Helen Liang was a young woman in her early 20’s living in Vancouver, Canada. Earlier she had graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Economics, and was working in a bank in Vancouver and was up for promotion. She was also a top-notch wushu (Chinese martial arts) expert, and the daughter of the famous wushu teacher Shou-Yu Liang, who was the coach of the Canadian National Wushu Team, which usually in international competitions came in only behind China. So Helen was looking forward to a bright future. Then suddenly she got sick, really sick. It turned out that she had lymphoma cancer. After undergoing a series of very painful chemotherapy and other treatments, the cancer quickly came back. Her oncologist told her and her family that it was terminal and she had only a few more weeks to live. The only thing they could do was to try a bone marrow transplant, but the success rate of that is less than five percent, even with the right marrow.
After suffering living several consecutive weeks in the hospital, instead of choosing the bone marrow transplant with less than five percent success rate that will require her to remain in the hospital, Helen decided to go home to spend her remaining time on earth with her loved ones. With the support of her parents and her family doctor who is a Western medicine doctor but had also learned Qigong with Helen’s father, Helen went home, and they decided to search for an alternative medical treatment. This article describes Helen’s experience of beating lymphoma with Qigong, Taiji , and alternative medical treatment, and is based on the article “Helen Liang’s Triumph over Tragedy, Battling Lymphoma with Qigong, Tai Chi and Chinese Medicine” in the website: http://www.shouyuliang.com/helen-liang-opening-and-closing-the-gates-of-heaven.shtml, written by Martha Burr which was the cover story of the July/August 2003 issue of “Kungfu/Qigong Magazine.“
Helen was born in a very remote village in Sichuan province in the middle of the Cultural Revolution, where her father had been sent to the countryside for re-education due to his highly educated past. Her father Shou-Yu Liang was a famous wushu teacher. They lived a harsh life with poor living facilities and food. At age four, she started learning wushu from her father and practiced wushu with other students. At age eight, her father had the opportunity to go to Canada as a wushu coach. Seeking a better future for his family, he made the difficult decision to decide to seek permission to remain in Canada, thus separating himself from his family for about five years. Helen continued her training in wushu, and at age twelve, she was selected to continue her training at the Sichuan Provincial Wushu School, which was quite a distance and long trip from home. A year later, she received word from her father that he was coming home to take them to Canada.
After resettling in Vancouver, Helen at first studied only English, Then she went into regular high school. She continued to be heavily involved in wushu under the tutelage of her father, who has since become a professor teaching wushu at the University of British Columbia. She especially appreciate certain qualities that she gained from her father: passion and seeking perfection, and became one of the top wushu students in Canada. At age seventeen she already began teaching other kids and then adults at her father’s wushu school.
Then she went to the University of British Columbia to study Economics, but still practiced wushu many hours each week. The year she graduated from college, she went with her father and his North America wushu team to China to demonstrate and tour in 15 cities. It was the only time that Helen has been back to China since her immigration to Canada at age 13. Upon graduation, she worked at a Vancouver bank, and later when she was up for a promotion, her world started falling apart.
They still don’t know the cause of her lymphoma cancer. It might have started when she got a bad infection when she had her wisdom teeth pulled out. She developed very high fever for nearly a month, had different kinds of tests done at the hospital and took different kinds of antibiotics. But nothing worked, and lumps started coming out. It was painful and awful. Her family doctor referred her to an oncologist, and more tests were done. Then one day, her doctor told her and her family that they think Helen has cancer. The word cancer was unexpected and shattered her world. She was so young, and up to that point she had been relatively healthy. She just graduated from college, was a top wushu expert in the country, and was looking forward to a long and promising and meaningful life. That night she couldn’t and didn’t want to fall asleep, because she was afraid that she might not wake up the next morning.
Helen started an aggressive chemotherapy treatment. She lost her long and beautiful hair. She was very weak, and even needed help just to take a shower. Furthermore, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, the chemotherapy treatment did not stop the cancer, and her oncologist told her that her cancer was terminal. Despite the debilitating effects of chemotherapy, she continued to practice Qigong and meditation . Her parents started searching for an alternative medicine treatment, and was endorsed by their family doctor. Her father told her to continue to do Qigong and meditation. Then another doctor friend in Seattle referred them to a Chinese doctor in Seattle, Dr. Xue-Zhi Wang, originally from Beijing. After talking to Helen on the phone, Dr. Wang wrote and faxed a prescription of Chinese herbs. As the case of many Chinese herbal medicines, the taste was awful, but Helen’s parents insisted that she should give it a try, if only to reduce her fever. Although the bitter taste of the herbal medicine initially caused her to throw up, she forced herself to take it. After a few days, her fever did start to go down. She also had diarrhea, but that was a good sign, because it could mean that the herbal medicine was getting rid of the impurities in her body.
Helen became more relaxed, and was doing Qigong, meditation and Taiji with her father everyday. She did this outside most of the time, because it was good to get a lot of fresh air, that was supposed to help kill the cancer cells. Her father and friends took turn taking her outside to practice Qigong, meditation and Taiji. Basically, all she did everyday was to take the Chinese herbal medicine, do Qigong, meditation and Taiji. But because of her weak immunity, she had to stay away from the crowds when going outside.
One week passed, then two weeks, and three weeks passed. Everyone was conscious of the fact that Helen was still around after three weeks, but they all kept quiet about this in order not to get over excited. Then they added another medicine, from another alternative medicine doctor, a Western doctor, that was supposed to help boost her immune system. This required painful injections to her stomach that Helen administered herself. All the medicines, from China and other places, cost her parents a lot of money, to the tune of thousands of dollars each month.
Slowly, Helen’s body began to heal. For the next six months, Helen’s cancer would come back a little bit, but then go away. The alternative medical treatment seemed to be working, and little by little her strength came back to her, and by the end of one year she was finally regaining her body and spirit. Another and another year passed. People often say that if you can last the first five years after cancer, your survival rate is good. At the time that the Kungfu/Qigong Magazine article was written in 2003, seven years had already passed. Now 16 years have passed; so one can say with pretty good certainty that her treatment via Qigong, meditation and Taiji, Chinese herbal medicine, and another alternative Western immune-boosting medicine have defeated her lymphoma cancer. This treatment apparently worked for Helen. The question is whether similar types of treatment could work for others or for other illnesses. Although the answer may be probably not, considering that Helen has always been deep into wushu, Taiji and meditation, and Qigong, and she has the tutelage of her expert father. Nevertheless, Helen’s case does provide an existence proof that such alternative medical treatment could work.
Helen was fortunate that she had a great support group, including her parents, family doctor, Chinese doctor, and Western alternative medical treatment doctor, and many friends who supported her, encouraged her, and took care of her. However, her oncologist is not among this group. He was so final in his pronouncement that Helen had terminal cancer, and strongly objected to Helen seeking alternative medical treatment.
Today, Helen is a financial consultant at a bank, and continues to teach wushu at her father’s school.
 Taiji is also spelled as Tai Chi.
 For an introduction to meditation, see this website’s article “Meditation: An Often Neglected Component of Taiji Practice.”