A Tale of Two Friends in a Beijing Cancer Hotel
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2017-01-12 05:44:22

Wang Qi, 17, and Zou Linchong, 21, are relatively new neighbors. Within the last year, both young men moved into small rooms in a low-rise apartment block, about a hundred meters from the front gate of Beijing Cancer Hospital. Now good friends, they share two crucial features: their address, and the bone cancer that threatens to cut their lives short.

Wang and Zou are two of hundreds of patients, and along with their families, they stay in temporary accommodation known as “cancer hotels.” In recent years, these buildings have been hastily constructed to house people who need to be close to treatment centers that are far away from their homes.

On average, 12,000 cancer diagnoses are made each day in China. Nearly half of those who travel outside their home province in search of high-quality cancer treatment come to Beijing.

Two young patients’ lives at a ‘cancer hotel’ in Beijing. By Han Meng/Sixth Tone

Wang comes from Heilongjiang province, in the far northeastern corner of China. Last year, doctors told him that effective treatment wasn’t available in his home province, so he and his mother moved to Beijing, where they now live in one of the hotel’s small rooms.

The yearly income of Wang’s family is about 20,000 yuan ($2,900). The past year of treatment has cost them 400,000 yuan, a quarter of which they borrowed from relatives. “For now, we’re just trying to cure my boy,” said Li Guiying, Wang’s mother. “But I don’t know how we will ever repay the money.”

Zou and his mother live across the hall from Wang and Li. The two young men have grown close since Zou moved to the hotel from his native Guizhou province in southwest China six months ago. They both have the same type of cancer, the same love for movies and smartphone games, and the same dreams of living in good health. Zou wants to start his own business after graduating from university, while Wang just wants a good job so he can help support his family.

The tenants of cancer hotels form a tight-knit community, cooking together in the communal kitchens while sharing news, ideas, encouragement, and sympathy. They spend almost all of their time in either the hotel or the hospital.

(Header image: Zou Linchong sits in bed behind his mother at a so-called cancer hotel in Beijing, Oct. 11, 2016. Xie Kuangshi/Sixth Tone)