“Hey dad, you know what I really want before I go to heaven?”

Dorian Murray looked at his father, and his father looked back. The little boy has bright blue eyes and pale, almost translucent skin. The contours of his skull are clearly visible inside a head shorn of hair by repeated rounds of chemo.

“What’s that buddy?” Chris Murray replied, holding back tears.

The Murrays had recently found out that Dorian’s rhabdomyosarcoma, an acute form of muscle cancer, had progressed so far it was basically untreatable. Rather than spend more time in the hospital, the family opted to take their 8-year-old son home with them. They wanted Dorian to be comfortable during the little time he had left, his mother wrote. As comfortable as a kid can be when he knows he’s going to die.

“I would like to be famous in China,” Dorian told his dad, according to an account on Facebook.

Chris Murray was confused. China?


“Yeah, because they have that bridge.”

You mean the Great Wall, his father corrected.

“Yeah,” Dorian continued. “It is kind of a bridge. People walk on it.”

Murray said the only thing a father can say to his dying son.

“You’re very right buddy. Who knows, maybe you are famous over there in China.”

That was on Sunday. And somehow, in the five days since, the unpredictable alchemy of social media, human sympathy and Dorian’s beseeching blue eyes has made good on Murray’s desperate assurance. The family’s Facebook appeal for images from China with the Rhode Island second grader’s signature “D-Strong” logo elicited thousands of shares and responses, from China’s Great Wall and countless other spots around the globe.


Liu Ping, a tourism company CEO, told the Chinese state news agency Xinhua that she first heard about the 8-year-old’s request on Tuesday.

“I was touched by the boy,” she said. “He was so young but in the face of death he appeared so strong. I felt obliged to do something for him.”

Liu drove to the nearest part of the Great Wall – a series of walls and fortifications arcing across some 5,000 miles of China – and posed for a picture in frigid subfreezing temperatures. Then she and her driver stopped several other tourists and told them Dorian’s story. Would they mind taking a quick photo for him as well?

“All of them were willing to pose,” she said.

Xinhua reported that photos tagged #Dstrong have been posted from Beijing, Shanghai and the picturesque West Lake in the eastern city of Hangzhou. Kindergartners posed outside their school with a sign reading “Dorian, all the children of LVMS know you. D-STRONG.” And in Washington on Thursday afternoon, Chinese ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai visited the embassy’s Sunshine school to film a video for the Rhode Island 8-year-old.

“They’re just saying to keep fighting,” Dorian told the Providence TV station WPRI this week. “They believe in me. And it’s just really nice to know that so many people have my back for me.”


Doctors first spotted Dorian’s stage four cancer four years ago, and he’s lived with the diagnosis for half his life. He underwent six surgeries, 53 radiation treatments and 27 weeks of chemotherapy, his mother wrote on Facebook, before he went into remission in June 2013.

But the boy relapsed six months later, and his condition has deteriorated ever since. Last month, doctors in Florida told the Murrays that Dorian’s cancer has spread into his spinal fluid. He had little hope of recovery.

Though the events of the past week have made him something of a minor celebrity – he was paid a visit by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, which in New England grants nearly god-like status – Dorian seems mostly unfazed by the sudden attention. In interviews, the little boy is alternately fierce and weary.

“All the meds, everything we have to go through, it’s – ” he closed his eyes, and for a moment he seemed like an old man.

“It’s just a lot,” he continued. “It’s a lot to take.”

But he shows some 8-year-old exuberance explaining the meaning of his hashtag – #Dstrong – to WPRI.

Raising a spindly arm above his head in a Popeye pose, he said, “You have to like, stay strong for D.”

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