Han Zhixiang was born in 1935. He worked at the Third Institute of Standards and Metrology, the Ministry of Transport, before retirement. After living with fibro sarcoma for 69 years, Han was feted as an anti-cancer Star of Beijing at the ceremony first held in 1994. When he was four years old Han Zhixiang was taken by his mother to the then Peiping Union Medical College Hospital on November 17, 1939, because his abdomen was swollen. The diagnosis of the doctor was abdominal fibro sarcoma, but he said it would require a further five more years of observation after surgical resection. The child should survive if the disease did not reoccur within five years.
At 73 years of age, Han Zhixiang sat next to the reporter, recounting what he had experienced over the past decades.
Turning the clock back, Han Zhixiang recalls the Beijing Evening News of June 14, 1994, carrying a news item, love life, tolerance, optimism, self-reliance and tenacious struggle under the theme, the Selection of Anti-cancer Stars and Families Commences.
Han Zhixiang was then an engineer working for the Institute of Standards and Metrology, under the Ministry of Transport. On seeing the news, Han recalled that he had an operation at the age of four to remove some kind of tumor, yet could not be sure whether it was a cancer or not. Han Zhixiang then went to the selection office. A staff member told him that fibro sarcoma was cancer, but only a doctor's certification and medical records could attest that he had cancer. Han Zhixiang began to worry. He had entered the hospital in 1939. After the Anti-Japanese War, the War of Liberation and the cultural revolution would his medical records from the Union Hospital still be there?
Han Zhixiang wanted to at least try, and went to the Beijing Union Medical Hospital. With the number on Han's registration card, the staff at the Medical Records Office soon found his file, No. 69552.
The doctor carefully checked the medical records, which were in English, and was perplexed for a long time. "Is this you?" the doctor asked Han Zhixiang, pointing to the yellowed medical records. Han Zhixiang already sensed what was unspoken. The doctor was actually wondering whether this patient could be alive or not. True, how could a cancer patient live 55 more years? After checking the date of birth and the exact site of the disease, the doctor issued Han Zhixiang a certificate without any further delay: the patient was hospitalized and received surgery and radiation treatment at our hospital from November 4, 1939 to December 1, 1939.
Han obtained a copy of his medical records and a certificate from the Peking Union Medical College Hospital. The news that Han Zhixiang had survived 55 years after getting cancer, was like setting off a bomb, and caused quite a stir in Beijing. No one could imagine that one might survive cancer for 55 years. The Beijing Evening News even carried six news items about Han Zhixiang within one month.