By Amy Li
April 15, 2015
Does a cancer journey create a Chapter One in my life? Maybe. I lost my dad to lung cancer. From the day I broke down at work, hearing the word “cancer” over the phone until we lost him, it was less than 3 months. “Cancer” is such a scary word, and I never thought I would be associated with it at my age.
I could hear the trembling in my sister’s voice when she called a few minutes after I texted her, “They found a tumor in my brain, call me when you can”. I didn’t think I was capable of telling her clearly verbally or calling her randomly to tell her that I had cancer, so I decided to text her. On that same first day, I understood the meaning of death, while flooding myself with tears waiting to hear the biopsy result, outside of my ENT doctor’s office. Barely an hour before, I saw the tumor on my brain MRI scan from my neurologists; two days before, I was told that I had a 50% chance of having nasopharyngeal cancer. I thought I had nose cancer that metastasized to the brain, and the chance for me to live was very low.
Being the one who is often running errands for the family, the auntie who stood at the FastPass line at Disneyland for my nieces, the photographer for their dance performances, the daughter who took my mom to her doctor’s visit, all I could think about was how my family would go through the pain of losing me without me being there to support them…I realized that death means a lot more to the ones that love you, but not yourself.
And when I was finally told that it was still treatable, at stage IV. I cried again. I remembered Barry, the kind psychologist from Singularity University at NASA, who went with me to receive my diagnosis. He was concerned, and asked me if I was thinking, “Why me?” I said, “No, it’s better than I thought.” He said, “Prepare to live, not die.” After that day, life has been forever different for me. In a way, my Chapter One opened up the creative spirit always inside me, that I would never have imagined in my wildest dreams.
Two years later, I’m sitting in this room, writing this, I don’t know why, but I somehow started getting emotional. Is it because we just launched our Dance4Healing Stanford Cancer Supportive program this past weekend? And we have all these brave new patients come in, that they are asking for help, that they are brave enough to try something new, that they have put their trust in me that I’m pulling a loving supportive community for them through music and dance? I don’t know, but I certainly know I have come a long way, and this Chapter One definitely is a good start.