Yup, I’m Gonna Go Bald – Thuy Doan

2009 was a year for me to become many things: college graduate, full-time poker player, California resident….Never did I expect to become a cancer fighter.

The biopsy results came back … I have an aggressive soft tissue sarcoma in my upper calf. The next step is to get a chest scan to see if the cancer has spread. After that is chemo to shrink the tumor, then surgery. If chemo doesn’t work then amputation is a disturbing possibility. Since my health insurance policy is based in Virginia, I will be going back there soon for treatment.

This means a break from live poker. There’s a part of me that’s looking forward to disappearing for a while. Right now I’m getting too much attention from people asking me how I hurt my ankle, or if I have a sports injury, or telling me that I’m too young to be sick. They mean well but I don’t want to explain the situation to each person that asks. I come to the casino to be a predator, not to be pitied. There I can be tough and controlled instead of scared and weak. It’s my escape from the stress of realizing my own mortality. My days are spent talking to doctors, bickering with the insurance company, and doing what it takes to survive. However, my nights are spent at the tables on the offense, watching, analyzing, stealing pots and forgetting about the difficult months that lay ahead.

I was hoping to dedicate this year to building up my bankroll, traveling and playing more live tournaments, even landing some tv time. Those plans will have to take a rain check. At least I can use the time away to learn other poker games and dip back into the online world.

Going through this has got me thinking more about the hot topic issue of health care reform. Based on my experiences, change is badly needed. I was fortunate enough to secure health insurance through COBRA which is an extension of your parent’s plan. There was a period of time though when I thought I’d be uncovered and stuck with a half million dollar hospital bill. That was terrifying. When my current plan expires, I’ll be lucky to find insurance for a reasonable premium with my pre-existing condition. Hopefully when that time comes there will be more options.

This is a tough spot but don’t feel bad for me. My life is still great. I have amazing people in it, a profession that I’m passionate about, and the potential for an incredible future. It’s a life worth fighting for and this cancer is just a hurdle. I won’t let it destroy me. I will beat it. Just watch.