Hear candid conversations between people conquering cancer – patients, their family and friends, and doctors and researchers working to help us all.
Mai was only 26 when she was diagnosed. She survived, and her dream of becoming a mom came true, but she would face cancer again. Mai tells Dr. Don Dizon the difficult lessons she learned from having cancer as a young adult and how it transformed her into an advocate for herself and others.
WHAT YOU'LL HEAR IN THIS EPISODE:
• Ways to advocate for yourself while in treatment
• Candid accounts of side-effects during and after treatment
• Advice on navigating health care systems
• Insight on making decisions about fertility while in treatment
• Perspectives on being a parent while conquering cancer
• What makes joining a cancer support community so helpful
After her diagnosis, Mai was quickly hurled into a shocking whirlwind. She endured intense rounds of treatment, went into remission, and became pregnant, all within a short time. Ovarian cancer has relatively low survival rates and can lead to infertility, so Mai was grateful she was able to become pregnant.
“I was shocked. I wasn’t ready... I was like, ‘I’m 26, I have cancer, and now I overcame that, and now I’m pregnant.’ Like, how does this happen in the blink of an eye?” says Mai. “I was so grateful that, just months before, I thought I would possibly never have a child, and then having that blessing of being pregnant and knowing that I was going to be a mom.”
From Recurrence to Reflection
Years later, Mai experienced symptoms she feared could signal cancer. Once again, it was a struggle to find answers to what was wrong with her. Meeting and building trust with a new oncologist proved a pivotal moment for Mai. Eventually, she learned her cancer had returned.
“I remember them telling me it was cancer, and immediately [feeling] angry, and crying. And I haven’t shed a lot of tears for cancer,” says Mai. “When my new provider came in and explained to me how spread it was and that it should have been handled by oncology, I think I started ugly crying.”
This mix of frustration and affirmation helped Mai reflect on key lessons in navigating cancer care. She tells patients, survivors, and advocates the importance of paying attention to your body, preparing questions for your doctors ahead of appointments, taking notes before and during visits, and seeking support from fellow conquerors.
“It’s taught me to advocate for myself, and thankfully I have a care team that listens and watches and communicates,” says Mai. “It’s better to ask the questions and push a little bit to find the right answers than it is to not ask enough.”
One Step at a Time
Mai now participates in support groups for survivors and patients with gynecologic cancers. Building a strong community and hearing the perspectives of people who can relate to her experiences have been life-changing as she conquers cancer one step at a time.
“I conquer cancer by thriving,” says Mai. “Waking up, using my limbs, being as healthy as I can be, moving my body, loving my family, and living and moving forward.”
Mai Achong was 26 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Though she survived and her dream of motherhood was fulfilled, the challenges of survival continue to haunt her. From parenting while in treatment to navigating health care systems, Mai shares all the lessons she learned as a patient and a survivor.