Today is Day 1000 since my fight with lung cancer
I woke up this morning in my new apartment in downtown LA, started my blender with roasted sweet potato, coconut, and mango. There are about 20 emails in my inbox, and a few messages from acquaintances. I respond to a few urgent ones, finish up my smoothies and drive to work. Sara Ma welcomed be with a few jokes about barn houses and checked with me about our lab hiking plan this weekend. I have a big proposal to finish up for Peter Kuhn and a meeting with Adolescent and Young Adults Los Angeles today.
It’s the 1000th time I woke up since my fight with lung cancer — I had 1000 chances to make a difference for myself and others, 1000 stories, and 1000 happiness.
I still remember vividly the morning I woke up on [Day 0] — I was waiting for my first cancer drug to arrive while trying to manage the pain with Tylenol. I got a call from CVS Specialty to pick up my bottle of Tarceva — which feel like a lifesaver to me at that time. I tried to get a hold with USC Fertility to understand my option of egg freezing — they finally get back to me that it’s do-able if I can delay my treatment for two weeks. Despite the severe pain, I am willing to consider that option. I emailed my oncologist, Dr. Nieva, and he asked me to call him right away. He was at the airport, boarding for his plane, but he wants to make sure I can make the decision with the best knowledge.
I made thousands of hard decisions in my life — it was still the hardest — the decision to start the treatment to save my life — and forgo the dream of having kids.
I took my first pill of Tarceva two hours before my dinner. I also started my blog post as a diary for myself — without knowing that it has become an announcement to the world about my cancer.
1000 days ago …
The dream of having kids was not the only dream I have to forgo.
I started working on the new idea for my next venture after coming back to Vietnam in July. I got a few angels committed to write personal checks. In fact, I got admitted to ER while I was on a business development trip in Hanoi. When I knew that I have to deal with cancer, I have to meet each investors and give them reason why I cannot take their money.
I just got a place in Saigon where I called it “home” with the room and the bed customized for myself, a helper to cook my favorite meals everyday, and a few closed friends that I considered as family. When I made the decision to move back to the US for treatment, we sat together for the last lunch — without a word, we all know that this is our last time.
Packing my entire life in Vietnam into 2 languages within 10 days while try to figure out what would be ahead, no job, no home, and without a whole lot of support network — the picture was pretty dark indeed.
I woke up on [Day 0] on a sofa bed in my family’s living room, barely can eat much — pretty much anything I eat came from a blender, but it was not my choice. I don’t have anything to look forward excepting praying for the drug to work somehow. I don’t have any knowledge about cancer except it will lead to my death in the most painful way. Physically, I was painful — mentally, I was confused than ever.
But, I was one of the lucky one … There are 400 people got diagnosed with cancer everyday in Vietnam. Not many of them get a chance to come to the US for treatments, and more importantly, insurance to cover medical bills.
I lived a thousand days to “pay it forward”
From volunteering at cancer research lab to maintaining the trail for hikers, starting a non-profit to asking for donations from strangers, big or small — I do every day wholeheartedly.
I feel lucky to wake up, simple as that, whether it’s on a comfortable bed in my penthouse or on a sleeping pad in a campground. Every morning is another chance for me to love, and to give.
I rarely celebrate anything extravagantly, but once I do — I wanna make sure it’s remarkable. So here it is, 1000th day of survival and my 26th hike of this year — 12 miles round trip to Mirror Lake in Mt Whitney.
USC, July 10th, 2019