Turning Sorrow Into Joy: The Oncologist Who Gave My Life Back

Metastatic Breast Cancer Heroes™CURE® Metastatic Breast Cancer Heroes™ 2021 Essay Book
Volume 1

A woman with metastatic breast cancer pens a heartfelt tribute to the oncologist who saved her life and approached her care with empathy and encouragement.

When you first receive a diagnosis of cancer, you pray it is localized. If it is, you are still in shock but gradually learn to fight, eagerly share survivors’ stories and gratefully go back to your life. However, when your cancer comes back as metastatic cancer, you are in a completely different game in which you feel you are facing the deepest valley of death, afraid of asking how many years or months.

Minchi Kim. Photos by Jenny Siegwart.

Minchi Kim. Photos by Jenny Siegwart.

I am a 43-year-old patient who received a diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer at age 31. After completing 14 rounds of chemo, seven different types of operations and about 40 rounds of radiation treatment, I was so thankful that I could go back to our home and normal life with my then 3-year-old daughter.

Three years later, when I was in Korea visiting my parents and getting a comprehensive checkup with CT scans, I found out I had multiple tumors in the liver — stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

The sorrow, despair and fear that came with the new diagnosis were beyond what I could ever have imagined. My family, friends and colleagues were incredibly gracious and supportive, but I knew it was only God who could extend my life through the hands of my oncologist and his team.

I reached out to Dr. Valero for help and he immediately responded to my email by offering help with scheduling a biopsy and suggesting a phase 2 clinical trial. I was on the next available flight to Houston and signed up for the study medicine, according to his recommendation. I am so thankful that he took lots of extra time studying my case and investigating new treatment options. As a result, I am doing great and enjoying each and every day with much joy and gratitude.

From left: Minchi Kim, her husband, Daniel Kim, and their daughter Angelina.

From left: Minchi Kim, her husband, Daniel Kim, and their daughter Angelina.

Dr. Valero walks into his consult room with a big smile and unbelievably accurate details of my medical history. When I ask a question, he answers with clear evidence and in-depth analysis from new research findings and is always ready to recommend the best possible treatment options for each case. Most of all, he has the most compassionate heart. He listens with much care and empathy and finds the best way to encourage his patients going through the darkest time of their lives.

When my cancer came back, all I prayed for was one healthy and happy summer with my 5-year-old daughter without being or feeling sick. But we have been celebrating many more summers and her birthdays for almost 10 years now. Without his kind care and support, I would not have survived as a mom, wife, daughter, sister and friend. Dr. Valero is a godsend, a hero who turned my sorrow into joy and countless other patients.

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