It is with great sorrow I report the passing of my dear friend and student, Carla Wu (吴双 Wu Shuang), on June 10, at the tender age of 25.
Carla was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the summer of 2013, after feeling sharp pains in her left thigh. She underwent surgery and had chemotherapy over several months, and was feeling well enough to get married in January this year.
But the pain in her leg came back, and soon she was complaining of lower back pain as well, by late February. Doctors said the cancer had spread to her kidneys. Because she was pregnant, they postponed any aggressive treatment, hoping the baby could be born first. Sadly, she lost the baby (a boy) in April, and subsequent chemotherapy proved to be ineffective.
She died peacefully surrounded by her family just a few days ago. Her husband told me the news tonight. I am of course very sad.
Shuang Shuang (her nickname) was one of the first students I had in China; she entered Jishou University in 2008 as an English education major. A shy girl, she was not very confident of her speaking ability in English, and so we had few conversations while she was at university. But when I saw her in class, or with her friends Kasurly or Mary, she always looked like she wanted to say something to me, but never did.
After Carla graduated in 2011, she became an English teacher at a vocational school in Huizhou, Guangdong province. It was then we started to get to know each other better, as she would ask me for advice in managing her classes, dealing with students, teaching English grammar, and even living life in general. When she met the man who would become her husband, she even asked me if I thought he was a good match for her.
Over these last four years, I discovered this quiet girl was very sincere and thoughtful. She cared for her students like they were her little brothers and sisters, and the few who added me as Internet friends spoke lovingly of their Teacher Wu. Her students were kids whose grades in junior high were considered too low for college-prep high schools, so the challenges she faced in teaching them English were great.
Carla wrote poetry and essays in English and Chinese, some were very philosophical. They became even more so as she dealt with the osteosarcoma. As I have shared some of those essays here, I invite you to take the time to read them. The links follow this post.
In October of 2013 I visited Shuang Shuang in a Changsha cancer hospital. Two of her roommates were there, as well. She was weak from the chemotherapy, but able to sit up and chat a bit. I gave her a stuffed koala bear, and told her since it was grey and white it could stand in for me once I went back to Jishou.
Carla was quite upfront about her illness, blogging about her pain and her belief that all would come out well in the end. With me, she shared her changing hairstyles as she lost all her hair, then wore hats, then wigs, and finally had a pixie haircut once her hair grew back in.
She had been blogging on QQ and tweeting on WeChat up to May 23. Two days later, she (or her husband) sent a notice to everyone that she would be closing her social media accounts, and that all communications be by phone to her husband or her brother.
On Monday, her husband said she was very weak and unable to eat, but there was a slim hope she could hang on. It was not to be.
The world has lost a beautiful, caring and compassionate young woman. I have lost a good friend. I shall miss her always. Goodbye, my dear.