Home>Service> Global Love of Lives Award> 16th Fervent Global Love of Lives Award> Yang Shun-De, China—The Policeman and Counselor who fights cancer
[Let cancer teach you how to love. Guide those who have lost their directions home.]
 

Yang Shun-De, deputy director and senior staff of the Railway Police Bureau’s police unit in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, was diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) in its advanced stages in 1999. In spite of having cancer, Yang still devotes large amount of time to educating and helping teenagers grow and develop. He has held the post of school principal in a total of 14 schools over the years, acted as counselor in Young Pioneers of China, a mass youth organization for children aged six to fourteen in China, and teacher of troubled youth. In the past ten years or so, he has lectured on topics of law and order in over 400 events, the number of his audience totaling as many as 400,000. He has helped and educated at least 3,000 students, receiving admiration by teachers, students, and parents nationwide.
 
Inspired by him, about 270 people from the Guangxi region have been volunteering to help instruct and counsel teenagers, and have joined counseling organizations named after Yang to further connect counseling services in the country. These organizations have received national awards for their outstanding contributions.
 
Yang often says to people, “If my living fewer years means I can do more to help teenagers to develop healthily, I think it’s worth it.” His indomitable spirit in the face of challenge teaches us a lesson about the meaning of life, and how limited life can be even more rewarding.

Let cancer teach you how to love

Born in 1956, Yang Shun-De has been actively fulfilling his duties as a policeman in Liuzhou’s police unit. In 1999, he was diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) in its advanced stages, but he remains devoted to educating teenagers and turning their lives around.
 
NPC causes the reduction of saliva production, resulting in dry mouth. So after talking for a minute or two, Yang’s throat hurts and he needs to drink medicine constantly. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy lead him to suffer from neck spasm, and cause him to feel sore all over. As a result, he has to keep his hands on the railing whenever he walks up and down the stairs. In spite of his conditions, for ten years, he has never once taken a day’s leave except for times when he has to go receive treatments in the hospital.
 
His achievements were reported on China Central Television and several newspapers, and he was invited on television programs to give an interview. From 2003 to 2012, he received a total of 20 awards for his excellent work as a policeman and a counselor. On June 5, 2008, he was the Olympic torch bearer in Nanning, running a meaningful 200 meters. It was an epic symbol of his heroic deeds.

Guide those who have lost their directions home

It makes parents and teachers sad to see teenagers skip school, linger in Internet cafes for long hours, leave home, or break the law. Yang is determined to do everything he can to change their behavior.
 
To prepare for his lectures and counseling sessions, Yang collected thousands of pages of information and summarized them into notes of 300,000 words. After experimenting, he has come up with three specific methods to guide and counsel students. Yang even goes to schools to hear how students talk. In his opinion, it is important to know the minds of students before one teaches them. A teacher has to be friends with his/her students.
 
Yang’s lecture centers on issues that students face when they grow up, such as “Who are your true friends?”, “What are the right things to do?”, “What do you do when you are blackmailed?”, etc. To troubled youths, he is especially patient. He starts the counseling by talking about everyday matters and stories of law that grab their attention. In addition, he regularly makes a phone call to these students so as to understand them. His students say that police officer Yang is just like a brother, a friend you could trust.
 
Many such students who were counseled by Yang changed for the better. Many of them joined the Communist Youth League of China and later enrolled in key universities. Yang’s endeavors achieved great success, and schools began to invite him to give lectures. Yang abides by two rules before he accepts talks. First, he would go wherever the school asks him to go. Second, he would refuse schools that offer him money. Yang’s colleague Lie Jie is moved by his principles. After all, Yang really needs money for his cancer treatment.

Live less, help more

In his pocket, Yang has a booklet that keeps a record of troubled youths who have lost their direction. In it, he puts down the latest development of the student. Zhang Feng, a key high school student in Liuzhou, is the student that received counseling help from Yang for the longest time. When Zhang was still a sixth grader, he often skipped school to play video games on consoles and picked fights with people. His mother, suffering from high blood pressure, sometimes fainted when she got angry with her son. Zhang even threatened his parents when his father scolded him for running away from home. 
 
