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Young YouTuber says she is happiest cancer patient

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Cho Yoon-ju shares her cancer-fighting stories on her YouTube channel 'Cancer Patient Poppy.' / Captured from Cho's YouTube)
Cho Yoon-ju shares her cancer-fighting stories on her YouTube channel 'Cancer Patient Poppy.' / Captured from Cho's YouTube)

By Park Jin-hai

Cho Yoon-ju, a 30-year-old ovarian cancer patient, says she has had "life or death" surgery twice already. In December, 2011, four months after Cho started working as a lecturer on customer services, she felt excruciating pain in her abdominal area and collapsed several times on the subway.

At the hospital for what she thought would be a "minor" procedure, she went through an eight-hour long surgery. She lost her womb and ovaries at the age of 21. After a year-long course of treatment, the cancer was gone.

But unfortunately it returned in 2016, and painful chemotherapy followed, causing her to lose her hair and with it, her self-esteem.

"That was the worst moment of my life. I kept on thinking 'why me?' I was just working hard every day of my life," said Cho during an interview with The Korea Times.

She beat cancer twice and started her YouTube channel, "Cancer Patient Poppy," in December 2018 in order to encourage patients to "fight cancer with happiness and strength."

Along with her two old friends from middle school ― one works as an editing director for the channel, whilst the other participates occasionally, calling herself a "potential cancer patient" due to her family history of the disease ― Cho shares her stories of survival and how she leads a healthy, happy everyday life now. They throw jokes around using their own experiences from time to time, as if trying to lift the dreadfulness that cancer itself casts, and to make it sound more like something that people can actually overcome.

Cancer is Korea's No.1 killer, causing one out of every three deaths between the years 2000 and 2017, according to Statistics Korea. The number of young cancer patients has been rising.

A captured image shows Cho Yoon-ju on her YouTube channel.
A captured image shows Cho Yoon-ju on her YouTube channel.
"I didn't know that so many young people have actually been suffering from cancer. Being in hospital, hospital beds in the cancer care units are full of young patients," she said. Now her chemo is over and she is receiving follow-up care.

"I had a cancer patient coming out. From the first time I started my YouTube channel, I wasn't shy about showing my old photos of me without hair, eyebrows or eyelashes. Because I wanted to tell other people currently fighting cancer that I was once just like them. Seeing what I am now, I wanted them to realize that their painful time will pass, too," she said. "Through my channel, I also hope cancer patients can gather the courage to be open, and communicate with and support other patients."

The video clips of Cho and her two friends show cancer patients as being as energetic and funny as any other group of YouTubers. She shows her follow-up care regular checkups, reviews wigs for cancer patients and shares her personal stories. Her friend tell stories from the perspective of a family member of cancer patients, because she lost both her parents to cancer. Some 70 percent of subscribers are patients and their families, while 20 percent are those who support her optimistic view of life and enjoy her wit.

"When I see other cancer patients' comments, sharing their stories of regular treatment routines and their health, I feel so happy knowing that my channel is serving its purpose," she said. Despite only running her channel for six months her videos have been viewed over 2 million times and her channel has more than 20,000 subscribers.

Calling herself the "world's happiest cancer patient," Cho says the disease gave her the chance to rethink what happiness means to her.

"Compared with my previous life, my friends tell me that I'm living a far happier life now. Before, my days were a struggle to save as best as I could and to land a good job. I had been uptight under the misguided belief that happiness can be found in the typical path of seeking money, marriage and childbirth. After I fell ill, I was able to loosen up. Now I listen to my inner voice and do what really makes me happy," she said.

Although she can hardly picture herself in the distant future, Cho added that she would love to become a lecturer, speaking about her life and sharing her stories with a larger audience.

Park Jin-hai


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