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Lung Cancer Patients Living Self-Portrait Series: Christine

I wanted to create a living self-portraits series about lung cancer patients and caregivers. These portraits are about our feelings, our journey, especially how we got to this point. I will interview the patients and the caregivers as if I am a brush in their hand. Today, I interviewed myself as the 1st living self-portrait of the series.

Meet Christine

I’m Christine, a 4-year patient of ROS1+ lung cancer. Before I got sick, I was an Engineering professor and had a very rewarding career. One year ago, I became a cancer patient advocate and never looked back.

How did you become a professor and scientist?

I was trained to be a scientist when I was very young. This had something to do with the ideology in China and my family’s influence. My parents are typical bookworms (especially my mother), natural-born scientists. I grew up and automatically thought I am a scientist. I was expected not to be interested in anything other than science.

Meanwhile, I had to confess that there were many other non-scientific things I was interested in. I loved to watch and direct stage dramas (China was very good at it and I did not have to be pretty to be a director!). In university, I spent much time in the library digging out famous directors’ notes to read and losing track of time and accidentally missing classes. This was forbidden in my family. Besides, I felt extremely guilty reading such literature because it was not science and was considered a waste of time. After several months, I had to give it up.

When I began working, I still encountered many things interesting out of engineering. For example, I like some Ted Talks on various topics. It gave me the kind of “high” feeling, but I had no time for detail. I always told myself when I had time, I would… So I constantly struggled with this urge to do something other than science but kept postponing it.

How does cancer give you a new life?

The first 2.5 years after being diagnosed, I couldn’t function. Although cancer was a big hit, more detrimental was living without a career (working was the only thing that I knew how to do). I was so lost and depressed.

I then picked up those “old hobbies” that I never had time to do. I listened to 3 Ted Talks about how to become an effective leader1-3. They have always inspired me. Last November was Lung Cancer Awareness Month and I used those 3 Ted Talks as motivation to come up with strategies to fundraise. I am proud to say I successfully raised $17,130 (USD) in 1 month4. During fundraising, I ran into questions like how much of a donation had to be used as overheads. So I wrote an article in response to these questions about donations and overhead.

Cancer is horrible. But sometimes I think cancer gave me a 2nd chance to fulfill my other dreams.

Would you change your career?

No! I loved my career before becoming sick. It’s exciting to do research, write papers, get funding to do cutting-edge research, and train undergraduate and graduate students. Once you are in research and teaching, you are kind of sucked into it. It requires devotion and commitment. Research also requires a certain capability to think critically. I dedicated my blood, sweat, and tears to my career, never regret those years of dedication. But having cancer is like God is giving me a choice to live my life in a different way. I am definitely seizing the opportunity and not wasting it.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The LungCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Itay Talgam, Lead like the greatest conductors, Ted Talk, 2009. From https://www.ted.com/talks/itay_talgam_lead_like_the_great_conductors?language=en
  2. Simon Sinek, How great leaders inspire action, Ted Talk, 2009. From https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en
  3. Derek Sivers, How to start a movement, Ted Talk, 2010. From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V74AxCqOTvg
  4. Christine Q. Wu, Fundraising and 3 Ted Talks, Personal Blog, 2018. From https://prevailingwithlungcancer.blog/

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