Sharon Kim: Changing the Way People Fight Cancer
Walking arm in arm, over the broken seashell fragments, embellishing the grainy, white sands of the famous Waikiki beach, Sharon Kim and her mom would watch the last rays of the blazing afternoon sun disappear beneath the horizon on one Sunday of every month. It was a day Sharon eagerly anticipated. It returned her emotions to a state of equilibrium. Most important, in the ever changing scheme of the things, her mom became the one constant she could always count on.
What happens then, when something threatens to take that constant away from you? Sharon faced this very challenge when her mom was diagnosed with Uterine Sarcoma cancer in early 2014. Several months prior, Sharon had graduated with honors from Santa Clara University and was working as a marketing manager for a startup, YouNorth, located in the Silicon Valley. Sharon was intelligent. She was ambitious. Sharon’s future was promising. But her mom needed her. Consequently, Sharon quit her job and left this all behind, so she could return home and take care of her mom.
The medical bills had started piling up and Sharon found herself not only supporting her own financial needs, but also that of her immediate family. Her schedule became routine: help her mom during the day, go to work at night, average fourteen hours of sleep per week. Exhausted and overwhelmed, nostalgia for the life she had lived prior to the diagnosis crept in.
Sharon hadn’t fully internalized the depth of her sacrifice, not that she regretted it. She would surrender her life a hundred times over if it meant her mom would be okay. Ironically, perhaps, because of this dedication, it only made it harder for her to let go when it did not work out that way. On November 3, 2014, Sharon held her mom’s hand one last time, as her mom took her final breath on earth and left for heaven.
Heartbroken and alone, Sharon relied on three particular figures to ease the pain.
The first was her dad who acted desensitized throughout the entire ordeal. He had a new woman move in one month after her mom’s funeral. The second was her boyfriend who physically and emotionally abused Sharon. The third was her older sister, who suffered a breakdown after their mom’s passing and had to be hospitalized. Again, Sharon found herself having to relive the same caregiving experience, but this time with her sister, the only other female role model she had in her life.
Being the youngest paired with having to be the rock her immediate familydesperately needed was no easy task for Sharon. But she knew she had to find the light within, to turn tragedy into inspiration, to not let her mom’s passing go to waste.
Sharon thought back to the time her mom was sick. What would have made the entire process easier, more manageable? Her answer came one evening as she looked at the remnants of her mom’s cancer ordeal: video clips and stacks of notebook paper filled with scribbles denoting what her mom’s cancer was like from day to day. Within the pile of papers were lists of different medications, reminders for positive living, words of encouragement, scheduled doctor appointments and notes from each session. A switch went on, and an idea began formulating in Sharon’s mind: How about incorporating her findings into one concept, creating an organizational toolkit where cancer patients and caregivers can record and track all aspects of one’s cancer journey? As a result, CanPlan was born.
Working on CanPlan forced Sharon to relive the experience instead of ignoring all that had happened. It demanded her to confront the harsh reality that her mom was no longer here. The process was painful. Yet, it ended up being the self-healing experience she needed to move on, ultimately pushing Sharon to bring out the winner within herself. Had she allowed her pain to consume and destroy her, she never would have run a successful Kickstarter campaign, where 166 people backed her project, raising $14,000 to bring her concept to life, thus developing loyal followers who believe so strongly in CanPlan’s potential. She has given the cancer community hope that, “You Can Plan to do/beat/get through anything.”
Her story, her journey thus far, is opening doors she never imagined existed and establishing relationships with individuals she never would have met.
Arlene Bedster e-mailed: “I’m Wowed by what you’ve accomplished from your journey with her. Congratulations and thank you!! I could go on and on with praise about how amazing I think it is and all the specifics … but will suffice it to say WOW!! Incredible job, you will assist so many in getting through treatments and cancer journey. What a gift!”
Because of CanPlan, Sharon was able to send 4-year-old Gisele, who has stage 4 Hepatoblastoma cancer, to Disneyland to meet her favorite character Minnie Mouse. Also, attracting the attention of organizations like the American Cancer Society, Sharon is working on getting CanPlan into the Hope Lodge, currently being built in Hawaii. These examples only briefly skim the surface of Sharon’s accomplishments, exhibiting just how far she’s come. She is truly helping those within the cancer community to believe that, “You Can Plan to beat cancer.”
Like diamonds in the rough, trials refine our rough outer edges to expose the shining treasure that already exists within us. Sharon found hers and is shining brightly today as she lives for a deeper purpose.