When Hong Zhiming was told 18 months ago he had cancer of the kidneys, he never dreamed he would one day be in Beijing to watch the Olympic Games.
"The doctor said I had only three months to live," the 56-year-old artist from Shanghai said.
But yesterday, Hong proved that doctor wrong, when he stepped off a train in the capital with 197 fellow cancer patients from Shanghai, all of them in town for a seven-day trip of their lives.
"Coming to see the Olympic Games is the best therapy for all of us," he said.
"No one would ever know we are cancer patients. We're all dressed in red and look very energetic," Hong said, adding he has never given in to the disease and always tries to live a "quality life".
The holidaymakers, many of them on their first visit to Beijing, began their holiday yesterday with a look around Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
"This is the best trip I've ever made to Beijing," Ye Zhenghe, 58, who has been suffering from liver cancer for the past 15 years, said.
"I love the cheerful mood here in Beijing, and that's all because of the Olympics," she said.
Organized by the Shanghai Cancer Recovery Club, the idea for the Beijing trip came about seven years ago when Beijing won its bid to host the 2008 Olympics, group coordinator Yuan Zhengping said.
"Everyone was really excited about it, as many of them had never even been to Beijing before," he said.
Yuan, 59, was diagnosed with lymph cancer 27 years ago, just 10 days after he got married.
"The doctor told me I would only live for a year, but I managed to escape my fate and am basically sound now," he said.
"I really believe that my optimistic attitude and all the friendship and love I receive have helped bring the miracle of life to me," he told China Daily.
"And I want to pass on that message of hope to more people," he said.
Another member of the organizing team is Lu Huijuan from the Shanghai Cancer Recovery Club, which has more than 9,000 members.
"The trip ignited really strong survival instincts in people," he said.
"Even though they were all battling cancer, they were determined to be around to see the Olympics in their own country," he said.
The club encouraged its members to save 2 yuan every day so that by the time of the Olympics they would have enough money to cover their expenses, Lu said.
"It's not just the collecting of money, but their strong will that has helped them all to keep on living," he said.
All of the people on the trip have passed the first five years of battling their cancers, which is the most dangerous time, Lu said.
That means they are all in a comparatively stable physical condition, he said.
Yuan said the person in the most serious condition is 60-year-old Qiu Haidi, who is suffering from lung cancer and finds it hard to breath.
"Although she is too weak to attend any of the actual Olympic sports events, she insisted on coming to the flag-raising ceremony at Tian'anmen Square," he said.
As well as taking in all the sights and sounds of Beijing, the group is scheduled to attend eight Olympic competitions, including basketball, table tennis, baseball, gymnastics, and track and field events, Yuan said.
"Each member of the group will be get to watch two events on average," he said.
Most of them are looking forward to watching a baseball game today, while some of the others will go to see a basketball or volleyball match, he said.
While each of the holidaymakers - whose ages range from 30 to 84 - has saved up for the trip, several organizations have also made generous contributions, Yuan said.
China Mobile gave us 200 tickets to various Olympic events, while the Shanghai tourism trade association donated 200,000 yuan on behalf of its 88 members, and the city's Jin Jiang Travel Agency paid for us to stay at a four-star hotel, he said.
Source: China Daily