“If I could relive my life, I would never touch betel nuts ever again,” said Chou Pei-yuan (周培圓), an oral cancer sufferer.
In spite of the short length of the sentence, Chou had to try 54 times before he got the message out.
Twelve years ago, 37-year-old Chou was diagnosed with stage four oral cancer. After doctors surgically removed the cancerous tumors — along with the majority of his tongue and lower jaw — Chou had great difficulty making himself understood when he spoke.
The operation saved Chou’s life, but left him with a speech impediment and facial disfigurement that led him to shut himself in his house for five years, attempting suicide numerous times.
His children finally persuaded him that he still had things to live for, and after joining the Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation as a volunteer three years ago, Chou found a role in which his disfigurement from cancer was actually an advantage.
“There was one time when I just took off my mask and a guy riding a scooter who we were talking to just tossed away his bag of betel nuts and said that he would never touch the stuff again,” Chou said.
According to statistics from the Department of Health, oral cancer — for the ninth year in a row — continued to be the No. 4 cause of death in the nation, claiming 2,300 lives a year.
Ahead of Father’s Day on Wednesday, Chou agreed to participate in a live shoot for a promotional video on oral cancer, sponsored by the Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation and the Yonglin Foundation.
When asked if he was willing to help, Chou said that, due to his appearance, he would “make the promotion more memorable.”
No matter how many times he had to repeat his lines or communicate with the foundation workers via pen and paper, Chou kept on filming, wishing only to transmit one message: Look at me, and say “No” to betel nuts.