China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - China - Con­tact the writer at wangzhenghua@ chi­

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.”

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