It seems very appropriate to celebrate Tran Hoang’s 18th birthday by sharing her amazing story. Tran is wise beyond her years, focused on helping others, and working to make a difference in this world.
Tran was diagnosed with a Tectal Gliamo brain tumor when she was two years old. A shunt was placed to help remove fluid, but since the tumor was stable, doctors felt it was safer to leave it be.
She had chemotherapy for two years, beginning when she was six.
“I lost all of my hair and my parents had me wear a wig,” Tran explains, “They’re from Vietnam and are more reserved and didn’t speak much English at the time so they were doing what they thought was best for me. They wanted to make sure no other kids in school treated me differently. I didn’t understand that until just a few years ago, actually.”
Tran’s tumor remained stable for some time, being closely monitored with regular MRIs.
Then, when Tran was in the eighth grade, tests showed the tumor was growing. She had radiation, “And though I didn’t lose all my hair, I felt like radiation hit me harder than chemo did. I missed about half of my eighth grade year. Surprisingly, I graduated!”
As is often the case, Tran lives with many long-term effects from treatments,
“I’m still recovering from post effects of the radiation, including memory loss, weight gain, and getting easily tired and having a lack of energy every day. But you just have to keep trying! My parents tell me I’m their miracle child. My dad tells me of how I would walk into my treatments all smiley and happy, not even worried about the fact that the medicines were weakening me and burning/hurting me from inside.”
This young lady does not let this get her down. She does not let the cancer define her; who she is. She just lives her life – the same way she lived through treatment – with grace and courage, “I try my best each and every day to stay positive and live my life to the fullest. I want to help others now because I know what it’s like to go through all those crappy days of cancer and its treatments. I want to give others hope and let them know that having cancer can’t keep you from living your daily life. You’ve got to live your life and keep trying no matter how hard obstacles try and knock you down.”
What a wonderful young lady – inspiring all of us, reminding us what is most important, “I want to help others because I’ve had people who have helped me along the way. I want to be able to give back. I want to change the lives of kids and adults going through the fight of cancer. I want to, eventually, change the world because there needs to be a change from all of the sadness and turmoil there is in this life. And since I can’t change the WHOLE world, I want to start with those around me.”
I know. So grown up. Wise beyond her years.
Now in college, Tran is on her way to becoming a social worker, “I have my good days and my bad days just as everyone else. But I keep trying because I believe I was put on this earth for a reason; to help others by sharing my story and putting my voice out there as a hand for others to hold. I think of my cancer all the time. But I take it as a valuable lesson and I know it taught me to see the greater things in life. It made me into the young woman I am today and I feel like if it weren’t for cancer, I wouldn’t be who I am today and I wouldn’t have met such amazing people and made lifelong friends that I did.”
She continues to work hard and follows advice from one of her favorites, Ellen DeGeneres, “As Dory (Ellen) always says, you just gotta ‘Keep Swimming!’.”
It is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month – and I’d like to make you aware of Tran who lives with effects from cancer treatments everyday. Kids like Tran deserve more than four. The National Cancer Institute – which controls billions of dollars and releases a fraction of its resources to specifically help children with cancer is taxpayer-funded – which means that our voice counts. This is why you have to call or write to your elected leaders and tell them to give these children more than four.