Gang and Lihong were living a parent’s worst nightmare. Their teenage daughter Xingyu was more than 1,000 miles away in Florida during a hurricane, and she was suffering from a strange headache and visual disturbances that sent her to the hospital. The doctors there discovered she had a Clival Chordorna brain tumor.
Since the storm cancelled all flights, Xingyu’s father Gang had to drive all the way to Florida to pick her up. As he drove, he felt numb and unable to cry. Gang reassured himself that maybe it was all a misunderstanding because his first language is Mandarin Chinese, and he had been told the news through a translator on the phone.
He rushed Xingyu home and his hopes were dashed when their local hospital confirmed the diagnosis and the need for treatment. She is now 15 years old and in the maintenance phase of treatment after numerous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation over the past year.
Xingyu’s family connected to Friends of Karen through the hospital social worker and they were relieved when they were paired with social worker Sarah and sibling support specialist Naomi, a Mandarin speaker.
”My job is to devote myself to my children’s needs, and I am so thankful to have Friends of Karen’s support,” Gang said. “It has made things more comfortable for our family to have one consistent Mandarin speaking person working with us. Friends of Karen knows our story and we are comfortable with them.”
This support has been vital as Xingyu’s illness has had a profound impact on the entire family. Gang had to stop working as a taxi driver to be with her during inpatient treatment and doctor visits, while Lihong continued to work as a nail technician. Like so many families with a seriously ill child, the reality is that one salary was not enough to pay all their bills. Friends of Karen helped the family with financial assistance towards rent, car insurance, buying new furniture, providing gift cards for the kids for clothes, birthdays and the holidays.
And, it wasn’t just their financial worries, the whole family was reeling from the life changes, and fear and anxieties of Xingyu’s life-threatening illness. “After Xingyu was diagnosed, I noticed her moods were becoming unstable more easily,” Gang shared. “Naomi helped Xingyu work through her feelings and helped the family understand and support her emotional needs.”
Her younger brother Haokai, now 10 years old, had to deal with the upheaval of not just his family life, but the consequences of COVID-19 as he now attended school remotely. It created a mixture of feelings for him and Naomi worked with him to provide support and outlets for his emotions, which are typical for siblings of ill children.
Gang is grateful that his family had the support of Friends of Karen to help his family persevere through this difficult time.
“Knowing that people cared about me and our family let me focus on Xingyu and her emotional and medical needs,” Gang said. “It’s not easy to stay strong when you are going through something like this. I learned that it’s not just OK, but important to reach out for help so that you can focus on your child. It is important to think positively even in the worst case scenario to keep your hopes up and not give up.”