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Ostracized Chinese Mother Disfigured By Tumors Can’t Afford Surgery

Li Hongfang has become a social pariah for her disfigurement

A 40-year-old Chinese mother, left disfigured by tumors growing on her face over the course of a decade, is appealing to the community to help her find a solution to the condition that has blighted her appearance.

Li Hongfang, a mother of two, lives as a pariah in her community due to the seven tumors that have caused her face to grow to gruesome proportions. The condition, Chordoma, is a bone cancer that causes tissues to grow, causing tumors around the base of the skull and along the spine. Li’s condition started in 2001, when she noticed a small, painful bump on her forehead. She ignored it at first, and was diagnosed with Chordoma four years later, when doctors told her she had seven tumors growing on her face. Unable to pay the 600,000 yuan ($94,000) for medical treatment, she has watched in horror as her face became slowly disfigured ever since. She has been shunned in her community for her disfigurement, and the cost of treatment keeps rising the longer she is unable to afford it.

“I know that a lot of people see me as a monster but I am just a normal woman and a mother inside,” said Li, according to Daily Mail.

Li was living with her husband and two sons in Tianchao village, in west China’s Shaanxi province when she was diagnosed: “We didn’t have much money but we were very happy and we loved each other and our two boys. I would say life was good then,” Li said. “I didn’t think anything of it when I got a small swelling on my forehead – I thought it was probably just an insect bite. It didn’t even itch or ache in anyway – but it also didn’t go away and in fact just got bigger and bigger.”

A photo of Li prior to cancer - showing what was once a beautiful, happy woman

Her first husband passed away shortly after her diagnosis, leaving her to beg on the streets to feed her family. Completely alone once her children left home for work, she met second husband, Guo Yingping, in 2009. Himself an orphan, they bonded over mutual ostracism. Due to China’s difficult healthcare system, she would have to pay for her operations out of pocket, a price tag far beyond her means.

What’s worse, the cancer has begun to spread to her body.

Though thousands have sent her encouraging notes since her story hit the media, what she really needs is a benefactor to fund an operation.

Though China is trying to reform their healthcare system by 2020, it falls short of helping its citizens day to day.

Roughly 300 Chordoma patients are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Here, a patient would have the tumor removed and undergo a rigorous schedule of radiation therapy.

Our thoughts and prayers to Li Hongfang, who will hopefully catch a break soon with all the attention her story is getting.

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15 Responses to “Ostracized Chinese Mother Disfigured By Tumors Can’t Afford Surgery”

  1. Dusten Michael Carlson

    @Will, so far as I can tell, The Mirror broke the story first. At this point, there isn't like a PayPal account, address, or phone number to get in contact with Li, and it doesn't appear from the photos that she has any networking capabilities at this time. The link you supplied would probably be the best way to go, but if you really want to do some deeper diligence, I would contact Mirror and try to get to the root of the story.

    I was definitely moved by this as well (it's why I wrote it) I'm sure that if you feel moved to do something, every little bit will help. Good luck.

  2. 李若书

    Hi my name is Adam Mitchell, and I am the person who originally found Hongfang. I met her begging on the streets of Xi'an when my partners and I were interviewing beggars for a book that I am currently writing. After hearing Hongfang's tragic tale, we decided that we should make her story public. We contacted various newspapers in Xi'an, and within a week the story went quite viral, being published in more than 40 newspapers and media sites in both the Mainland and Hong Kong. Now the story has been picked up by international media sites, although some are distorting the story somewhat in order to use it as a means of criticizing the Chinese government and Chinese health care system. Let me be the first to say that the Chinese government has been very helpful, and the governor of Shaanxi province became personally involved in trying to improve the quality of life for Hongfang's family. We have already begun organizing donation drives for Hongfang in China, and have raised around 30,000RMB. We are currently setting up a foundation in the US to further help raise funds for Hongfang's medical treatments, and to identify a surgeon to perform a pro bono surgery. Hongfang is an incredible woman, whose strength is matched only by her overwhelming compassion. If you would like any more information on Hongfang, or are interested in helping in some way, feel free to contact myself and my partners at

    Adam Mitchell
    East Asian Studies.
    Harvard University 2012.

    Gino Caspari
    Jo Chen
    Haiyin Lin

  3. 李若书

    I am the one who found Hongfang originally and wrote the first story. I gave the information to several newspapers in Xi'an, so that is where it was published first. Oh and I am highly suspicious of the link, because no one has been in contact with Hongfang. My team and I are currently working to create a foundation to collect donations, but it might take a bit of time. Let me know if you would be interested in working together in any way to raise more publicity for Hongfang. Best,

  4. Dusten Michael Carlson

    @Will, check back on the Li Hongfang article – the original author found us and posted some good info.

  5. Dusten Michael Carlson

    We will be in touch, let us know if there is anything IQ can do to help. Once you get things set up, if you want to email me at, we can do another article and feature it to get more attention/donations to Li's cause.

  6. Will Vinci Tran

    I somehow just found your responses here. I am writing an email and sending whatever we raised so far to amitchel. It's not much but it's a start.

  7. 李若书

    I appreciate that Will, thank you so much. And Dusten, I will be sure to contact you again with the full story. I really appreciate you generating the publicity for Li Hongfang's cause. All the best.

  8. Will Vinci Tran

    I just got an email "We have been informed by the news agency who supplied the story that Li Hongfang is now being treated in hospital for her condition and has been told that she will make a full recovery. The Chinese government are to pay for her treatment."

  9. 李若书

    Yep I just received word from Hongfang. She just had her first surgery of three. The first operation removed a tumor on the side of her head. The second will address the jaw line, and the third will operate on the left cheek. Hopefully all will be well. Will just have to wait and see. I am however very excited by the governments response to our story and their willingness to help. Thank you so much for publishing the story and helping us raise publicity for Hongfang.

  10. Dusten Michael Carlson

    No problem, let me know if I can do anything in the future, including a follow-up story for feature.

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