Heber Menchu Tamayac, 8, sits on the bed inside his family’s shared bedroom in San Cristobal, Totonicapan, Guatemala, while his friends console him on July 26, 2015. (Scott A. Woodward)

As part of the documentary film project, How I Live, photographer Scott Woodward has been looking into children’s cancer in resource-limited countries. “The treatment of childhood cancer in the developed world is largely viewed as a success story, with survival rates as high as 80%.  By contrast, in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs), the child cancer survival rate averages just 20%.” Currently, the project focuses on Guatemala, El Salvador, Egypt, Myanmar and Ethiopia, and is meant to show “stories of children from diverse locations, socio-economic backgrounds and cultures unified by an experience of cancer.”

Through How I Live, Woodward met Heber Menchu Tamayac, an 8-year-old boy living in San Cristobal, Totonicapan, Guatemala, who was diagnosed with T Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Woodward forged friendship with Heber after meeting him in the hospital. Heber’s journey to receive treatment involved three rural buses, one taxi and borrowed vehicles from neighbors or family members and cost approximately 350 Guatemalan quetzals (USD$46), six to eight hours of travel each way that had to be made every four weeks.


Heber has an emotional moment on his hospital bed as he and his father (not pictured) prepare to leave Unidad Nacional de Oncologia Pediatrica (UNOP) in Guatemala City for the long trip back to their home in San Cristobal, Totonicapan, Guatemala. (Scott A. Woodward)

Heber Menchu Tamayac, age 8 (Scott A. Woodward)

Gudelia Tamayac Tiguila comforts her son, Heber, at their family home. Embarrassed by his hair and his feeding tube, Heber became emotional and locked himself in a room when his friends from the local church band called on him to join them. (Scott A. Woodward)

Photographing him in his village, Woodward was witness to some of Heber’s difficult moments as he readjusted to being home, including Heber’s discomfort around his friends. “Before being diagnosed, Heber was in the local church band – but since his treatment he had not been able to participate. Embarrassed by his hair and his feeding tube, Heber became emotional and locked himself in a room and declined to rejoin his friends, despite their encouragement.” When the film crew asked Heber what he would say to cancer if he could speak to it, he responded “I don’t want to see leukemia ever again.”


Heber and his younger sister Saraí Menchu Tamayac (age 3) make bubbles in the courtyard at his family’s home. (Scott A. Woodward)

Heber takes a break from playing football with his friends while his mother Gudelia Tamayac Tiguila feeds him Pediasure through a feeding tube. At diagnosis, Heber had difficulty eating and, as a result, experienced severe malnutrition. (Scott A. Woodward)

Gudelia Tamayac Tiguila becomes emotional as her husband, Humberto Menchú y Menchú, talks about their son’s illness. (Scott A. Woodward)

Heber stands in a prayer circle at Iglesia de Dios Evangelio Completo (Full Gospel Church of God) in his village, his first time attending Sunday School classes since being diagnosed with cancer the previous March. (Scott A. Woodward)

Heber comforts his younger sister, Saraí (age 3), after she hurt herself while playing. (Scott A. Woodward)

Heber stands in front of a building beside his family home. (Scott A. Woodward)

The organization that is responsible for his treatment was Fundación AYUVI . AYUVI are the founders of UNOP (Unidad De Oncologia Pediatrica) hospital in Guatemala City and the powerful force behind raising the survival rates for children with cancer in Guatemala. The organization that has been advising How I Live and introducing the individuals and hospitals in the countries visited is The Global Health Initiative at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s.