CHINA A kitchen to fight against cancer


A kitchen to fight against cancer

By An Bowen | People's Daily app

15:28, August 25, 2020



No delicacies or feasts here. No one knows each other. But they have a similar experience: they moved here due to cancer, and came to Nanchang from all over Jiangxi Province to get medical treatment. In order to save on costs, everyone cooks a taste of home for the family in this simple kitchen every day. Some people come, and some go. Behind every dish here is a family torn apart by cancer. Every cent saved must be used to extend life.

Across the wall from the Jiangxi Cancer Hospital, there is a small street called Xueyuan Road. Because patients with cancer need regular chemotherapy, many family members of these patients eat and live in the village-in-city on this street.

“My wife and I are both from the Xinjian District of Nanchang. We came here to sell fried dough sticks more than ten years ago. One day, a family member of a patient wanted to use our stove to cook. Since then, more and more family members have gathered here to cook for the sick.” Every morning at around 4, Mr. Wan and his wife Ms. Xiong have to get up on time to make fried dough sticks. After 7 a.m., this small stall has been transformed into a “kitchen” for the families of many patients with cancer.

6.jpg“Generally, if patients and family members eat out, it costs 40-60 yuan a day. If they use my stove to cook, and I only charge one yuan, more than half of the food expenses would be saved. And this money could cover my expenses to buy briquettes for everyday cooking, about 50 to 60 yuan,” Xiong said. After Ms. Xiong finished frying the dough sticks, she started to heat up more than a dozen stoves, so that the patients’ families could cook.

“During last year’s Spring Festival, a family member of a patient from Jiujiang asked me whether he would be allowed to cook on the first day of Spring Festival because chemotherapy was required. I think restaurants will not be open during that time. If we don’t stay, they won’t even have food. For this reason, on the first day of last year’s Spring Festival, we stayed here to prepare meals for them.” Xiong told us that since 7 in the morning, many family members of patients have come to prepare lunch one after another.

For convenience, all the family members of the patients who come to cook carry a bucket, which contains the vegetables and seasoning they bought at the vegetable market. After the meal is finished, they put their meals in the buckets and bring them to the ward.


The busiest time of the day is around lunch. At most, 20 or 30 people come to cook together. The family members can only line up to wash, chop, and cook. “In our place, few people have disputes over lining up to cook. People who come to cook here don’t have a lot of money. Everyone knows that life is not easy,” Xiong added.

“Some women cook for their husbands, some children cook for their parents, and others are helpless and have to go to chemotherapy after cooking by themselves. Almost everyone who comes here has spent more than 100,000 yuan on medical treatment.” Wan said that because the place is small, everyone can only cook in the open alley.

8.jpgZan Xianghua’s husband, a truck driver, was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer earlier this year. Zan said that her husband seldom asked her to cook in the kitchen before he fell ill. However, in order to save money, she did not complain and voluntarily asked to come over to cook. “If you come here to cook, it costs only 20 to 30 yuan a day. I usually come over at noon, and prepare lunch and dinner and take it home.”

Speaking of her husband, Zan felt very distressed. Although she had to face the cruel facts, she still remained optimistic. “We have two children in our hometown. Our daughter is 17 years old and a son who is 14. They are taken care of by the grandmother. I hope that my husband will recover soon, and the family will be reunited.


“I’m different from them. Others cook for family members. I cook for myself. After this meal, I have to go to chemotherapy as soon as possible.” Ms. Tan, a mother of three, will be 60 in two months. Her husband had a cerebral hemorrhage and passed away. The children were working in another place. She had to see a doctor in the hospital alone and cook by herself.

“I have to get chemotherapy every two months. My husband used more than 200,000 yuan for treatment before he passed away, and I am now spending almost 100,000 yuan.” Tan came to the hospital for check-ups during the Spring Festival this year, and found that she had lymphoma. After three months of treatment in the First Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, she was later transferred to Jiangxi Cancer Hospital. 

Tan’s children are going to make money to support the family, so they only visit her when she is admitted and discharged, and when she pays. “People always have to eat. I can take care of myself, cook and eat more, so that I can continue to live. What can I do else?” Ms. Tan said.

Wang Weihong, 46, and her husband are from Dexing, Jiangxi province. Her husband was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer last year. “From March to September last year, my husband had been hospitalized in the cancer hospital, so I started cooking here. I bought some ribs to stew soup today for him.”


In the last seven months of treatment, the family spent more than 260,000 yuan. In March this year, the re-examination cost more than 10,000 yuan. Wang said that although the medical insurance can reimburse about 90% of the costs, many imported drugs and specific drugs are not included, most of which were paid by themselves.

Heavy rain quenched the summer heat. As the people who cook gradually leave, Wan and Xiong are also preparing to close their stalls and end their day. In the inpatient building of the Cancer Hospital across the street, many patients and their families are still struggling with cancer.

21.jpg“We have new customers here every day, and some familiar faces never appear again after they leave. Many family members of patients become our friends. When you find that someone you know no longer appears in our kitchen, their relatives probably have passed away.” When the sun rises every day, those who have to work hard to survive must return here to cook for their families, to move on with their lives.

(Original story from

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