number of patients helped by the Shanghai Cancer Recovery Club enjoying life with my son and my husband, who had been running his own business for about five years,” she said. “I couldn’t understand why this misfortune had happened to me.”
When she wasn’t attending chemotherapy sessions, He isolated herself in her apartment. However, her life changed when she read a newspaper article about the Shanghai Cancer Recovery Club and decided to join.
She attended a party to welcome newcomers, and was touched when she saw older members singing and dancing on the stage.
“I couldn’t believe they had cancer,” she said. The spectacle encouraged her to reject despair and embrace a new life.
She bought books and magazines about medicine, nutrition and plant-based remedies, and took up new activities such as playing piano and learning to do makeup. She even began to enjoy housework and anything else that provided a new interest and helped her to relish life again.
“I take part in every activity the club organizes, despite my busy job,” said He, who works as a manager for a company in Shanghai. She is now the club’s vice-president and, as a member of the dance troupe, she performs, gives inspirational speeches and visits patients in hospitals.
What little free time she has is devoted to traveling with friends: “Life is about giving, sharing and creating; this is what I have learned from my years in the club.”
Ye Zhenghe, who was diagnosed with liver cancer 27 years ago, said the club has given her fresh impetus to survive. “My life is uplifting and fulfilled when I meet other members who are engaged in the fight positively,” she said.
In addition to grassroots organizations, there are several semiofficial support groups in Shanghai, such as the Yankang Center. When it was founded in 2003, it was the first cancer recovery group to be established by a hospital, the Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center.
“We offer classes for all the breast cancer patients in the hospital, teaching them professional ways of dealing with the disease, psychologically and physically,” said Huang Jialing, one of the founders, who is also secretary-general of the hospital’s surgical department.
Since March, the hospital’s social work department has held meetings for breast cancer patients. They are usually attended by about 30 people, who can share their questions, fears and anxieties, and listen to responses and advice from experts.
More than 100 cancer rehabilitation organizations are registered nationwide, according to the China Anti-Cancer Association. Some were founded by hospitals, while others were established independently.
With the exception of groups in the country’s four municipalities — Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing — which rely on donations, all the organizations receive financial support from the government.
Research conducted by the association into the quality of life of 10,000 randomly selected breast cancer patients nationwide shows that the survival rates of members of rehabilitation groups are much higher than those of people who fight the disease alone.
“However, we have to acknowledge that people who join groups are basically healthier than those who don’t, which is a limitation of the research,” said Zhen Rong, secretary-general of the association’s cancer rehabilitation society.
“For many people, the support of their peers is more welcome and effective than that of medical staff because other patients understand the emotional and physical toll cancer takes on its victims.”