Please share your story: : Aloha! My name is Sharon Kim and I’m just one 25 year old determined to change the way people fight cancer. Why am I spending all my days working to create awareness when the rest of society is pressuring me with bills and expectations? Because I know how much of a pain in the ass cancer can be. I know what it feels like to be lost and confused about all the medical jargons and regimes. And I don’t want anyone to have to go through what my family and I went through.
When my mom was first diagnosed with uterine sarcoma cancer back in 2014, I had no idea what the word cancer even really meant. I’ve heard it thrown around in conversations, but it’s just one of those things you don’t think you’ll ever have to come face to face with (millennial thinking I guess). I figured cancer was just a glitch in the road for my mom and she’d make it through to inspire others with her story, which is why I filmed the entire journey (You can watch the tear-jerking video at the end of this post). Well little did I know how naive my mentality was when I was thrown head first into the world of cancer, unarmed and unprepared. Right after her diagnosis, she went straight to surgery and then straight into an intensive round of chemotherapy. Everything was happening so fast that it felt like we had no other choice but to go with it. What made the whole experience even more nerve-wrecking was that we felt so distant from her oncologist. We were constantly waiting on him to give us answers or to tell us what direction we needed to go in, but it always felt like we’d walk out of her appointments empty-handed. Long story short, she successfully got through chemotherapy and we all thought this whole ordeal was over and done with... but boy were we wrong. The cancer came back three months later and it was so aggressive this time around, my mom was sent straight to hospice to pass peacefully. We got to spend another two blissful months with her, before she passed away a few days before my 23rd birthday.
Since then, I quit my full-time corporate job and decided that life is too short to work super hard for someone else's dream. I spent the next year of my life creating a revolutionary tool designed to guide patients and caregivers through the different stages of cancer. After I had my very first prototype of CanPlan, a planner made to help patients and caregivers fight cancer day by day, I set up a Kickstarter project to obtain enough funds to print the planners in bulk. Seven days before my campaign was set to end, I was 100% funded and ready to get CanPlan into the hands of those who need it the most. Since July 2016, I have been distributing CanPlan to families and hospitals all over the world. I've also overcome my fear of public speaking and have been actively sharing my story at various Relay for Life and Susan G Komen events across California. I also recently became a guest blogger for the Huffington Post.
If you'd like to watch my story in detail, here is the viral video I made that helped my Kickstarter campaign become a success: https://youtu.be/xezvOLcPe48
How has your story shaped who you are today?: As you can see, the loss of my mom took a huge toll on me. So much so that I wasn’t satisfied with just telling people I lost my mom to cancer. I wanted there to be meaning. I wanted justification for her passing. The only way this wouldn’t feel like a loss is if I turned tragedy into inspiration and used my experience to help others facing the same ordeal. I wanted to give other fighters a chance to have a different end to their story. While I was going through all of this, I felt so alone. I had no idea where to turn to for resources or inspiration and I felt like I had no one to talk to about it all. Caregiving also took up 99% of my time, so I really had no energy or time to go looking for these resources. I wish I had an all in one tool that’d provide me with a roadmap for this journey. I wish I had a planner that’d show me what types of things I should be taking notes on, what I should be keeping track of and how to best utilize all this information. CanPlan does not only that, but it also provides daily reminders for positive thinking. It tunes you into the power of the mind and helps you to take action in the here and now and not dwell on the past or worry about the future. It is everything that I could’ve ever asked for while starting my journey with cancer, and I’m so excited to see the potential impact it’s going to make on the cancer community.
A little bit more about me?
Well, let’s just say that I’m a millennial looking to actually take action in making a positive social impact. I was born and raised on the beautiful island of Oahu and graduated with a BA in Psychology, Business Management & Communications from Santa Clara University. I’m your typical Asian nerd who cares more about my GPA than my relationship status. And yes, I do take pictures of my food. I was class clown in high school so you know I’ll throw in some jokes here and there. I’m very accepting of pity laughs. I’ve worked for various start-up companies in the Silicon Valley and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, but I’ve always struggled to find passion in what I was doing. Getting up each morning felt like a chore and I found myself constantly waiting for the next Friday or for the next paycheck. Unfortunately, I had to come to the lowest point in my life in order to figure out what it is I truly longed to do in this world. My mom had to die, so that I could finally start living… and that is the painful truth I use as fuel to motivate me to do what I do today. I want my story to teach people that they don’t have to wait until tragedy hits to start living a life of meaning and purpose. Don’t live just to live. Find what you love and let it kill you. Stay hungry and stay curious for it. Even if you have to try and fail a million times before you finally get it right…keep going because that’s far better than living with the guilt of all the “should haves” and “could haves”. Live the best life you possibly can and take action when it comes to your passions. It’s something you will never regret, I promise you.
