Nine out of 10 people who are suffering from cancer, investment failures or traffic injuries would say they are at the lowest point of their lives, but 71-year-old Tsou Yao-wen (鄒耀文) and his wife, 57-year-old Huang Pao-yu (黃寶玉), look at their glass as half-full, despite having experienced all three crises.
Born in a small village in Yilan County, Tsou grew up like most boys in the neighborhood and education was the last thing on his mind when he graduated from elementary school.
Dreaming of a better life, Tsou moved to Taipei when he was 14 and worked as a construction worker for nearly two decades before switching to selling fish at the age of 32.
Photo: Chen Wei-tzu, Taipei Times
When he turned 46, Tsou took a leap of faith and invested every cent of his hard-earned money — about NT$2 million (US$68,000) — in his friends’ newly started shrimp-farming business.
Tsou had expected a handsome profit, only to see all his money go down the drain after the shrimp farm was struck by disease.
A year later, Tsou met the 33-year-old Huang via matchmaking and decided to get married despite their financial difficulties.
Although life was never easy, the couple found happiness in each other and supported themselves and their two daughters by setting up a stall on Taipei’s Jilin Road selling sugarcane juice.
However, their happiness only lasted about three years, when Tsou was later diagnosed with first-stage nasopharyngeal cancer.
“One night, while I was sleeping, I suddenly had a nose bleed and I could feel the blood flowing back toward my throat. I had a strong taste of blood in my mouth and when I spit it out, it was pure blood,” Tsou said.
Tsou said he did not shed a tear when the doctor broke the bad news to him, though he wondered why would such a disease strike someone like him, who had never smoked, drunk alcohol or chewed betel nut.
“When life throws me a curveball, all I can do is catch it,” he said.
Tsou closed his business temporarily to focus on his health and spent his life savings on a two-month radiation therapy session.
Although the therapy helped bring Tsou’s condition under control, it left him penniless again at the age of 50.
After recuperating at home for about a year, Tsou resumed his sugarcane juice business, working 18 hours a day, from 5am to 11pm.
Such long work hours would be unbearable for most people, let alone someone recovering from cancer. However, Tsou had no choice but to endure the hardship because his family was counting on him.
Just when Tsou thought his life was finally getting back to normal, misfortune struck again — his wife broke a hip after being hit by a bicycle-riding neighbor.
Rather than trying to square up with the neighbor, Tsou talked Huang out of seeking compensation from the man, saying that doing so could cause problems between the man and his wife, who are already short on money.
Huang was bedridden for a long time after she had hip replacement surgery, forcing Tsou to shut down his business permanently to take care of his wife around-the-clock.
“We had absolutely no source of income at the time and could only ask our parents for help,” Huang said, adding that she has difficulty walking even now.
Although the couple’s plight qualified them for a low-income family subsidy of NT$10,000 a month, they refused to rely solely on government welfare and decided to supplement their income by collecting recyclables.
Tsou then joined a local conservation volunteer group after he was finally cleared of cancer about five years ago, helping sweep the streets in his neighborhood and pick up trash in alleys.
“One day consists of 86,400 seconds and it’s up to you to decide whether to spend the day in sorrow or in happiness,” Tsou said.
As long as you can transform your mind, the circumstances that make your life bitter will pass away in time, he said.
DOING ENOUGH? The HPA budgets NT$1.3 billion to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but has no separate budget to fight teen drinking, a doctor said The government should step up alcohol education and prevention efforts, and allocate more of the budget to it, doctors said on Friday, citing the high consumption of alcohol among Taiwanese adolescents. One out of four 12-to-17-year-olds has consumed alcohol, said Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海), director of Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Department of Clinical Toxicology. The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) budgets NT$1.3 billion (US$43.9 million) annually to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but it has not allocated a separate budget for preventing teenage drinking or excessive alcohol use, Yen said. “There is no so-called ‘safe drinking level’ for minors,” because any amount consumed
The Fancy Frontier manga and anime expo held in Taipei over the weekend has sparked controversy, after a participant allegedly contravened the Act on Offenses Against Sexual Morality (妨害風化罪) by publicly exposing her private parts during a photo shoot. The two-day event opened at the Expo Dome at the Taipei Expo Park on Saturday, attracting numerous comic and anime creators, cosplayers, photographers and fans. Allegedly, a female cosplayer who was not wearing any underwear lifted up her skirt and revealed her private parts at an outdoor photography area near the venue. Event organizers said yesterday that to prevent indecent exposure, they have since
DREAMING OF TRAVEL: About 7,000 people applied for the experience, with about 60 chosen for the first flight yesterday, which includes boarding an airplane Starved of the travel experience during COVID-19? Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) has the solution — a fake itinerary where you check in, go through passport control and security, and even board the aircraft. You just never leave. The airport yesterday began offering travelers the chance to do just that, with about 60 people eager to get going, albeit to nowhere. About 7,000 people applied to take part, with the winners chosen by random. More fake flight experiences are to take place in the coming weeks. “I really want to leave the country, but because of the pandemic, lots of flights cannot fly,”
SOUTH WINDS: Taiwan’s southeastern region, as well as central and southern regions, would see regional showers and thundershowers, the Central Weather Bureau said Heavy to extremely heavy rainfall in the afternoon in the next two days might cause damage in affected areas, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said yesterday, urging people to stay vigilant. With the weakening of a Pacific high-pressure system and with a frontal system in the north moving south, the nation would come under the influence of southwest and south winds today, the bureau said. People in the nation’s southeastern region, as well as in central and southern Taiwan, are likely to experience regional showers or thundershowers, it said. Chances of afternoon thundershowers are high nationwide, and people in some regions