A Bi-lingual Friendship: Zi Long and his Chemo Pal Mentor, Kimi

CCA’s December Hero, Zi Long, is only seven years old, but has already faced a long and challenging journey. Diagnosed with Beta Thalassemia as a baby in China, Zi Long requires regular transfusions since the blood disorder leaves him with low levels of oxygen throughout his body.

But you’d almost not even know this cheerful boy with a huge smile and a big personality is sick; he charms everyone he meets. He also does an impressive robot dance, something he learned from his biological father in China.

A New Family—and a New Country to Call Home

Last year, Zi Long met two very special people: his adoptive parents Kelli and Jeremy. They brought him home to Oregon, where he is discovering American foods (pizza and bacon are particular favorites) and enjoying being a wise little brother to his new sisters Maddie and Violet. “When we’re sad, he’ll try to make us feel better,” said Maddie. “He gives hugs every night, and he’s very silly—in a good way most of the time!” said Violet.

A Bi-lingual Friendship Blooms
Zi Long visits the hospital regularly for transfusions. But if you think ongoing treatment gets him down, think again—he actually looks forward to it. In fact, Zi Long often asks to visit the hospital where he finds all of his favorite things—like a playroom, video games, and of course, pizza and bacon. “It’s just one big party at the hospital for Zi Long,” laughed his mom, Kelli.

Zi Long is also incredibly determined to learn English—so much so, that he told his English as a Second Language teacher not to give him the answers unless he really needs help. “Don’t tell me right away—I want to try first,” he explained to the teacher.

And while he is well on his way to mastering English at school, his family thought it would be important to match him with a Chemo Pal mentor who could speak Mandarin. It seemed like a long-shot request, but CCA’s Chemo Pal Specialists had just the right person waiting for a mentee: Kimi.

Kimi can effortlessly converse with Zi Long in both English and Mandarin and together they spend hours playing games and chatting in both languages.

“Having a Chemo Pal mentor has been really fantastic,” said Kelli. “When Zi Long gets to the hospital, he always asks if Kimi is coming. One time, she even showed up with dumplings—that was a huge hit!”

Acclimating to his New Community
When not in school or the hospital, the family keeps this exuberant boy busy attending myriad CCA community events offered to kids and teens with Chemo Pal mentors.

They attend every event possible. To date, Zi Long has met many new friends at the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade at Regence Chalet, Mt. Hood Railroad Train to Christmas Town, World of Speed, and at various CCA office parties. He’s learned to hit a golf ball at Golf for Joy, experienced live ballet at Oregon Ballet Theatre, and driven in a luxury car at Dream Drives.

Zi Long’s Zest for Life
The way Zi Long sees it, there’s just no reason to be sad, not when he’s surrounded by so much love. “I have my mama and daddy and Maddie and Violet and my cats, Cato and Clouseau,” he explained. “I love them all.”

“He’s just positive all the time,” said Kelly. “Despite all the loss in his life and spending so much time in the hospital, Zi Long’s Joy hasn’t diminished at all.”

For children facing cancer and other serious illnesses, Joy is more than a feeling. It’s a necessity.