Survivors reflect on fight against cancer

Freedom New Mexico: Liliana Castillo Luu’s Bad Crew members Betty Bumgardner, from left, Dzung Luu and Donna Canales gathered around the grill in their camp site for warmth and food during Friday’s Relay for Life.

By Mickey Winfield: Freedom New Mexico

Phien Luu is a Clovis pediatrician, and more than three years ago, his wife, Dzung was diagnosed with cancer. She is cancer free now, and the couple participated in Friday night’s Clovis Relay for Live event at Ned Houk Park.

“I’m here because my wife and my friend are survivors of cancer,” Luu said. “(My wife) has beat (cancer) for three and-a-half-years now.”

Dzung Luu was one of 105 survivors, and her team, “Luu’s Bad Crew,” was one of 56 to take part in the event. As of Saturday afternoon, Relay for Life officials reported $71,000 in donations received for the American Cancer Society.

Dzung Luu said she briefly battled depression after receiving her diagnosis, but she says it was quickly replaced by steely determination to beat the disease.

“It’s hard for me to think of it,” she said. “With all of the chemo and radiation, I know when you have it people get depressed, but for me, I accepted it. I also got depressed, but it wasn’t that bad.”

In his practice as a Clovis pediatrician, Luu has also seen how cancer affects small children and their families.

“It’s pretty bad,” Luu said, “for the family and for the kids.”

Luu’s wife also saw that cancer was taking a toll on her husband as well.

“It was very hard for him,” Dzung said. “He had his practice and then he had to come home and take care of me.”

On “Luu’s Bad Crew,” the couple was joined by Donna Canales, another cancer survivor.

“Back in 1999, I was diagnosed with cancer (cervical) and I have been a survivor since,” Canales said. “To be out here and to support the cause of fighting cancer without stopping, as a team is just so close to our hearts — and to do it together, unified, just reminds you that although it’s hard, it’s worth it.”

Canales said somedays she “wondered if it was even worth it, but I have two boys and I have really, really good friends.”

“I think (Relay for Life) is wonderful,” Betty Bumgardner, Luu’s nurse, said. “We have seen lots of kids with cancer, we also have (cancer survivors) Mrs. Luu and Donna Canales (in our group).

Canales also faced a common decision of cancer sufferers — whether to fight.

“I did have to make that decision, whether I would do (treatment) and no, I never thought of the option to quit,” Canales said. “I’d been given a challenge, and thank goodness I had friends, which I think of as a team, to support me. And without that support, I don’t think I could have faced the scary challenge I had in front of me.”

Top three fundraising teams:
1: Ride for Life – $14,000
2: Plains Regional Medical Center, $11,000
3: ENMRSH, $7,000
Source: Rebecca Holt, Relay for Life co-chair