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Vietnamese woman balances diseases and life for 3 decades

Vietnamese woman balances diseases and life for 3 decades

Friday, March 01, 2024, 15:23 GMT+7
Vietnamese woman balances diseases and life for 3 decades
Ngo Thi Thanh Tra, who was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer when she was 16, is leading a joyful life in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre

Despite her daunting battle with nasopharyngeal cancer and complications since she was 16, Ngo Thi Thanh Tra has been living a joyful life and focused on all she loves over the past 27 years.

The 43-year-old resident of District 6 in Ho Chi Minh City immerses herself in her dressmaking and sewing work every day.

A room next to a small garden filled with fruit and flower trees is her separate space, where she sketches shirt and dress models, and makes clothes to enjoy her life and uphold her mental strength.

During a recent friendly meeting with some guests, she excitedly showed her sewing notebook with good handwriting and drawings inside.

Opening up about her imperfect face, she recounted that after receiving cancer treatment, she had to suffer from jawbone shrinkage, the loss of lower teeth, and narrow esophagus.

She received a nasopharyngeal cancer diagnosis in 1997, when she was in grade 11.

Tra vividly recalled a particular day when, after completing her first-term exam, she experienced a severe headache, leading to her hospitalization for a medical checkup.

Unfortunately, she was then plunged into a struggle with the deadly disease.

“I was not afraid of death at that time, and instead, I thought that my illness could be treated," she said.

“My parents and aunts took turns taking me to Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital for treatment every two weeks. I did not attend classes for a long time."

After several months of undergoing prolonged chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, she enjoyed the fruits of persistence as her doctors announced that her cancer was in remission in 1998.

She tried to be acquainted with her sunken face and shaved head.

Tra wore a long wig to cover part of her face to restart going to school.

She also remembered being teased about her wig by mischievous classmates.

Several years went by, during which she held a stable job working as a cashier at night. What is more, she shouldered the responsibility of caring for her two younger siblings following her mother's passing.

“At that time, I did not feel tired, and thought that I was in good health,” she said.

However, in 2007, she faced a setback when her right jawbone broke due to complications, leading to a bacterial infection of the flesh.

"I sought consultations and treatment at various hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City," she shared.

"While some suggested traveling to Singapore, the high costs proved to be a hindrance."

After two years of suffering the pain, she decided to fly to Hanoi for treatment in 2010.

Doctors performed two surgeries to remove the fibula of her left leg and attach it to her jawbone.

Regaining consciousness after the operations, Tra was shocked as her voice changed.

Thanh Tra shows a photo of her face after undergoing a surgery. Photo: Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre

Ngo Thi Thanh Tra shows a photo of her face after undergoing a surgery. Photo: Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre

Her imperfect face and babble voice made her shy to meet or talk to anyone.

“I just stayed at home for three years,” she said.

Tears rolled down her face when she recollected that she just swallowed ground food.

Essential pick-me-up

She began seeing life in a good light by taking up sewing.

“I encouraged myself to do some new and interesting things as life is going on, and I must live,” she said.

“As I could not continue my old job, I had to take up a new activity."

In 2006, the woman participated in sewing training courses at the Women's Cultural House of Ho Chi Minh City. After completing three courses and acquiring the skills of sewing and dressmaking, she decided to discontinue further training.

"During that period, I was still depressed. When my classmates approached me or engaged in conversation, I would write my responses on paper and hand them over. I even expressed it in writing that I felt inadequate," she confided.

“Many months later, I felt better and became a spirited person.”

Tra made some pants and shirts for herself and her grandmother after buying a used sewing machine at VND5 million (US$203.3).

She took a job at a clothing store to enhance her career skills, but she promptly resigned when her father was diagnosed with liver cancer, requiring her dedicated care.

But her father passed away, and his death was a great sorrow to her.

Thanh Tra is totally absorbed in sewing every day. Photo: Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre

Ngo Thi Thanh Tra is totally absorbed in sewing every day. Photo: Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre

Her challenging life continued when her inaudible voice hindered her path to find a job.

She was finally employed by an apparel firm after she sent job applications to dozens of companies in Ho Chi Minh City.

Workloads, night-time shifts, and her unstable health forced her to quit two jobs despite her increased efforts.

Due to an economic slowdown, she is temporarily unemployed and stays at home to take care of her grandparents.

Yet, she is still looking for a job as an accountant, cashier or ticket checker.

During her free time, she immerses herself completely in sewing, viewing it as her source of motivation.

She considers herself fortunate to be alive and cherished by friends and family despite enduring severe diseases and misery.

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Tieu Bac - Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre News


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