Nga Vu is a unique, strong and beautiful woman. I met her at the Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital last December. In 2006 at age 37 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was a single mother to her then 7 year old daughter. She had always had cystic breasts so when she felt this lump she really didn’t think too much about it. She told me that it was actually vanity that saved her life. She was thinking about having cosmetic surgery, breast augmentation. The Dr. she went to for this removed the lump and did pathology on it. It was breast cancer. She had lived in the UK in the past, and she could have gone there to or Bangkok or Singapore for her treatment, but ultimately she chose to stay in Vietnam for many reasons. Most importantly, her emotional support, her family was in Vietnam and the physicians at the HCMC Oncology Hospital are fantastic. They removed her breast and did an incredible reconstruction for her. She spent a week of ”hell” in the hospital, but had a great outcome. Where she differs from so many people I met in Vietnam is that she took it upon herself to learn everything she could about her illness in order to make informed decisions about her treatment. Most everyone gets the same treatment regardless of the stage in Vietnam, but Nga Vu would have none of that. She knew that she was in the early stages and that chemo and radiation were not necessarily going to change her prognosis. She went to Singapore for a second opinion and they confirmed this. She opted only for tamoxifen and is perfectly healthy almost 5 years later.
She feels that having had cancer has changed her perspective on life. She tries not to take things for granted, to appreciate what she has. It has made her a more confident and stronger person. Nga Vu even had her scars tattooed with flowers to turn them into a beautiful reminder of her ordeal. I really loved meeting her and being trusted to tell her inspiring story.