Pictures of life

Cancer patients in Taiwan share their stories through award-winning photography.

With a young son and a daughter, Chen Yajun was diagnosed with leukemia four years after she got married. Her mother had died of the same disease when Yajun was still a child. What’s worse, she almost died from the septic shock and the accompanying pancreatitis caused by an initial treatment. Fearing that she would not be able to see her children grow up and accompany them in their journey of life, she started to prepare for the future. She bought clothes and shoes for their school and even urged her husband to look for another companion.

Then she started to record her everyday life with her children by taking her camera with her everywhere. Even hospital visits. Inspiration came from her three-year-old son who voluntarily serves as her left eye, as vision in the eye is now extremely poor. He helps her cross the road, read bus numbers and accompany her to doctor appointments.

Today, Yajun and her husband have won first place in the Cancer Patient category and third place in the Families and Friends of Cancer Patients category in the Fifth Embracing Hope Digital Photography Competition. The caption of her photo is Smiling Faces and it depicts her children during a family outing.

Emotional outlet

The Embracing Hope Digital Photography Competition was started in 2008 to encourage cancer patients and their families and to help them shed their fear of the disease. The event was started by the Hope Foundation for Cancer Care and Roche Taiwan. This opportunity to capture their lives through photographs helps to provide an emotional outlet, empowering them in their fight against cancer.

This year’s awards ceremony and exhibition of the photographs took place on April 2. The 19 winners in different categories, their families and friends and medical teams were invited to come to receive awards. The entire collection of a 121 winning entries from the Embracing Hope competitions since 2008 was put on display. There are three categories in the contest – Patient, Friends and Families and Medical Team. The winning photographs of each category are exhibited online and in hospitals after the awards ceremony to encourage and support patients and families who are currently fighting against cancer.

Knowing her through photos

Husband and wife Xinyi and Jiahao were given an award for their excellent work in the Cancer Patients category and placed second in the Families and Friends of Cancer Patients category. It has been 15 years since they met at school and fell in love. They did not have the slightest idea that Xinyi would have stage IV breast cancer when they were about to have her second baby. Under medical advice they had to say goodbye to their unborn baby.

The change and uncertainty brought by the disease had a sudden and great impact on their life. What Xinyi was most concerned about was that she would not see her young daughter grow up. She was also fearful that her daughter might not be able to accept her because of the physical changes brought about by the treatment such as losing her hair and the mastectomy.  However, with help from Jiahao, who is always by her side, and deep faith they began to focus on the positives of the time spent together.  Instead of being sad, they used a camera to record special moments of their family. One day he hopes he can use these photos to tell his daughter stories about her mother.

Two photographs, the first called – One, Two, Three, Happy – showing them making happy faces and the second – Acceptance – in which their 20-month-old daughter touches her mother’s bald head with a broad smile, deeply touched the judges.

Dreaming photos

Another award winner was Chen Jianhong who won third place in the Cancer Patients group for a mirror selfie – Dream – that he took on his 20th birthday. He was diagnosed with a brain tumour when still only 13 years old. After countless operations, electrotherapy, and chemotherapy, he still lives with cancer. He cannot walk normally since the cancer cells affect his motor nerves. His disability once isolated him from the world, until he watched a movie on photography. Since then he has been capturing moments of his life that he values with a camera. This has filled him with confidence and he dreams of becoming a photographer.

Talking about the event, Katie Peng, General Manager of Roche Taiwan, expressed, “To help cancer patients smoothly fight against cancer, Roche not only endeavour’s to research and discover innovative medicines but also address needs beyond medication among cancer patients and their families.”

Dr. Wang Zhengxu, Director of the Hope Foundation for Cancer Care, added: “Hobbies can provide motivation and goals. A positive attitude has been proven to effectively extend the life of cancer patients. Thus, the Hope Foundation for Cancer Care and Roche Pharma Taiwan biennially co-organise the Embracing Hope Digital Photography Competition in the hope that all cancer patients, families and medical teams in the fight against cancer can get an outlet for their emotions and pressures and have a more positive attitude toward cancer.”

Tags: Oncology, Patients