Finding Purpose By Helping Others Fight Cancer
Posted on January 11, 2017, 11:00 AM
Sometimes our greatest tragedies lead us to find new beginnings and a greater purpose in life. When Sharon Kim speaks about losing her mom, Ruby, to cancer and her mission to help others fight the disease, it’s hard to believe she is only 25. Using her personal experience with cancer, Sharon created a tool to help other patients and their caregivers navigate their disease. Her story and unique way of helping patients and caregivers gain some control over the disease may inspire you or a loved one to approach a cancer diagnosis and treatment in a different way.
The day Sharon got the call that her mom was diagnosed with uterine sarcoma, her world changed forever. She knew that cancer affected lots of people but never thought it could happen to someone she loved. Her mother was her comfort zone. She describes her as a “cute little Korean lady,” who was funny, selfless and hardworking. “I aspire to be like my mom,” Sharon says. “She was always providing for others and had the innate ability to make me laugh in almost any situation.” When her sister called with news of their mom’s diagnosis, Sharon immediately quit her job and bought a one-way ticket home to be with her mom.
Being thrust into the world of cancer and caring for her mother was overwhelming and confusing for Sharon’s entire family. “When I got home, everything happened so fast I felt like all we could do was listen to what the doctor said,” Sharon remembers. “My family was hopeful that my mom could beat her disease, but we were unprepared when it came to understanding all of her options for treatment and care.” After successfully completing chemotherapy, Sharon thought her mother would be just fine. Three months later, scans showed that her cancer had spread and the prognosis was bleak.
Finding out that there were few to no treatment options left, Sharon watched her mother go into hospice care. It was then that a light bulb went off. Sharon wasn’t done fighting for her mother and needed to become an expert on uterine sarcoma. After doing some research, she also realized that while her mother’s oncologist was doing his best, he was often busy treating other patients as well. To beat cancer, Sharon and her family couldn’t just sit in the passenger seat; they needed to become active advocates for her mother’s health.
Together, with her sister, Sharon created a document to start tracking her mother’s medications, doctor’s appointments, questions and health on a day-to-day basis. “The document ended up being really helpful because we were able to see things and make connections that we didn’t before,” Sharon recalls. “All of a sudden we could tell what medications she was or wasn’t responding to and could understand why certain symptoms were arising. It’s something I still wish I had started sooner.”
After two months in hospice, Sharon’s mother passed away, holding her daughter’s hand. The loss was devastating and at 23, Sharon’s entire world began to fall apart. When she found herself hitting rock bottom, she decided she had two choices. She could let depression get the best of her, or she could choose to fight and rewrite her story with a greater purpose in mind. Sharon chose to fight. “I decided that I wanted to find meaning in my mother’s death. So, I began to search for a way to honor my mom and help others going through something similar.” Sharon says.
After talking to other patients and thinking about the challenges she faced as a caregiver Sharon came up with the idea for CanPlan, a planner designed to help patients and their caregivers navigate their disease and treatment plans. “Once I had the idea, I spent a year creating the planner,” Sharon says. “I took inspiration from the document we used for my mom and also added in sections to keep track of questions for doctors, diet tips, and positivity exercises.”
With a lot of hard work and the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign, CanPlan is now helping patients throughout the United States.“The whole process of creating this planner was a huge form of grieving for me,” Sharon remembers. “I had to relive every memory of my mother’s cancer battle to create CanPlan and find strength in it. Now, knowing that it’s helping other people, means the world to me.”
Today, Sharon continues to share her story to help remind others that new beginnings are possible even in the face of tragedy. Her choice to find purpose by honoring her mother and helping others with CanPlan is something she feels she was always meant to do. “Losing my mom led me to where I am today. My journey helped show me how to live a life I could be proud of and not be afraid to take chances to get there,” Sharon says. “I hope that by sharing my story I can continue to help inspire others do the same.”
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