Survivor Spectrum: Meet Yuri Angela Chung

 
  Taken while Yuri was still in breast cancer treatment, she was able to travel to New York for the opening of her  Notes to a Friend  art show. Photo: Jackie Park

Taken while Yuri was still in breast cancer treatment, she was able to travel to New York for the opening of her Notes to a Friend art show. Photo: Jackie Park

If you think you can keep going, don’t stop.
— Yuri Angela Chung

SO EXCITED to continue my "Survivor Spectrum" series! (As a young breast cancer survivor, I rarely saw anyone that looked like me in chemo rooms or support groups. Usually the only one without grey hair, I rarely see young survivors — especially survivors of color — represented within the cancer community, and I can't wait to share our inspiring stories here!)

Thank you so much to my AMAZING Korean creative/breast cancer survivor sister, Yuri Angela Chung, for sharing her incredibly INSPIRING story as my next guest! Constantly in awe of how openly honest she is about her story, she continues to impact other young breast cancer survivors and those affected by cancer.

As a freelance graphic designer, Yuri Angela Chung was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer at age 25. Right before her fifth year in remission, the cancer came back as Stage IV metastatic breast cancer, which had metastasized to her lungs, bones, and brain.

She then created Notes to a Friend, a multimedia installation that transforms her beautiful written reflections on her cancer experience into an immersive one, featuring a looped recording by the actress & breast cancer survivor, Embeth Davidtz.

Now, Yuri is living with leptomemeningeal carcinonomatosis (LC), a rare complication of cancer in which the disease spreads to the membranes (meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord. According to Yuri’s sister, “Doctors initially gave her a timeline of three more months to live when they first diagnosed her with LC. In true Yuri fashion, she has not let her fate be defined by a number and has been fighting this disease for about eight months now!”

Living at home to be lovingly cared for by her family, Yuri shares about her life with cancer, turning her story into art and how you have to keep going...even when doctors say otherwise.

Yuri’s Kickstarter video, raising money to fund her Notes to a Friend show in NYC. (Video: Priscilla Jimenez & James Ellington)

Thank you so much for speaking with us! First, where can we find you online?

I'm on Instagram (@yuriangelachung & @_notestoafriend), Facebook (Yuri Angela Chung) and at notestoafriend.com and yuriangelachung.com.

What was your diagnosis and at what age? 

At age 25, Stage III breast cancer and at 30, stage IV metastatic breast cancer. At 33, I was diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis.

What was your course of treatment?

Chemotherapy, radiation, and intrathecal chemotherapy.

  The inspiring Yuri Angela Chung, showing her sweet smile, during one of her many stints at UCLA. Photo: Yuri Angela Chung

The inspiring Yuri Angela Chung, showing her sweet smile, during one of her many stints at UCLA. Photo: Yuri Angela Chung

What was your (professional) life like before diagnosis?

I was a freelance graphic designer, travel junkie and lived really freely. I often did things spontaneously & impulsively. I loved to change my hair at every chance I got; I took off to NYC at every chance I got. I also went to the theater to watch movies by myself often.

How has your (professional) life changed AFTER cancer?

The biggest change is that I had to move back into my parents’ house. I have so many scars on my body from surgeries & procedures. I also lost my driving privileges, and stopped working (for now).

  Yuri’s work: Promotional poster for photographers Peden + Munk. Photo: Yuri Angela Chung

Yuri’s work: Promotional poster for photographers Peden + Munk. Photo: Yuri Angela Chung

What's your best advice for someone who is newly diagnosed?

Doctors are not gods; don’t believe everything they say.

Only you truly know your body so always trust how you feel first — if you think you can keep going, don’t stop. Keep going.

What breast cancer resources do you recommend?

Google. But don’t spend too much time researching your disease.

Rather, spend that time doing something that makes you happy and laugh.

What resources are missing that you would like to see?

More honest dialogue between young cancer patients.

Who inspires you?

My parents, my friends & my fellow cancer warriors.

  Yuri’s work: Promotional zine for photographers The Collaborationist. Photo: Yuri Angela Chung

Yuri’s work: Promotional zine for photographers The Collaborationist. Photo: Yuri Angela Chung

What are five fun facts that we may not know about you? 

  1. I have four tattoos.

  2. My dog’s name is Elvis.

  3. My favorite past time is to watch acceptance speeches.

  4. I love hot dogs & corn dogs.

  5. When I was younger, I wanted to be an archaeologist.

  Yuri’s work for the the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Magazine. Photo: Yuri Angela Chung

Yuri’s work for the the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Magazine. Photo: Yuri Angela Chung

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If you would like to donate to Yuri’s family directly, please support her GoFundMe.

Follow Yuri’s inspiring story on Instagram (@yuriangelachung & @_notestoafriend), Facebook, or notestoafriend.com and yuriangelachung.com.

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