How to Be a Fighter: Insight From a Cancer Tackler

Think you’re having a bad day?

Before you cry over that spilled latte and feel sorry for yourself because that sexy stranger didn’t text back, meet Jessica Lui. She was online one night this past fall booking a one-way ticket for her young family to start a new life in Hong Kong when she received a call that would change her life.

She was told to get to the hospital immediately. As in, at midnight. She didn’t even have time to say goodbye to her two young kids and pack her bags. After hours of waiting on a stretcher with her husband, a CT scan and tests, Jessica was told she had acute myeloid leukemia. She would spend the next month at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

But we’re not asking you to feel sorry for her. That’s the last thing she wants. 

Though her plans to move to Hong Kong are on hold, armed with an unimaginably strong attitude Jessica remains dedicated to kicking the crap out of the cancer that has invaded her body. Her, her family and friends are also determined to give back. In her honour, Jessica’s husband has created a team appropriately called Jessica’s Fighters and will ride in the Ride to Conquer Cancer benefitting the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre this weekend (June 7 and 8, 2014). The fundraising ride involves a 200-km bike from Toronto to Niagara. Jessica has actively volunteered for the foundation through her illness and will do so at the event as well.

Last month, Jessica received the news she had hoped for: a match for a bone marrow transplant had been found. There is still a long journey ahead, but after chatting with her on the phone, we know that if anyone can handle it, it’s this kick-ass woman.

Here is what we learned from Jessica on how to be a fighter… 

Accept it. 

“I was one of the lucky ones. I had never been directly affected by cancer. The first time I really experienced it, it happened to me. I had been suffering from a basic sore throat and a swollen gland that wouldn’t go down. But I thought nothing of it when the doctor suggested blood work. When he told us the diagnosis, I was like whaaaat? Ok. I remember telling my husband right when we found out that if anybody is going to get sick, it is going to be me. I have the right attitude to be a patient. I mean, I have two kids; you need to be positive and strong in mind and body.”

She wastes no time trying to figure out why it happened. 

“In my case, there was nothing that caused my cancer other than pure bad luck. Instead of trying to figure out how and why it happened to you, try to figure out how to fight it. There really was little time to cry about it from the moment I found out. My attitude from the beginning was, let’s get down to business and tackle this thing. I didn’t cry until after the doctor had left the room and we had gone over the next steps. Our first call was to my husband’s parents and the second was to Air Canada to cancel those tickets. You have no choice but to embrace the journey. I have two kids – I can’t die. Be a good patient, not a victim.”

Give back.

Jessica’s spirits are lifted by giving back for the care she received at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre). No matter how sick she is. 

“When I got sick, I knew I had to do something in exchange for the support I had received while at Princess Margaret. The nurses, doctors and entire staff were so wonderful and always had an encouraging smile on their faces. It makes you feel so much more at ease, no matter how scared you may be. I was thinking about ways I could give back to them, and thought I would volunteer in the hospital once I was better.” 

“I hadn’t actually been involved in the Ride to Conquer Cancer before, but I donated to it for the past three years; a good friend of mine who lost his mother to cancer had a team. My husband suggested the Ride to Conquer Cancer, and it seemed to make the most sense in the immediate future. He created a team called Jessica’s Fighters and our friends joined the team. I’ve been volunteering in the office of the foundation. They need the help of volunteers to manage over 5000 riders and all that paperwork and information. We’ve been packing envelopes with jerseys and things. I will also be volunteering at the event.” 

Laugh in its face.  

Sometimes, all you can do is laugh (seriously).

“I laugh about everything that I go through in this journey. I was singing through my bone marrow biopsy. I joke to my son that the control line tube that goes into my chest for chemo is because of the fact that Mommy is now a robot for a little while. Being sad won’t help this.” 

She also finds happiness in things like the Ride to Conquer Cancer

“I think it will be such a sight to see. I cant wait to see everyone take off at the starting point at Ontario Place; thousands of them in their yellow jerseys. I also can’t wait to welcome and thank them at the end. It may get emotional.” 

Will your body and mind for the battle.

Sometimes, it really is a matter of mind over body. It’s no cliché. 

“When I was in the hospital, I would push myself to walk around the ward even when I didn’t feel up for it. Every time I had a fever or developed pneumonia I would just focus on how to fight it. It really helped. I really have a mind over body mentality. If I am in pain or have a high fever, I do a deep breathing exercise and order my body to be strong. I will away the fever, literally telling the fever to go away repeatedly.” 

Shake it off. 

There will always be minor roadblocks and things that could test that positive attitude.

“Sometimes, certain things will make you sensitive. When I had no hair, a little girl looked up at me with these big terrified eyes and asked whether I had cancer. It broke my heart that I scared the little girl, but her fear is so valid. You’re reminded that you have a deadly disease. Or when someone says the wrong thing. They can say too much, or even too little. You need to let all that roll off your back. There really is no choice, it is only going to get you down.” 

The Ride to Conquer Cancer is now in its seventh year and is approaching the $100 million dollar mark. It isn’t too late to donate to Jessica’s Fighters; contribute to the team here.

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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