An eight-year-old Chinese boy who has been waging a brave four-year battle against cancer has received an outpouring of online sorrow and support.
Since being diagnosed in 2018, the boy – who has become widely known by his nickname, Xiaoxuan – has endured 36 chemotherapy and 43 radiotherapy treatments, plus undergone four rounds of surgery.
What’s more, Xiaoxuan has to wear a colostomy bag, described as the “most frightening and painful” thing for him, the Jinan Times reports.
Born in a village in southeastern Anhui province, Xiaoxuan’s parents are migrant workers in Wuhu.
At the beginning of 2018, in a major hospital in Shanghai, he was diagnosed with rhabdomyoma (RMS) on his peritoneum.
RMS is the most common type of soft-tissue cancer in children, with boys tending to be affected slightly more often than girls. The peak incidence is in children between the ages of 0 and 4 years, with around 4 cases per 1 million children, according to the US National Cancer Institute.
In the two years following diagnosis, the boy underwent two surgeries to cut out the tumour cells as well as receiving dozens of chemotherapies and radiotherapies in Shanghai.
In July 2020 when his parents thought he had recovered and they planned to return to their previous factory to work, doctors discovered that the tumour had reappeared. The couple then took their son to seek medical treatment at Shandong Cancer Treatment in Jinan, eastern Shandong province.
Xiaoxuan underwent a third surgery two months later, aimed at cutting out the new tumours. But doctors had to end the surgery earlier than scheduled after finding a dangerous bowel condition.
The situation worsened when the operating wound on the little boy’s bowel failed to heal causing an infection.
When doctors cleaned Xiaoxuan’s infection, he was not anaesthetised and thus had to bear terrible pain.
“Every time doctors cleaned Xiaoxuan’s abdomen and changed medicine for him, he screamed ferociously and his body trembled. My wife and I felt heartbroken at this moment,” said the boy’s father, identified by an alias, Aqi.
During this period, Xiaoxuan could only manage liquid nourishment. Aqi said one time the boy was so hungry that he asked his father to give him some food to eat.
His father convinced him to drop this idea and the boy nodded, saying: “I listen to you. I will not eat. Could you just give me a steamed bun to smell?” The father said the boy looked happy as he smelled the aroma of the steamed bun.
At the end of 2020, Xiaoxuan received a fourth surgery to install a colostomy bag which will stay in place until his bowels have recovered.
The battle has hit the family hard financially due to the fact that the little boy’s mother has quit her job to focus on taking care of her son and his father can only get occasional labouring work.
Their relatives managed to raise a 60,000 yuan (S$12,464) donation from the public. In addition, the family appealed for help on the donation platform of Weibo, with a target of 300,000 yuan.
Internet users were so sympathetic for the boy that the donation goal was reached within three weeks.
“I feel so sad for the boy. He has been suffering so much pain,” wrote one person on the portal website Baidu. “I hope God will stop torturing him and let him be healthy and happy like other kids.”