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Thuy Muoi – An inspiration for Vietnamese cancer patients

Sunday, June 23, 2019, 08:02 GMT+7
Thuy Muoi – An inspiration for Vietnamese cancer patients
Thuy Muoi lost her hair during chemotherapy sessions. Photo: Huy Dang / Tuoi Tre

Truong Thanh Thuy, or Thuy Muoi, is a popular name amongst Vietnamese cancer patients. Working as an advocate for cancer patients nationwide, Thuy is most well known for her founding the Salt Cancer Initiative, a non-profit organization that offers support to cancer patients throughout Vietnam.

Before earning the nickname Thuy Muoi in 2016, Truong Thanh Thuy was known amongst Vietnamese entrepreneurs as ‘the queen of start-ups.”

At just 32 years old, Thuy’s résumé is extensive beyond her years. 

When she was just 17, her family immigrated to the U.S., where she eventually earned a degree in computer science from the University of Southern California.

After graduation, she returned to Vietnam, where she made Forbes Vietnam’s list of 30 under 30 in 2015, earning a reputation as one of Vietnam’s most talented young business people.

The following year, however, her life seemed to come crashing to a halt when she was diagnosed with final-stage lung cancer. 

She was shattered. Despite her efforts to live a healthy life filled with regular exercise, mountaineering, and no cigarettes, cancer found its way into her cells.

“It felt like a dream. Shocking, really! But then I had to begin treatment,” she said.

“My body had to suffer excruciating pain each day. The thought of relief through death sprang up several times.”

But instead of giving up, she harnessed the motivation to fight the disease.

Thuy Muoi (second from left) poses for a photo with her volunteers at the Salt Cancer Initiative. Photo: SCI

Thuy Muoi (second from left) poses for a photo with her volunteers at the Salt Cancer Initiative. Photo: SCI

“To be honest, I’ve spent the last 30 years doing what I wanted to do. I started my own business, conquered mountains, and drove around the States,” she said.

“But this fight against cancer was the beginning of my new life. It was all back to square one.”

The Salt Cancer Initiative

Thuy Muoi founded the Salt Cancer Initiative (SCI) in 2017 in the hope of aiding cancer patients in Vietnam. 

“Muoi” is a Vietnamese word for “salt” and it is from the initiative that she got her nickname.

SCI has spent the last two years connecting more than 2,000 cancer patients into a vast and mutually supportive community.

“SCI was originally meant to be a project to translate books for cancer patients,” said the founder.

“Contrary to what patients have in the U.S., their Vietnamese peers seriously lack information and resources on the devil they are fighting.”

To help with the translations, Thuy Muoi put out a call for volunteers and medical experts.

“It was challenging at first because people were cautious. They didn’t really understand what I wanted to do. Gradually though, I managed to recruit hundreds of volunteers,” the woman recounted.

Thuy Muoi (right) engages in an SCI activity. Photo: SCI

Thuy Muoi (right) engages in an SCI activity. Photo: SCI

With an army of translators by her side, Thuy Muoi felt the time was right to go big for the community, so she established SCI and used herself as its poster child, believing that her reputation as a ‘start-up queen’ would help bring others into the SCI family.

Despite her ongoing chemotherapy sessions, the 32-year-old still holds on to SCI projects.

“This initiative brought meaning back into my life,” she said.

With the spirit of a fighter, the founder of SCI rejected the idea of charity as she did not want her community to beg for mercy.

Instead, every patient and volunteer can contribute simply by sharing their inspiring stories.

“I’ve learnt a lot from others through SCI, like Dr. Giang [a patient who has survived five cancer recurrences in 16 years] and children born with cancer,” Thuy Muoi said.

“Their input has shaped my thinking and I’ve come to embrace my situation more positively. It’s allowed me to do much more than I ever thought possible.”

Thuy Muoi’s doctor, Jorge Nieva from the University of Southern California, praised her strong will.

“Ever since the first days of treatment, I have been deeply impressed with her positive outlook,” he commented.

“She is typical of what we want – a patient with the right energy.

“To me she is no patient, but a partner. People like her help to spread the idea of how staying positive can help fight cancer.”

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