One year …

If cancer is my second chance to live, I’m 1-year-reborn today. And here is my journey of the most amazing 365 days of my life.

Vietnam Oncology Patient Forum — Photo by Phuoc Nguyen

366 days ago, cancer is still a stranger — yet today, it’s the most familiar word and I probably talk about it more often than any other cancer patients that I’ve known. It sounds insane when I keep telling people that cancer is the luckiest thing that happened to my life. Despite all the suffers with pain, rash, infertility, and fear, cancer made me a become a better human-being than ever before.

Health

I had another check-up with my doctor today. Everything seem normal! I did a tumor biopsy in August for a new clinical trial; therefore, I won’t have another scan until November.

My tumor responded very well to Tarceva, and the tumor showed no signs of resistant in the past 6 months. I still experience some side effects, but the rash is no longer severe.

CT Scan — Upper left is my latest one, taken on Aug 17th 2017

Family

After living with my family for about 9 months, I moved to USC after becoming an employee here. I still come back to Rosemead in the weekend that I’m not traveling.

My Mom and I are Rosemead Park — September 2017

I had a trip with my family to Vietnam for the first time in September, though I was crazy busy with meetings, but it’s the first time that my Mom see me at work — I’m a very different animal when I’m on the move.

Many people might take family for granted, as it’s given that family member should care for each others. However, I do have family member who did not care about my well-being or existence in the past 10 years. Therefore, I know having family members are privilege. Yet, it’s a process to learn, understand, love, and care — just as any other relationship! First, learn how to understand; then, learn how to love.

Over the past year, I simply learn how to accept, forget, and forgive.

Career

Cancer has brought me back to USC and gave me a chance to work with amazing people, including Professor Peter Kuhn and the Cancer-CSI Fellows.

The first Cancer-CSI Fellows — Demo Day on August 15th 2017

I’m back to what I do best, building technology product, and mentoring people. I’ve learned so much from all the people I’ve worked with at USC, continuing impressed by them every single day.

Salt Cancer Initiative

I never thought I would create a non-profit. I always knew that I want to do good thing for this world, but building a non-profit is way beyond my expectation. But Reid Hoffman said, “Entrepreneur is someone who jump off the clip and build a plane on the way down” — I wanted to solve the problem of information and mental support for cancer patients in Vietnam. And, a non-profit is the only way enable me to do so.

Visiting pediatric cancer patients in Tan Trieu Oncology Hospital — September 2017

In the past 9 months, after many trials and errors, we successfully launched the yoga class and the pediatric cancer care weekly in Saigon and Hanoi.

I recruited and filtered hundreds of volunteers to find some really strong leaders. The team in Vietnam are incredibly strong in hosting meet-ups, organizing events, and communication.

We successfully organized Vietnam Oncology Patient Forum with over 500 participants. Look into the eyes of those patients and caregivers coming to the event, I know that I have a bigger mission to live my life than just for myself.

Many people said I’m the inspiration for cancer patients; yet, I’m inspired every day by all the Vietnamese cancer patients that I’ve met. Moreover, the volunteers and the leaders of Salt Cancer Initiative has gave me tremendous strength to walk down on this path in the past one year.

Love and relationships

Someone said told me that I’m the most public yet mysterious about my private life. Truth is, I still learn how to love another human and how to have someone as part of my life permanently. A thought of sharing my kitchen or bathroom with someone more than a week already scares me more than cancer, seriously!

In the past one year, I has learned how to establish a relationship with my own self. And I truly believe it’s the best relationship I’ve ever had. I learned to accept myself, and honest with my feelings. I stopped worrying about the problems that I cannot resolve, and “people’ feelings” that has nothing to do with my life.

Backpacking to Lone Pine Lake — Mt Whitney — Inyo National Forest

I also learned how to develop stronger relationship and have deeper conversation with my friends. Over the past one year, I have met my friends from all around the world more than ever before. I was able to share the pieces in our lives that we never had time to talk about before.

Reborn

When I was laying in bed and asked myself, “What will happen if I don’t wake up tomorrow?” — and I thought about all the things that would make me angry if people do things not in my way. But … at that point, nothing matters anyway. It’s never about what I accomplished, but what I can leave behind in this world when that day come.

I still live every single day like my last, and still love wholeheartedly.

-Los Angeles, September 27th, 2017-