'Old trooper' Annie finds there is strength and comfort in numbers
The friends Annie Tang Sin-yee made in hospital are much closer than those in school.
The 10-year-old was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia three years ago after she suffered a month-long fever that could not be alleviated by ordinary medicines.
Following two years' treatment at the Lady Pao Children's Cancer Centre at Prince of Wales Hospital, she has been able to go back to school despite daily medication and regular check-ups in hospital.
Like the other child patients in the centre, Annie is a member of the Little Life Warrior Society, a mutual support group that organises activities for cancer patients, medical staff and families, which has given Annie plenty of chances to make friends in the hospital. 'I forget my sufferings as long as I play with other kids here,' Annie says after a check-up.
Though she does not go the hospital so often now, she still feels that her friends there can understand her better than her friends in school.
'They know what I want to talk about as soon as I open my mouth, especially when I tell them of my experiences in hospital,' she says.
Annie's mother, Anita Tang Lee Chui-wah, is also a member. 'When the children sing or play together, we parents share our knowledge about the kids' illness - what the kids should eat and should not, what the possible side effects are like and how to take care of the kids are our most common issues,' Mrs Tang says.
At a tea gathering earlier this year, she learned from a parent that one way to prevent children from vomiting drugs was to melt the tablet in water before swallowing it. This tip turned out to be very effective for Annie, who has had this problem.
As Annie's situation has significantly improved, she and her mother were invited by the society to visit other severely ill patients living in the centre.
'I said to the worried mothers: 'My daughter used to be as sick as your kid. But now she is recovering. So is your kid',' Mrs Tang recalls.