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Aaron Huang survives cancer, writes memoir

University of Alabama student Aaron Huang was diagnosed with lymphoma and leukemia in 2012 and has since gone through treatment and written a book about his experiences. Photo Courtesy of Aaron Huang

Sirui Shao

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Near the end of 2012, Aaron Yitao Huang was attending The University of Alabama, majoring in geography and geology with a concentration in geographic information science, and was living over 7,000 miles away from his home in China. During that winter, Huang’s time in America was cut short. He was diagnosed with lymphoma and leukemia and returned to China the following January.

“When I heard of this illness from my doctor, I felt my world was crushed,” Huang said. “At that time, I thought I was going to die, I could feel the countdown of my life, and I didn’t know what I could do … I knew this illness is not that easy to cure, I felt hopeless at that time.”

Daisy Shao, a close friend of Huang’s at the University, said she did not know what to say to him when she heard the news.

“I could not believe it, but I knew he would conquer it absolutely,” Shao said.

“He was one of the brightest and most intelligent students I have had the pleasure to teach,” said C. Fred Andrus, Huang’s academic advisor. “What was most impressive about him was his innate curiosity. Our conversations outside of class revealed that he simply liked learning, particularly if it involved the earth and fossils. ”

In December of 2012, Huang said he struggled with the two paths before him. He said he knew he could stay in the United States and find a great doctor to help him or return to China and find a doctor near his hometown.

“I knew the first choice could get me the world first class cure, but I still choose the second one, ” Huang said. “Because I asked myself, what did I really need? The family. So I chose go back to China and live with my parents. They could give me the best care in the world, and that’s more important than a hospital and doctor.”

Since returning, Huang has completed four runs of chemotherapy and finished a bone marrow transplantation last year.

“These are the darkest times in my life,” Huang said. “I cannot use a word to describe the feeling, it’s a memory that you don’t want to recall. I just want to live, I don’t want to die. Someone once asked me how could I be so brave and strong? And I think, because at that time, I have to be strong and brave, or I will die. ”

Huang said he encountered the most difficulty when he did the bone marrow transplantation, which was the most painful month. For the entire month, Huang said he lived in a fourth floor room, could not touch anything outside and could not eat anything that doctors did not allow.

Huang said he is lucky because he has survived. His family left their hometown for better medical care, and his parents were always beside him. He said he was touched when his father said that where they all lived together was their home.

Huang said the illness taught him a lot. After this illness, Huang said he doesn’t feel afraid of anything now, and nothing can let him down.

After the BMT, he started to write a book called “Reborn,” to share his experience, his mood and his thoughts during the period. He said he wants to encourage other people to be stronger when facing troubles. He published the book in Chinese recently, and it has done well in the Chinese market.

Takehito Ikejiri, Huang’s former professor, said Huang is a very bright and respectful student. Not only did he have one of the highest GPAs in the geography department, but also he was very fascinated with vertebrate fossils.

“Even he though he was just a junior student, I gave him an opportunity to research fossil fish with me,” Ikejiri said. “He seemed to be very excited, he soon had to leave due to the illness. Hopefully, he will come back soon to start it again.”

Huang hopes to return to 100 percent health soon and get back to campus to finish his bachelor’s degree. He also said he is planning to write another book to discuss living and dying.

“I love UA and Tuscaloosa. When I was lying in the bed in hospital, I would always think about UA.” Huang said. “I love my friends, professors and the UA football team. I think I will come back to UA as soon as possible. I love studying in this beautiful university, and I want to get the diploma from UA. “

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Aaron Huang survives cancer, writes memoir