruction in his home village of Datong in Lushan county, Sichuan province, that he often forgets he is recovering from esophageal cancer.

Yuan became Party chief of Datong in 2007. A year later, a magnitude-8.0 earthquake struck Wenchuan county, Sichuan, leaving 170 of the 576 households in the mountainous village threatened by landslides.

Yuan encouraged the families to move down the mountain and build new houses. In 2011, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and had an operation in Chengdu, Sichuan.

"After another three operations and many rounds of chemotherapy, he started recovering," said his wife, Zhang Jinrong. "Doctors told him not to overwork, not to stay up late, take medicine on time and have five meals a day. They said his life would be in danger if he had a relapse."

Villagers thought Yuan would quit his post as Party chief, but he resumed his job and continued helping them build new homes.

Yuan breathed a sigh of relief when all the villagers whose homes were threatened by landslides moved to new houses before Spring Festival in 2013. But two months later, a magnitude-7.0 earthquake, with its epicenter near the village, made all 576 homes dangerous to live in.

Hu Chengzhen, an octogenarian who was escorted out of her home by Yuan shortly before an aftershock toppled it, said: "Villagers wept and would not leave their damaged houses because they had spent all their savings on them. As communication was cut off after the quake, Yuan Chao had to ride his motorcycle to all 576 households and persuade them to leave home."

The villagers were reluctant to leave, but when Yuan promised that he and militiamen would patrol the village to prevent looting of the abandoned houses, those who refused to leave eventually did so and lived in tents.

Work helps cancer survivor remain healthy

"Two days after the quake, I lost my voice because of all the talking I had done in trying to persuade villagers to leave their homes," said Yuan. "My eyes were red as a result of sleep deprivation."

Sichuan formally started reconstruction of the Ya'an quake zone on July 20, 2013, three months after the earthquake.

"He became busier and busier," said villager Hu Zehua. "He had to visit one household after another to tell villagers about government policies on post-quake reconstruction. He had to make sure their houses would be reinforced or rebuilt and whether they would be rebuilt at the same or new sites. He also had to help villagers find solutions to funding and labor shortages and help them buy building materials at good prices. He would work for more than 10 hours a day, have only two meals and ignore the time for taking medicine."

When Yuan's wife complained, he said he would tell her: "When I had an operation in 2011, two other cancer patients were in my ward. Both have passed away. I forget I am a patient when I am busy. That's good for my health."

(China Daily USA 02/20/2015 page4)