Helen Liang answers the question:
What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?
Well, I have always felt my life has always been filled with the kindest people, be it family members or non-family members, and the right people always show up at the right time, and do the right things for me. It could be something as trivial as someone would bring me a cup of tea when I’m just in need of it, or when it is a life-or-death kind of moment; someone would show up to save my life.
So I guess today, I will share what, to me, was a life-and-death kind of incident. This needs to go back to 25 years ago when I was diagnosed with terminal-stage, a very rare kind of lymphoma. I was hospitalized on and off for about half a year.
I had these big lumps all over my neck area and the back of my head, and it was very painful. I also had very high fever that wouldn’t go away for weeks.I had all sorts of biopsies and antibiotic treatments. After the diagnosis was confirmed, I received some extremely aggressive chemo treatment.
And according to my doctor, later on, that chemo treatment was probably one of the most poisonous kinds of chemo. That went on for a few months, and there were a lot of harsh side effects, which lasted for many, many years.
After the final doses of chemo, the cancer came back again, a few days later. So I started to get lumps all over, and again, neck and back of the head, and had a raging fever. Doctors tried all sorts of things in an attempt to bring down the fever, including throwing ice bags on me a few times a day, which was absolutely awful because the high fever was always accompanied by intense chill. So I would be feeling very cold already before they were throwing ice bags on me. Then the freezing cold ice bags were just very hard to tolerate; but worse was that, it didn’t help.
Nothing really helped, until eventually, the oncologist told me that I would have a maximum three weeks to live, and the only thing they could do was to try a bone marrow transplant. But the success rate of that was less than 5%, and they also needed to find a donor. Then, long story short, was that I had to make a decision, and so I made the decision to just go home, and spend the last few weeks of my life with my family.
But going back home, I was quite concerned about the raging fever that never seemed to go away. Of course, on top of that, I was pretty much immobile. I was feeling extremely weak, because of many months of hospitalization, chemo treatment, and all the harsh side effects I was experiencing from chemo. I was not able to move around normally without the constant help of someone, because I was too weak.
It was maybe a day or a few days later, after I went back home, my father received a phone call from a dear old friend of his, Hsan-Tung Hsu from Seattle. I call him Xu bo bo in Chinese, meaning "Uncle Hsu." He was the very first friend of my father, when my father first came to America, and they had spent some very good time together.
He’s a very intelligent man, and a person with a broad range of interests. And he’s a wanderer, who never stays long in one place, and it’s never easy to get a hold of him.
It had been many, many years that we hadn’t met or spoken, but there he was, that evening, calling. After learning about my condition, he said to my father, "Do you want me to connect you with my friend, Dr. Xue Zhi Wang, a TCM doctor who just came to America, from Beijing?"
Dr. Wang came from a family of many generations of TCM practice, and his ancestor used to be Imperial Doctor for the Emperor. So maybe he could help, at least to help with bringing down the fever for now.
And of course, clinging onto any hope we had, my father said yes right away, and immediately connected with Dr. Wang. Dr. Wang, after listening to my situation over the phone, without even seeing me, immediately prescribed some Chinese herbal formula for me, and asked me to try.
So my parents hurried to get this herbal medicine, and my mom had to boil them for hours before they would be ready to be ingested. However, given my frail body at the time, even a tiny, tiny amount of this herbal concoction made me vomit, but I forced myself. I was not giving up.
After persisting for a few days, I started to have diarrhea. But what was amazing was that my fever actually went down. So that was how the medicine was supposed to work, to rid of impurities from the body, and clearing inflammation.
So with my fever more in control, I started to feel more relaxed. Although I was still quite immobilized, and feeling weak, I was able to start doing some very gentle Qigong internal arts and Tai Chi exercises with my father on a daily basis.
The story went on from there, how it was the combination of Chinese herbal medicine and my own practice that had saved my life. What could be nicer than someone showing up and saving my life, when literally, death was knocking on my door?
So I’m thanking Uncle Hsu and Dr. Wang. I thank Uncle Hsu for miraculously showing up at the very right time, and connected us with Dr. Wang, who played such a critical role in my recovery. If it weren’t for them, I could have lost the very first battle of fighting with that raging fever, and would never have had the chance to really gather myself and start the daily program of practicing, which then brought more miracles to me.
Life is amazing. Every person we encounter in our life is here to shape our life. And one person leads to another, and one event leads to another, in an endless circle.
So I learned to always be grateful, and really cherish everyone around us, cherish every moment of our life, and learn to live from the moment — and have trust in the universe, that it will always have our back, and trust that we are supported, no matter how chaotic the world appears to be.
Master Helen Liang is a world-renowned Tai Chi, Qigong, and Chinese Martial Art master with more than three decades of teaching experience. She is the president of the SYL Wushu Taiji Qigong Institute in Vancouver, Canada. Helen is the author of numerous videos on Tai Chi, Qigong, Liu He Ba Fa (Water Style), and other internal styles of Chinese Martial Art. Her 24 Form Tai Chi, Beginner Tai Chi, for Health, Tai Chi, for Women, and Qigong for Cancer are all bestsellers on Amazon. Helen was featured twice on the cover of Kungfu Tai Chi, Qigong Magazine in the United States. She was also featured in the books Chinese Martial Arts Elites, Contemporary Famous Chinese Martial Artists, Kungfu Elements, and Extraordinary Chinese Martial Artists of the World.
In 2005, Helen and her father, Grandmaster Shouyu Liang, together with Channel M, Canada, created a one-of-a-kind instructional Tai Chi television series comprising 130 episodes for Canada’s multicultural community. The show, planned and written entirely by Helen and Grandmaster Liang, and hosted by Helen, has been picked up by stations across Canada and the United States. It was nominated for several Leo Awards, namely Best Lifestyle Series, Best Direction, and Best Host, and won the Best Lifestyle Series Award.
In 2017, Helen hosted another Tai Chi video for Canada’s national telecommunications company, Telus Corporation, to promote wellness to Canada’s diverse multicultural community. She has also been featured by many media companies, including Chinese Central Television (CCTV), Shanghai and Sichuan Provincial television in China, national pay-per-view features in the U.S., CBC, Fairchild Television, and Channel M in Canada, as well as newspapers and magazines in the U.S., Canada, and China.
She was invited to demonstrate in the Opening Ceremony of the 10th World Wushu Championships in Toronto in 2009. In 2013 and 2014 she obtained level 8th degree from both International Wushu Sanshou Dao Association (IWSD) and The World Organization of Wushu Kung Fu Masters. She was also awarded Outstanding Martial Arts Achievements by IWSD.
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This article appears in: 2021 Catalyst, Issue 10 - Transform Your Health Summit