It is my great privilege to introduce you to Sharon Kim. Sharon and I met through Instagram back in February of this year. I never thought I would be so thankful for social media, but wow, meeting Sharon has blessed my life and enriched my soul in more ways than one.
We had the opportunity to meet in Colorado with another cancer survivor, Jessica, back in July to work on a project together (we are very excited for February 2020 – more information later), and she is just as lovely and inspiring in person as she has been through social media.
What Sharon is doing for cancer patients and survivors is not only a blessing but serves as an incredible resource. Her passion for the cancer community did not come out the blue though. Here is the story of her mother, Ruby, and Sharon’s journey through Sharon’s words:
Ruby and Sharon’s Cancer Journey
I remember getting asked what my greatest fear was when I was younger, and my instant thought was losing my mom, Ruby. I can vividly recall some of the nightmares I’d have about the way she’d die, that would always result in tremors and tears. She was the glue that held our family together, and a mother who knew how to love and support a child with big dreams.
So when she was diagnosed with uterine sarcoma cancer, I took it pretty hard to say the least.
My instant reaction when I found out she had cancer was denial because I knew acceptance of the truth would be too heartbreaking. I didn’t even allow myself to think about the possibility of her not making it, so I just became very numb, distant, and oblivious through it all.
Although I might’ve been there physically through her treatment, I was mentally and emotionally checked out. It wasn’t until we got the news that her cancer had come back, and there weren’t any more treatment options left for her, did I actually start to become more engaged with what was happening.
And man, awareness definitely comes with a cost.
That was probably the hardest part about the journey: Watching her experience excruciating pain and not being able to alleviate it. Towards the end of her battle, she was either awake and in pain, or she was in a deep sleep, preparing to end her time here on earth.
Burying my mom at the age of 22 was definitely not something I could’ve ever seen coming and thinking about a future without her always brought me into a deep depression I didn’t even realize was within me.
But it was a painfully liberating experience to know that I could survive even my greatest fear, and that my life didn’t need to end with my mom’s.
The Creation of CanPlan
As I was taking turns caring for my mom with both my brother and sister, I knew we needed some sort of plan to keep track of what she was experiencing throughout the day so that we’d all be on the same page. My mom had to take a bunch of medications for her pain as well as supplements we thought would be beneficial to her, so I started to track everything she was taking in a journal in an effort to be more organized.
Through my tracking, I found that her pain meds were causing major side effects like fatigue and nausea so I substituted them for essential oils and noticed this was way more efficient. As a result, I set goals for the amount of medication she could take every day and praised her whenever that goal was reached. I did this every day and found a huge sense of relief in having a systematic way to monitor an unpredictable illness. It gave me more control over the situation, allowed me to develop a treatment plan that best suited my mom’s needs and prepared me to take action in the case of a worsening symptom. It also allowed me to improve my mom’s quality of life by focusing my attention on the elements that were keeping her happy and pain-free.
Since I found this method to be so helpful, I began to strategize how to extend the benefits to other patients/caregivers, so they wouldn’t have to suffer from the same mistakes my family and I made by not taking action sooner. After my mom passed away, I spent the next year creating CanPlan, in an attempt to give fighters a chance to have a different end to their story.
I truly believe that everything that I’ve done in my life thus far has prepared me to create this planner. I used my Psychology background to integrate influences for positivity throughout the planner, my marketing background to design a beautiful planner with user friendliness in mind, and my grief to motivate me to create an effective tool that teaches cancer patients and caregivers that they can plan to beat cancer. Through this painful journey, the basis for CanPlan was formulated.
After many, MANY long nights full of tears, frustration, joy and every emotion you could ever think possible, CanPlan is now helping thousands of families around the globe navigate their way through cancer. CanPlan is a physical representation of a grief that was met by God’s grace, and it continues to carry that purpose into the lives of everyone who believes in the power behind it.
My Experiences and Advice as a Caregiver
As a caregiver, it’s important to discern your own wants/needs from the patient’s wants/needs. A lot of times during her treatment, I found myself trying to carry out a game plan I hadn’t even discussed with my mom, because in my head, surviving was the only goal. But my mom had different plans and didn’t want to live a life permanently impaired and constantly in need of support.
Ultimately caregivers should understand that the only thing they have control over is themselves, and as much they want to help the patient, thinking they know the best course of action for the patient, is a form of control that oversteps their boundaries.
Honestly, some of the best things I did for my mom was listened whenever she spoke, held her up when she needed extra strength to walk, sat beside her as she worshipped and prayed, massaged her wounds, and ensured her that the only thing she needed to focus on was healing.
A tangible gift I remember her loving was a scrapbook. I stayed up all night to make that held some of her fondest memories as a mother, a wife, and a strong model of Christ. She cried looking through the collection of memories I put together, and it was in that moment I realized that the best gifts you can give are deeper than material things.
The best thing you could do as a caregiver is position yourself in love, so that it overflows into every situation you enter. Be aware of the energy you bring into the room because whatever energy that is, it’s contagious. The patient will subconsciously feel what you’re feeling, and so if you’re carrying the spirit of anger, fear, bitterness, stress into the room, the patient will begin to mimic those feelings. That’s why it’s so important for caregivers to practice self-care in the midst of this as well. This journey is about the caregiver’s evolution just as much as it is about the patient’s, so if the lesson is learned, transformation should take place.
How Cancer Impacted My Faith
I grew up in a Christian household and went to a Christian school my entire life, so I definitely knew God intellectually. However, by the time my mom’s cancer came around, the remnants of my faith were pretty much invisible. I think at one point I even referred to myself as an atheist because I saw Christianity as having to live by a set of inconvenient rules rather than having an intimate relationship with a Father.
When I saw my mom praying, worshipping, and deepening her faith during one of the most tragic periods of her life battling cancer, I was utterly confused. I expected my mom to receive at least a small ROI (return on investment) for the commitment she put into her faith, because I viewed Christianity as a type of transaction.
So, when she passed away, I strayed so far away from Christianity that I was actually repulsed whenever someone even mentioned the word “God”. However, God was resiliently in pursuit of me, and he constantly sent me reminders of his goodness and grace through people who reflected his heart.
After resisting Him for two years after losing my mom, I finally grew weary. All these random invites to church, and all these new relationships with old friends who’ve been “born again” seemed like obvious spiritual signs to me. God showed up when I was most vulnerable, and reintroduced Himself to me in June 2017. My life has NEVER been the same since, and I can confidently say that my mom’s prayers over my life have NOT gone to waste.
Her main hope for me was to genuinely come to know Christ, and God has answered her prayers with fiery passion. Growing my relationship with Christ has become my primary purpose, and everything I do stems from that!
A HUGE thank you to Sharon for sharing so openly and honestly about the cancer journey that she walked with her mother, Ruby. And another thank you for all she is doing with CanPlan! It has already impacted thousands of people across the globe and I know it will continue to make a difference in many, many lives!
Sharon wanted me to share that she would love to connect with you! You can follow her social media pages that are linked below and send her a message to continue the conversation, learn more about CanPlan, and follow along with her incredible artwork:
You can also purchase a CanPlan for you or a loved one through her website today by clicking on the link below:
She has so generously made her entire website 15% off by using this exclusive promo code:
Please reach out if you have any questions or send me a message with prayer requests!
God bless you!