When your only child is diagnosed with cancer, you cross oceans and continents to make sure she gets the treatment she needs.
That’s what brought Tina Zhu and her mother and father, Angela and Alex, to Provision, where she received proton therapy for Ewing’s sarcoma.
The family lives in Shanghai, and in February seven-year-old Tina began to experience pain when she lay down at night. At first, local doctors diagnosed her with intestinal issues and gave her a prescription, but when the problem didn’t go away a CT scan revealed a tumor on her back.
As soon as the Zhus learned of her diagnosis, they made plans to travel overseas for treatment.
“We didn’t want to stay in Shanghai,” said the Zhus in an interview through an interpreter. “There are so many patients in China. We wanted treatment quickly, and we wanted the best treatment. We decided to come to the United States.”
The family had friends in Delaware, so they traveled there first, where Tina received chemotherapy treatment for two months. There, the doctors suggested that she needed radiation treatment as well.
After considering proton therapy—recommended for most pediatric cancer cases due to the limited amount of radiation exposure to healthy, surrounding tissue and organs—the Zhus considered centers in Florida and New Jersey before deciding to come to Provision. They chose Knoxville because of a nearby children’s hospital as well as the overall cost of treatment and accommodation.
In the end, they were happy with their decision.
Angela and Alex said they enjoyed the size and convenience of Knoxville, a city they’d never heard of—although Tennessee is famous in China thanks country music and Elvis Presley. They visited the Knoxville Zoo. They went to Gatlinburg. Tina rode a horse. They sampled area restaurants—Tomo Japanese Restaurant was a favorite thanks to its udon noodles, one of the few foods Tina felt like eating.
And, they said, the experience at Provision made the experience an easy and happy one.
“We had good expectations, but when we got here it was even beyond our expectations,” said Angela Zhu. “All the doctors and nurses are very caring. It relieved the pressure.”
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