ALL of us must eat to live. Food lovers, however, insist that they live to eat.
And then there’s 11-year-old Lu Zikuan, who eats and eats so that his father can live.
The Primary Four pupil from Xinxiang city of Henan province sits down for at least five meals a day and consumes mostly fatty meat with rice.
Since he started on this awful-sounding diet three months ago, Zikuan has gained over 10kg and weighs 43kg now.
But this is not enough; he still has several more kilograms to go.
“Very soon, I will reach 50kg and will be able to save my father,” he said.
His father, Lu Yanheng, was diagnosed with leukaemia seven years ago and has been treated with medication.
Last August, his health deteriorated and he needed blood transfusion.
Doctors informed the family that a bone marrow transplant was ultimately the man’s only option, according to Dahe Daily, a Henan-based Chinese newspaper.
After screening the patient’s family members, doctors found that only Zikuan’s bone marrow is compatible with his father’s.
This news has somewhat brightened up the gloominess that has been surrounding the family for years. But at only 30kg then, the boy was underweight.
“The doctors said in order to donate my bone marrow, I need to be at least 45kg. The ideal weight is 50kg,” Zikuan explained.
Since March, he has been stuffing himself with food whenever he could. And this adds to the family’s already considerable financial burden.
Earning a mere 2,000 yuan (RM1,215) a month doing odd jobs at a grocery store, his mother Li Jinge could not afford to feed the big eater.
Apart from Yanheng and Zikuan, Li also has to care for her eight-year-old twins and parents-in-law, who have high blood pressure and heart problems.
“We have spent more than 500,000 yuan (RM301,500) on my husband’s medical bills, and most of the money was borrowed from relatives and friends,” she said, adding that Yanheng’s monthly hospital expenditure is some 3,000 yuan (RM1,810).
She relies on discounted meat bought at her workplace every night.
Zikuan’s teacher, Zhao Meng-meng, said the boy is smart and has been his class monitor since Year One.
“After he put on weight, some students started calling him pangzi (fat boy) but they stopped after learning his story,” she added.
Asked if he was angry at being called pangzi, Zikuan responded with a firm ‘no’. In fact, he said, he was proud that he could save his father.
“Save dad first, lose weight later,” he added.
The school has started a fund-raising drive to help the Lu family.
Moved by Zikuan’s story, many people have sent him encouraging messages via social media. Some have called him a hero and an angel. They have also wished his father a speedy recovery.
“You shoulder a great responsibility at such a young age. You are amazing,” wrote Kongwei Wizard.
“You ain’t fat, you are a hero!” wrote a netizen who goes by a Chinese nickname that literally translates into ‘A smile from the sea’.
While Zikuan is racing against time to save his father, a cancer patient and her husband from Shenyang city of northeastern Liaoning province have left home because they do not want to burden their children.
Li Shuqing and his wife Zhao Yunjie, in their 50s, have two daughters.
“I have cancer and there is no hope for a recovery. Even the hospital has sent me home,” Zhao told her eldest daughter, Chen Shu, in a phone call on May 30.
She quickly passed on some information, including where the couple kept their money and house and land titles, and passwords for various accounts. Then she told the daughter that she would leave home with Li, who is Chen’s stepfather.
“Do not look for us,” was the last thing Zhao said to the girl.
Chen rushed back to the family home immediately to find the place empty.
“They went for a medical check-up last month and told us everything was okay,” she told the local media.
There was a three-page letter waiting at home.
In it, Li wrote: “Chen Shu and Xiao Jiao, I have left home with your mom. We do not want to trouble you all.
“Your mom is seriously ill. She is in pain and can’t eat and sleep. She cannot wait any longer to see Xiao Jiao get married.
“I’m not very healthy too. After a discussion, we decided to leave together. Furthermore, I can’t let your mom go on her own. I have to accompany her.
“Do not be afraid if the police come looking for you. Cremate our bodies and throw the ashes into the river.
“You know your mom. Once she has made up her mind, there is no point in you looking for us. She just hopes to leave this world quietly,” he added, ending the letter with “Goodbye forever.”
In the letter, Li also told the girls that the family’s crop fields have been leased to different individuals. He asked the daughters to keep the contracts carefully,
Worried about her parents, Chen went against their will to seek help from the media to look for them.
At press time, there was still no news about Li and Zhao.