Thuy’s story

Thuy and her family are fighting kidney cancer as a team!

Thuy with her daughter who has been a huge help navigating the medical system and the English language


Thuy is originally from eastern Vietnam.  She is from a city called Khanh Hoa (or also known as Nha Trang) in the Southern part of Vietnam. Nha Trang is known for its beaches, diving sites and offshore islands.

Though Thuy and her family don’t rock climb, Halong bay in Vietnam is one of the best spots in the world for deep water soloing.  This is type of climbing where you climb above water without a rope, so if you fall, you just fall into the water.  Here are a couple of pictures.

According to Phi Nguyen, her daughter, Thuy was surprised by her diagnosis.  She was feeling just fine, but one day had pain on her right side just below her ribs.  She’s never really had any health concerns before.  She got a work up and was found to have gallstones in her gall bladder and initially it was believed this was the only problem.  But it also turned out that she had a large kidney mass as well as a very large lymph node metastasis stuck to the largest vein in the body, the inferior vena cava as you can see below.

Tumor and lymph node outlined in red. The normal kidney on the right of the CT scan, compared to a little normal kidney on the left side of the image.

She underwent a complete kidney removal (radical nephrectomy) and retropreitoneal lymph node dissection, along with a cholecytectomy (gallbladder removal).  The tumor turned out to be one the most rare kidney tumors in the world, with fewer than 500 people ever known to have this kind of tumor, compared to nearly 2 million women each year with breast cancer.   Thuy is unique!

As most patients, Thuy felt scared and nervous when she found out she had cancer.  She cried non-stop and just couldn’t believe that she could get it.

Thuy with her family and dessert. These people are why she fights kidney cancer!

Thuy is an accomplished cook and used to work professionally preparing food for others.  Now her family members are the only ones who get to experience her skill in cooking.

Thuy in traditional Vietnamese dress called Ao Dai.

One of Thuy’s favorite things to do is spend time with her first granddaughter.  She loves to travel and has traveled around a good portion of Minnesota and some of the surrounding states.

Another picture of the family that Thuy loves and who supported her in her battle with cancer.

Thuy is so grateful to her family who support her in her battle with kidney cancer.  She is especially grateful to her 4 kids.  Some of those days right after the diagnosis and surgery for her cancer were so dark.  She felt sad and depressed and worried for her kids.  She felt useless as she tried to recover from a huge operation and was unaccustomed to have people care for her, because she was usually the one who cared for others.

But she hung in there because she wanted to be around for her kids and grandkids.  She stopped fretting and letting cancer take anything else from her and began working out and being active.  She loves to try to smile even though kidney cancer has tried hard to keep her from doing that.  She is feeling better every day about life and hopeful she can beat this.

Her advice to any new patient with kidney cancer is “Try not to think about it.  Do things you love and be active.  Eat healthy.”

Thuy’s story and her brave approach to life inspired us to climb Mt. Rainer.

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