Real People

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[Sachi] When my mom had cancer, we never talked about it at all.

[soft, peaceful music]

When my mom was 45, I was 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. She was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer.

So in my junior year, when I was 19, she passed away.

She was very adamant about me not stopping to slow down my life for her.

She wanted me to just keep going. 

I have this gene, and at the exact same time it made a tumor in my mom, it's making a tumor in me. [sniffling]

I decided to have a double mastectomy and a total hysterectomy.

[Sachi's Daughter] Oooh, ooh, ooh! Watch this, Mommy.

[Sachi] Okay, Nam.

I had Nami three weeks before my 40th birthday. She swims, she dives, she does it all.

She's four and a half, and she loves the water as much as I do, I think.

It was really important for me to be very open about it with my friends and strangers.

We just treated it more like a chronic illness. That's what's amazing about cancer these days is that you can survive.

The ocean has been a major part of my treatment. It's just raw and wild out there.

All you know is that what comes next might kill you, but you learn how to keep your mind and body calm in those situations, and you turn it into something magic and beautiful.

I think that's how I've tried to approach this diagnosis. That is the real gift of cancer.

And if you can survive it, life is just so much more beautiful.

I have this gene that has been killing my family for generations and generations.

[Event Host] Those of you who don't know Sachi, she's many things.

She's a photographer, journalist, filmmaker, and she'll talk a little bit about her cancer journey this year and other stuff.

So it is my pleasure to introduce Sachi Cunningham. [crowd clapping]

[Sachi] Okay, hi everyone. I wanted to normalize it. Everyone's been touched by cancer in some way, I think.

I lost my mom. My mom lost her dad. I don't know how far back there's been death at a young age, which means a kid suffering.

I feel very fortunate to be this first generation that is living. It could have been a whole lot worse. And Nami could be without a mother.

I would like Nami to also have the experience of feeling at home in the ocean, and joy in the ocean and me.

Yesterday, we were diving under the waves together, but holding on to each other, and so I know I was giving her that added security.

And I'd like it to be a memory that she holds onto and can draw from when she's in the water.

Nami means ""wave"" in Japanese. She's my lifelong wave.

[peaceful, inspiring music]

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Sachi's story: Facing another unpredictable wave

Sachi looks at her young daughter. And the young girl stares delightedly back at her mama.

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