When Yang started counseling Zhang, he found that his parents were not using good education methods, making their son hate them in return. Yang applied his 3-step methodology. Over four years of counseling, Yang made a total of a hundred phone calls to Zhang. To prevent him from making bad friends, he worked with the school and his parents to form an “alliance” that sent a warning to delinquents near Zhang. Bit by bit, Zhang became a hard-working student, and joined the Communist Youth League of China.
 
In November 2003, Zhang found out about Yang’s cancer when reading the newspaper. A week later, Zhang used his allowance to buy a stainless steel water bottle for Yang. For the first time, Yang accepted this present, but he gave the money back to Zhang, plus a pen and a notebook. Today, Yang still has the water bottle with him wherever he goes.

Take care of every student

Giving a lecture on law and order is extremely important for Yang. Bad weather conditions and accidents don’t stop him from giving this lesson. In June 2002, Yang, after taking care of his sick father for several nights consecutively, appeared on stage to give a lecture on preventing accidents and school lawsuits. Not long after he started the talk, he received a phone call—his father had passed away. Yang felt tears on his cheek, but he said nothing. He drank from his bottle with his face averted, causing the teacher to worry about him. But he persisted in finishing the talk. He spoke for one and a half hours, and was at a loss for words a few times. His neck hurt and showed symptoms of neck spasm twice, but he did not stop talking.
 
Despite the jokes and the smiles on stage, Yang has been suffering terrible pains as long as he could remember. Whenever he is hospitalized, he feels that death is just a step away. For the past five years, his feet gets swollen when he walks too far a distance, his throat gets sore when he talks too much, and his neck spasms come involuntarily whenever he feels fatigued. For a long time he could only eat noodles and porridge. Despite all this hardship, he never for once neglected his responsibilities. Once, he gave talks in four separate schools in a single day!
 
The Yang family’s contact number has become a “counseling hotline”. Every once in a while, students who had received counseling would call, parents who had heard about Yang would call, and Yang would respond to them all, to the best of his abilities. So far, the record is sixteen calls a day.

Struggle to guide those who have lost their directions

Yang has a loving family. His wife and daughter are there to comfort him, share his burden, and support all he does. Thanks to them, he has been able to endure cancer pain. 
 
His wife Zhao-yang excels in her work while taking excellent care of the family. What makes her unhappy all the time is how Yang has to take phone calls several time during dinnertime, and she has to heat up the food again and again. 
 
Often when parents make midnight calls to Yang, he would get dressed and leave the house. She complains about how he doesn’t realize he’s a patient after all. But Yang would tell his wife that he knew his severe conditions, but he couldn’t control himself. “After all, if my living fewer years means I can do more to help teenagers to develop healthily, I think it’s worth it.” 

Help others, and you help yourself
Yang is ever so humble. “I am just a police officer; I do what I am supposed to do. I am heartened to receive encouragement from everybody, which helps reaffirm the belief that helping others is helping yourself. I have never been happier,” said Yang. He may have forgotten the honors he had received, but we do not.
 
 
 
 
2003.10
Received the title of “The Railway Bureau’s Best Policeman”
2004.04
Received the Locomotive Medal of China Railway
2004.09
Honored as “The Nation’s Best Worker”
2005.04
Honored as “the Worker’s Paradigm of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region”
2005.10
Honored as one of the “Ten Best Counselors in The Young Pioneers of China”
2006.05
Praised as the best public educator of law and order
2006.09
Awarded the title of “The Railway Bureau’s Best Policeman”
2006.11
Honored as the “Image Ambassador of Volunteers in the Guangxi region”
2008.06.05
Ran a meaningful 200-meter in Nanning as a torch bearer 
2010.01
Honored as the “Ten Most Charitable Persons” in Liuzhou city
2012.08.15
Awarded the 16th Love of Lives Medal by the Chou, Ta-Kuan Foundation