Vietnamese family finds support online amid mother’s battle with stage 4 breast cancer

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Image: Mary Connolly/GoFundMe
  • My Ngoc Nguyen was diagnosed with stage 4 secondary breast cancer at the end of February and has since been in treatment at the University of Michigan Hospital.
  • The local and online communities have stepped up to donate to the family’s GoFundMe, which the family has said made “a huge difference in care” for their mother.
  • With the donations received, the Nguyen family is hoping to provide My Ngoc with integrative medicine and a home that is located closer to the treatment center with a bathroom on the first floor.

A Vietnamese family has been finding love and support from strangers and the University of Michigan community amid their mother’s battle with stage 4 breast cancer.

According to the Nguyen family’s GoFundMe page, which has a goal of $100,000, Haley Huong and her brother An Nguyen found out that their mother, My Ngoc Nguyen, was diagnosed with stage 4 secondary breast cancer at the end of February. 

The cancer “spread to 50% of her liver” which, with treatment, can be lived with for up to two to five years. While there is no cure, the Nguyen family are hoping to provide My Ngoc with treatments that can help extend her life. Huong is expected to give birth on April 4, where My Ngoc will become a grandmother for the first time.

My Ngoc is currently receiving treatment, including chemotherapy, at the University of Michigan Hospital. 

Growing up in Ben Tre, Vietnam, My Ngoc had come from a poor family but was “always so happy.” She was the second oldest of seven siblings and lived on a small farm where she and her siblings would help fish and garden to feed the family. They would jump into rivers to clean themselves and since they did not own any toys, My Ngoc and her siblings would use fishing as a fun hobby. 

The family eventually had enough money to move to Saigon, where My Ngoc’s father continued his work as a carpenter designing statues for Catholic churches in the city. Meanwhile, My Ngoc and her siblings would gather clothing materials to embroider as a means of making money . 

My Ngoc and her husband met through Huong’s godmother, who was a nun. After getting married, My Ngoc would “get on a bike and go get fresh produce to make smoothies,” selling them while being pregnant with Huong.

The two moved to the United States in 1996 with 1-year-old Huong and had little money, struggling to find a stable job. Huong says that her family would often “apply for food stamp applications, Medicaid, and unemployment benefits.” Eventually, My Ngoc and her husband secured janitorial jobs where they worked for a decade.

“Lots of people love and admire her,” Huong told NextShark. “Today she told my husband and I her advice of always saying ‘thank you’ and showing gratitude and also to never try to hurt anyone else. Always be friendly and kind to others and try not to upset anyone.”

 ”She has a gentle soul and is very encouraging and supportive to others,” she added. “She laughs and smiles easily and all the medical staff that has worked with her has said she is so sweet. She is really beautiful inside and out and an inspiration to many.”

Before her cancer diagnosis, My Ngoc took a hobby in gardening and would send Huong “cute flowers and plants every time she saw something cool.” Huong explains in the GoFundMe that since her family did not have enough money for other hobbies, she and her family would make “random crafts” such as origami as a fun activity. 

Huong said that her family decided to post the GoFundMe after a friend had recommended they reach out for help since her parents had to stop working and did not have any savings. Things such as groceries and shower adjustments are not covered by insurance so the family made the decision to seek help from the community.  

“She is so happy that our family doesn’t have to worry about finances anymore. She kept asking about money earlier but hasn’t had to worry anymore,” Huong said about her mother’s reaction.

With the donations from the GoFundMe, the family is hoping to provide My Ngoc with care that can’t be covered by insurance, including massage therapy, wigs, comfortable self-care purchases and clothes that fit her better after her weight loss from chemotherapy. 

The family’s biggest plan for the funds is moving the family into a new home that better accommodates My Ngoc and is located closer to her treatment center. Huong, who currently lives in Seattle, is making plans to move to Michigan to live with her parents after she gives birth to My Ngoc’s first grandchild. 

She also explains in the GoFundMe that her mother is too weak to walk up the stairs and is looking for a home that includes a bathroom on the first floor.

“We recognize we will have to make a lot of sacrifices, but there is nothing that isn’t worth it,” Huong said. “My parents have made so many sacrifices to raise my brother and I [sic], this is the least we can do to give back.”

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