Meet Cancer Grad Cheerleader, Sharon Kim
Watch our Facebook LIVE Interview with Sharon.
Name: Sharon Kim
Age you decided to become a cheerleader: 22
Your location: Anaheim, CA & Honolulu, HI
Explain your involvement with the cancer community: After my mom passed away from cancer, I made it my goal to give other fighters a chance to have a different end to their story. I quit my corporate job and spent a year creating a one of kind planner designed to assist patients and caregivers through the daily battles of cancer. After I successfully ran a Kickstarter project in order to fund the initial printing of the planners, I began speaking at various Relay for Life and Susan G Komen events in SoCal.
Why are you so passionate about this? While I was going through this process of learning what it meant to be a cancer caregiver, I felt so alone. I had no idea where to turn to for resources or inspiration and I felt like I had no one to talk to about it all. Caregiving also took up 99% of my time, so I really had no energy to go looking for these resources. I wish I had an all in one tool that’d provide me with a roadmap for this journey. I wish I had a planner that’d show me what types of things I should be taking notes on, what I should be keeping track of and how to best utilize all this information. As soon as I began reaching out for comfort from people going through a similar ordeal, I realized that so many people felt the exact same way. It was heartbreaking to hear the same plot over and over again and I felt empowered to do something about it. I knew this was the perfect opportunity to utilize my talents in a way that’d bring healing to others.
What was the catalyst to get you to become more active within the cancer world? Before my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I heard the word thrown around in conversations here and there. Although I empathized with those affected by cancer, the word never had real meaning until the most important person in my life suffered from it. That was the second cancer became real to me. Watching my mom go through the trauma that comes along with cancer was immensely painful. I held her hand through all the chemotherapy sessions. I wiped her tears away as she began to experience hair loss. I massaged her through the long nights when her pain was unbearable. Watching someone you love go through that kind of pain does something to you. It sparks an inner fire in you. Suddenly, cancer becomes your worst enemy and you’re willing to do anything to equip others to fight against it.
What inspired you to start the Canplan? I was a complete mess after I lost my mom to cancer. Everything in my life started falling apart and I just couldn’t understand why. I always thought I lived a decent life so I constantly asked myself, “What did I do to deserve this?” I was at such a dark place in my life and I knew that I had to fight in order to rewrite my story. I wanted to believe there was some greater purpose for all this, so I searched for meaning through the stories of patients who’ve gone through a similar situation. I thought back to what would’ve been helpful in my own cancer journey and from there, I started to build. I was sick of hearing the same story from every cancer patient. I wanted to give them a chance to have a different end to their story. I didn’t really know it at the time but creating CanPlan was a form of grieving for me in a lot of ways. I had to relive and replay every painful memory in my cancer journey in order to create the planner, and I had to find strength even when I didn’t want to. It helped me keep my mom’s story alive after she passed.
What inspires you to continue on with the Canplan? There were three significant moments in my journey with CanPlan where I felt completely validated that I was headed in the right direction. The first was when I launched my Kickstarter project and received an email from a patient who really benefited from using the PDF version of the planner. It was the first time I felt as if my hard work had finally paid off. The second was when I saw people starting to line up to speak with me after my Relay for Life speech. I got to see the faces of the people I was helping and build an in-person connection with them. The third was when I looked through the CanPlan hashtag on Instagram and saw the photos people were posting with the planner. User-generated content was the key to pushing this project forward and I was so ecstatic to see the community finally engaging with my product.
Based on your experiences within the cancer world, what would you determine is most needed for the women and men diagnosed with cancer (besides a cure)? What patients need is a sense of control. As humans, it’s fundamental for us to feel some sense of control, especially when it comes to our physiological needs. We seek some form of certainty in every situation because the unknown is uncomfortable. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, if a sense of control is not provided for our most basic needs such as our health and well-being, all the other needs such as our self-esteem, sense of belonging and self actualization are disregarded and abandoned in favor of supporting our deeper needs. So it makes sense as to why cancer patients are usually overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness and depression. There is too much focus on the lower level needs, and not enough on the existential value and meaning inherent in the higher level needs and even beyond.
According to The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the number one contributor to happiness is the feeling that your life, it’s activities and habits, are self-chosen and self-endorsed. Researcher Angus Campbell emphatically endorses the perks of autonomy by stating, "Having a strong sense of controlling one's life is a more dependable predictor of positive feelings of well-being than any of the objective conditions of life we have considered.” A study was done where researchers either gave cheese or electric shocks to mice no matter what these mice did. The researchers purposefully created no logic to when the mice would be rewarded with cheese or punished with electric shocks. After a while, these mice eventually learned that their actions had no effect on their environment and they lapsed into a state of depression. Even when the experiment changed over, and the mice were given autonomy to avoid the electric shocks or gain more cheese, the mice were so depressed, they ended up just laying there choosing to do nothing at all. Thankfully we are not mice and God gifted us with consciousness, meaning we know better than to give up. Therefore psychologists suggest if you want to resiliently bounce back after a sideswiping, you need to slowly increase your internal locus of control. All you have to do is take control of a few small actions and you’ll be well on your way to feeling like the master of your destiny once again.
This was the vision I had while creating CanPlan.
Any advice for other cheerleaders who want to help/get involved but don't know where to start?Figure out what your talent is or what you’re passionate about. Perhaps you’re passionate about something small like drinking tea every morning. Live for that morning tea intake. Make it marvelous. Get excited about it. Buy mugs, buy a tea maker, buy a massive stock of teas so you can have an endless variety. Maybe learn which teas are beneficial for cancer patients specifically. Start writing a blog about cancer fighting teas after doing your research. Maybe even start a business where you send tea packages to cancer patients. Let your passion, whatever it is, become your gift to the community.
Any advice on how the cancer world can enlist more cheerleaders? Make it a group effort and get your friends involved so that they can experience what it feels like to make a direct impact on an underserved community. The more people feel like they have the opportunity to make a difference, the more involved they’ll get.
Have you had any touching/powerful moments since getting involved? After my Susan G Komen speech, people just started lining up to get their hands on one of my planners. I watched as five people quickly turned into 50 and was in complete awe at how long the line grew to be. Just witnessing the look of excitement on each person’s face was extremely gratifying. I ran out of planners in less than 7 minutes.
What have you gained from being involved? A completely different life full of meaningful interactions. I’m so glad I took the first step and decided to step out of my comfort zone. My life is infinitely better now that I’m doing something I’m passionate about.