To not miss any class and save cost, an 11-year-old boy overcame the pain of leukemia treatment and travelled for hundreds of kilometers between his home and the hospital in one day for one year, reported Guiyang Evening Daily on Tuesday.
Shi Luyao is from Bengjing village in Liupanshui city, Guizhou province. His mother left him when Shi was two years old because of poverty and never came back. The boy has lived with his grandparents since then. When Shi was in third grade, his father took him to Anhui province where he was working.
In 2013, their life was disrupted. Shi developed high fever and medical check-up showed that he had acute lymphocytic leukemia, a type of leukemia commonly seen in children.
To cure the disease, the boy had to receive long-term chemotherapy. "My son, you must hold on. I will save you by all means," said the boy's father in encouragement.
The medical bill for leukemia treatment was high. As the hospital was not in Shi's home province, only 30 per cent of the bill was covered by insurance, Shi's father was forced to borrow 200,000 yuan (S$40,800) in close to two years.
In the later stage of the chemotherapy, Shi was cared for by his grandma because his father had to go back to work to earn money to afford the treatment.
Long trip to hospital
In August 2015, Shi was sent back to his hometown in Guizhou province after his condition got better. But he had to have bone marrow biopsy on an irregular basis to monitor the situation.
To ease the financial burden on his family, the boy started going to hospital in Kunming, more than 400 kilometers away from his home, to receive treatment himself. He first went to Liupanshui city by bus where he took a train heading for Kunming.
The first time he went to receive treatment himself, the boy waited for six hours at the railway station to catch the train heading for Kunming at 3am. "I wanted to cry, but I did not as I did not want other people to know I was all by myself," said Shi.
Each time the bone marrow biopsy was finished, Shi was supposed to lie on bed for several hours before standing up. However, the boy got up soon after the therapy before the pain eased, and went back home overnight because he did not want to miss a single class.
When he arrived at Liupanshui, he waited for the dawn break at the railway station before taking a homebound bus.
"I can't remember how many times I waited for the dawn at the railway station," Shi burst into tears when talking about the lonely trips he took to receive treatment.
Shi had to quit school for two years due to the leukemia. But he never quit learning. During the two years he was out of school, he borrowed books to go over the lessons he had learned before he was ill and the new courses of fifth grade on his own. After his condition got under control, the boy asked his grandparents to send him back to school.
"He looked very down and lonely, but he scored surprisingly good grades," said Peng Lu, the Chinese language teacher of Shi. Peng said the boy's grades have remained at the top of the class since he returned to school. Each time he came back from the hospital, the boy would hand in his homework on time, she said.
Peng said he was taken by surprise when she first came to know that the boy was suffering from leukemia. To make Shi feel less lonely, four classmates were arranged to study with him and take care of him.
According to the doctor in charge of Shi, the boy's treatment has entered the later stage, and he can recover without having a bone marrow transplant. The treatment is expected to take another two years.