(August 2021) An update from Valerie Nguyen, who is beginning her senior year as a Carolina and Innovation Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying Biology.
She graduated from Centreville High School in June 2018 where she founded Wildcats vs. Cancer club to help others battling cancer. That club began in October 2015 and during her time there she raised over $35,000 for the childhood cancer community. She has shaved her head, spoken on Capitol Hill to congressmen and women, and given a TEDx talk on the topic of childhood cancer.
Today at UNC, she works in the research laboratory of Dr. Ira Davis, as a research fellow, studying epigenetics in Ewing’s sarcoma. Valerie remains in contact with Jeff Toretsky, M.D. Chair of CCF’s Scientific Advisory Board.
Cecilia Nguyen, Valerie’s sister, passed away in October 2016 at the age of 13, after a fierce battle with osteosarcoma, a form of childhood cancer. Valerie continues to honor her sister through her work every day. Today, she is a member of C-Pals at UNC, which partners pediatric cancer patients in the UNC Health Care System with ‘buddies’ and partners. No doubt, Valerie’s experience watching her sister battle cancer has led her to be so involved with the local cancer community.
Childhood cancer can happen to anyone and impacts the entire family. Valerie continues to raise awareness for childhood cancer and promote awareness for siblings of cancer patients –“oftentimes it is the siblings who live in their siblings’ shadows”. During her battle, Cecilia made sure to include Valerie, even though as the ‘sibling of a cancer patient, she was often ‘left out’. Today, Valerie includes Cecilia in her thoughts, her plans and notes that ‘being present’ is part of the path.
Upon graduating from UNC Chapel Hill, Valerie will pursue an M.D./PhD program in pediatric oncology. If possible, she would prefer to remain in the South, but is open to other locations. Like most college students, the pandemic impacted Valerie’s studies, but she remained focused and committed to her program and notes ‘if there is a silver lining from Covid, it is to be more reflective and to appreciate the time when we are disconnected’.
CCF is proud to partner with Valerie in bringing attention to the siblings of childhood cancer. Hear Valerie speak at our 2019 CCF Research Symposium where you can learn more about her personal experience and journey.
Valerie has promised to keep CCF posted on her next steps and milestones.