What compelled you to want to share your story?: I hope my story is a beacon of light to anyone going through a difficult time. After my mom passed away, my dad got remarried one month later, my sister had a mental breakdown where she had to be hospitalized, my boyfriend was abusive both physically and emotionally, I was working in a very toxic environment, and I can't even remember how many times I've contemplated suicide. I had to challenge myself every single day to focus on the smallest pockets of positivity and I had to fight to become to person I am today. Every rejection in my life was a form of redirection and I had to have faith that God's plan for my life was way bigger than the plans I had for myself. I hope to encourage and inspire people with my story and my message.
What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: I know, you’re scared. You’re probably absolutely terrified because you’re about to do something you never thought you’d do. You’re about to leave comfortability and embark on a journey to the unknown, relying on your own inner confidence and the support system around you to get you to finish line. You’re sacrificing not only your time and resources, but also your pride, which may be a big pill for you to swallow. All for what? The unnerving, unfulfilling answer of “maybe things will work out”.
It’s this very idea of investing in the uncertain that stops you from chasing after your dreams. It’s the fear of judgement, the fear of leaving your safety net and the fear of the risks being greater than the rewards that makes you unpack your bags time and time again. Why are you holding on so tight to the things you’re comfortable with? Because you FEAR something so great won’t happen twice. You FEAR the disappointment that might result from the gamble. You FEAR the thought of failure.
I was right there at the starting line with you about a year ago, and let me tell you..the journey has been far from smooth. I’m averaging about 20 hours of sleep a week, I always need to make sacrifices when it comes to finances, my social life is pretty much nonexistent and the amount of times I’ve heard “no” is comparable to the amount of times Donald Trump has denied accusations against him. Every time I walk into a cafe, I’m overwhelmed with pity stares as if I’ve just survived a zombie apocalypse. It’s not flattering. It’s not pretty. And there have been so many times I’ve wanted to give up and race back to comfortability.
So what is it that gives fuel to a dream chaser? What is it that allows them to sustain the early stages of deprivation? Aside from cold hard passion, the answer is: Fear (Oh and lots of SPF, which I’ll get to later). Now I know you may be thinking, “But didn’t you just say fear was the thing that STOPS people from dream chasing?” And the answer is yes. I live to confuse. But how you perceive and harness fear will be the determining factor that separates you from the ones who can’t seem to get their feet off the platform. Ever heard of the quote by Abraham Lincoln, “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend?” Well, make fear your friend by using it as motivation rather than a deterrent.
Let me give you an example. After my mom passed away from cancer in 2014, I found myself spending lots of time at her graveyard. The souls of the deceased seemed to cling onto me as I wandered through the valley, painting images in my head of what their lives on earth were like. It was the words engraved on a rather dull looking tombstone that filled my heart with sadness. Words I knew I’d carry with me for the rest of my life. It read: “Regretting all the ships that never sailed”.
Ever since that day, I was convinced that my biggest fear is living a life defined by the things I didn’t do. To go through the motions each day with no change and no improvements. To have a voice that won’t be heard. To have talents that don’t get utilized. Sure failure is scary...but it’s something I can pick myself up from. I mean, in the end maybe things won’t work out. But maybe figuring out if it does will be the best adventure ever? So from then, I told myself to just start. I made myself develop temporary tunnel vision so I could block out every single fear except for one: The fear of not living a life I was proud of.
I can’t really explain what happened next since everything happened so fast after that. I was smacked with blessing after blessing all because I was able to use that fear as the driving force for all my decisions. I guess you can also say red bull literally gave me wings since I drank it religiously to get me through the long nights. But the biggest lesson I learned from this was that starting is always the hardest part. An airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. And you can’t always wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. So start where you are because once you take flight, you never know where that wind might carry you.
So as I leave you to travel to your dream destination, I just want you to remember the three things that’ll guarantee your safe arrival: Sacrifice, perseverance and faith (SPF). You’re sacrificing who you once were to become who you want to be. You’re persevering despite your failures and doubts. And you’re learning to trust that every rejection is a form of redirection.
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