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Filipina thanks Taiwan for cancer treatment

TAIPEI--A Filipina teenager who suffered from bone cancer teared up yesterday as she thanked the Taiwanese doctors and volunteers who brought her to Taiwan last year for treatment.

“It's like a dream,” Mary Donita Uy, who grew up in a slum in Manila, told reporters in Taipei after a press conference to announce the success of Uy's treatment.

The 18-year-old, accompanied by her elder sister, flew to Taiwan from the Philippines in December 2013 to be treated as part of an assistance program initiated by Taiwan's Chou Ta-kuan Foundation, a charitable organization established in New Taipei in 1997 to commemorate its namesake, a boy who died of cancer at the age of nine.

Over the next few months, Uy underwent chemotherapy and surgery at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital for stage 3 chrondrosarcoma, a rare cancer of the bones and joints.

Liau Chi-ting, one of the doctors who treated Uy, said the medical team removed a 15-centimeter bone tumor and a part of the humerus — the bone that runs from the shoulder to the elbow —from her right arm and filled the gap with a metal prosthesis.

Liau, who specializes in hematology, oncology and internal medicine, said an amputation was avoided because the tumor had not damaged the nerves in the teenager's arm.

Uy was first treated in the Philippines after being diagnosed with cancer in 2012, but the treatment was discontinued because her family could not keep up with the hefty medical bills.

The foundation learned of her case in February 2013 during a volunteer trip to the Philippines and arranged for her to be treated in Taiwan, with the help of the hospital and the Taiwan chapter of the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Her treatment and travel costs of around NT$1.5 million (US$49,812) are being paid for by the hospital and the charities, said Liu Jui-yen, deputy CEO of the Chou Ta-kuan Foundation.

“I'm really thankful (to) the doctors and the hospital because they (gave) me a second chance,” Uy told CNA.

The teen said the most difficult part of her ordeal was the chemotherapy.

“Sometimes it was so hard my body wanted to give up. But I overcame it,” Uy said, recalling that painting, music and her sister were what sustained her through the ordeal.

Although the tumor has been removed, Liau said Uy will have to undergo regular follow-up checkups in the Philippines for up to five years because most recurrences of the disease occur in the first five years after surgery.

Despite her long road ahead, the teenager said she is planning to apply to university after returning to the Philippines and has dreams of becoming an architect.

“We will always remember the love of Taiwan,” said Uy, who will leave Taiwan for the Philippines on Wednesday but plans to return sometime in the future.

“I love Taiwan and I am coming back,” she said.

“We were very glad to treat her,” Liau said. “I hope she will return to Taiwan as a healthy tourist next time.”

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