This article was originally published on Medium and reposted with permission. The article was inspired by Vietnamese Women’s Day, which falls on October 20.
For 30 years of my life, I have always had very low self-esteem. I usually criticized myself for everything that happened around my life — from my family, my relationship, and my company. I don’t feel that I’m pretty enough, or talented enough, or nice enough!
Even when I earned some small success, and got recognized by “Forbes Vietnam 30 Under 30” — I still feel shameful because I don’t think I’m good enough. I felt that my works have been very minimal and not impactful compared to other members of the group. Instead of feeling happy, I felt pressure to achieve more.
And a year later, I felt burned out, and I quit my six-figure income job …
Only seven months later — while I was still searching for myself in the forest and in between projects, I received the news about my cancer diagnosis. It’s like a strong splash of water into my face. I was forced to accept that I won’t have enough time, for feeling grief, for self-pitifulness, for regrets.
The time behind me is certainly a lot longer than the time in front of me!
However, I indeed had lots of great time in my 20s compared to other people. But why should I keep comparing?
Cancer has taught me to open up myself more with others. I stopped comparing myself with others, but rather with myself. Today, I walked 200 steps more than yesterday. Today, I ate one more soup than yesterday. Today, I read one more scientific article than yesterday. Just like that …
I also had low self-esteem because of my disease. During the early time of my treatment, I had lots of rashes to the point that I could not recognize myself in the mirror. I had so much mouth sores that I had to eat all blended food.
And my appearance had become the last thing I worried about … I need to survive; and more importantly, I need to live first!
Since my diagnosis, I have met, and heard many beautiful stories about love, friendships, and relationships. There are many stories about how partners becoming the strength for each other to overcome hardships during treatments and recovery. I started paying attention to small precious moments that I never concerned myself to before.
In the past three years, I had met and heard more encouragement from my friends than in the previous 30 years. Hardships, somehow, pull us together a bit closer!
Whether in Vietnam or the U.S., the social challenge always exists, in education or healthcare. We should not ignore or deny them, but we should face time head-on — and that’s the only way for us to look forward to the future. And that’s how Vietnamese cancer patients should face and fight their disease!
During treatments, cancer patients usually lose their hair, eyebrows and even eyelashes. Chemotherapy and radiation usually have great impact on skin tone and energy levels. However, the beauty of women should not just be their appearance.
The beauty is always in the eye of the lovers …
Not just cancer, many Vietnamese women have to overcome more social challenges such as lack of education, a broken marriage or family pressures. Each of those can lower our self-esteem, meet new friends, and enjoy life to the fullest!
This photoshoot is done with my friends in Forbes Vietnam 30 Under 30 on my last trip to Vietnam, including my long-time friend Joe Brown, vlogger JVevermind, and musician Pham Toan Thang. This is our gift to all the Vietnamese women this year!
We are enough!
-Los Angeles, Oct 19th, 2019-
About the Author: Thuy Thanh Truong is the founder of Salt Cancer Initiative, a non-profit that organizes activities for cancer patients and families in Vietnam. The activities include a weekly yoga class, monthly meet-ups and drawing classes, and an annual patient forum with over 2,000 members.