What can a person handicapped by cancer do?
Lin Mu-ching (林睦卿) often gets asked thate question when she visits cancer patients in hospital.
“You can do whatever a healthy person can do,” she patiently answers.
These are not empty words of encouragement. Lin means what she says and through her own life has proven her belief to be true.
The 32-year-old from Taipei has become a motivator for thousands of cancer patients since the Formosa Cancer Foundation, moved by her strong sense of optimism and ability to overcome her difficulties, invited her to be their quasi-ambassador, sponsoring her to make speeches at hospitals, schools and elsewhere.
In order to share her story with more people, the cancer foundation hired two directors to shoot a film featuring her triumph over her disease and handicaps.
To the delight of the foundation, the film shot by a crew of four in four months was one of the five finalists out of 250 films in the category “Personal Stories” at the International Cancer Film Festival organized by the International Union Against Cancer in Geneva, Switzerland, in August.
Through the film, the foundation hopes Lin’s story will inspire more cancer sufferers and disadvantaged people to not lose hope and to pursue their dreams.
Lin was an ordinary girl who aspired to be an actress. She was looking forward to studying at art school and was to eager to take up a career as a performance artist.
But her dream was dashed at the age of 16 when, while playing basketball at school, she bumped into another player and fell. She felt pain in her left knee that worsened over the next few days.
Her father took her to see many doctors and finally discovered that she had osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer that largely affects children.
The only treatment was to amputate her left leg and even with this aggressive surgery her chances of surviving for another five years were only 20 percent.
Her father told her the proposed surgery and the dim prognosis just before she was carried into the operating theater.
When she regained consciousness, Lin no longer felt the pain that had plagued her. She used her right leg to try and touch her left leg, but found it was no longer there. All that remained was a 12.5cm stump. She broke down in tears.
For a long period after being released from hospital Lin was gripped with a strong feeling of self-pity and anger that this terrible disease had happened to her when she had done nothing wrong.
She could no longer walk or run, let alone pursue her dream of becoming an actress.
The operation interrupted her studies at school and made it difficult for her to find a job. Her father worried that his daughter might have to eke out a miserable living working as a fortuneteller.
Suffering from depression, Lin eventually found work as a telephone operator and led an unhappy life until one day she realized nobody was going to give her an opportunity to change her life unless she pursued opportunity herself.
She went back to the hobbies she had before her surgery, such as swimming, hiking and dancing, and learned to ignore the strange looks of others.
Lin even completed a course to become a television host and got a job with the Public Television Service.
It was then that her active pursuit of her goals in defiance of the dim prognosis she had received came to the attention of the Formosa Cancer Foundation, which encouraged her to share her experiences in fighting cancer with others.