At­lanta Pride Com­mit­tee mem­ber, NQAPIA board mem­ber opens up about cancer fight

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com

Stan Fong was mov­ing right along in early 2014, busy as ever—run­ning his IT con­sult­ing com­pany, serv­ing as a mem­ber of the At­lanta Pride Com­mit­tee and as a board mem­ber of the Na­tional Queer Asian Pa­cific Is­lan­der Al­liance (NQAPIA), and be­ing a reg­u­lar pres­ence at LGBT events through­out town. But then some­thing turned up on an X-ray fol­low­ing a car ac­ci­dent and his doc­tor de­liv­ered the news—he had non-Hodgkins lym­phoma.

Fong looks back on telling his loved ones the bad news, go­ing through chemo­ther­apy and his ad­vice to oth­ers given the same di­ag­no­sis, as well as ad­dresses the bi­ases against the Asian-Pa­cific Is­lan­der com­mu­nity.

So tell me about your cancer fight. How did you find out?

What hap­pened was I had a car ac­ci­dent and in a fol­low-up af­ter the ac­ci­dent they did an X-ray of my chest, and dur­ing the X-ray they found a mass the size of a soft­ball. It turned out to be a ma­lig­nant tu­mor. I was al­ready ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some breath­ing prob­lems, which I as­sumed was be­cause I was out of shape but it re­ally was the mass press­ing against my heart.

Luck­ily it was the first year I got health cov­er­age through the Af­ford­able Care Act. It was one of those things where ev­ery­thing was luck. The ac­ci­dent, my first year of health cov­er­age, ev­ery­thing was great—even though it was cancer, it was great. It was six months of in­ten­sive chemo and as of right now I am a year-and-a-half in re­mis­sion.

How did you han­dle hear­ing the di­ag­no­sis?

You know, I’d reached a point in my life where I pretty much was ac­cept­ing of any-

May 13, 2016

—Stan Fong on telling his loved ones he had cancer thing that would hap­pen. It wasn’t hard for me to han­dle the news. It was harder for me to break the news to friends and fam­ily, es­pe­cially my mom. My mom and I’s re­la­tion­ship hasn’t been the most per­fect re­la­tion­ship, but I had just reached the point in my life where she was able to tell me that she was not pray­ing for me ev­ery night [laughs].

What was the hard­est part of that process?

See­ing how ev­ery­body else re­acted to it. It’s very hard for me to ask for help. I’m more likely to dis­ap­pear like a wounded an­i­mal and just go hide in a corner some­where [laughs]. That was my in­stinct but the friends and fam­ily that I had made me come out and let them know. I had a lot of trou­ble try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate with my fam­ily about what was hap­pen­ing be­cause ev­ery­body wanted to know ev­ery­thing. But my sis­ter, who’s a reg­is­tered ther­a­pist at Chil­dren’s [Hospi­tal of At­lanta], was an in­ter­me­di­ary be­tween me and my fam­ily so she got all the in­for­ma­tion and she talked to all of them for me.

I was told to take a break and slow things down and I tried to work through my treat­ment. It’s tough when your job is to solve prob­lems and to think a lot and you re­al­ize that you’re hav­ing hal­lu­ci­na­tions or you’re hav­ing side ef­fects from the chemo that make you not think straight at all. So I couldn’t rely on my think­ing for a long pe­riod of time.

What ad­vice would you give some­one who re­ceives a sim­i­lar di­ag­no­sis and is about to go through the same ex­pe­ri­ence?

Find peo­ple you can joke with about your sit­u­a­tion. When peo­ple asked me what I needed, I told them ‘I need more cancer jokes.’ If you have cancer jokes, send them my way be­cause the world needs more cancer jokes. And there also needs to be more head­wear for guys who are go­ing through chemo be­cause the wigs and the knit­ted hats that they have cat­a­logs for in the chemo room don’t fit men very well.

Turn­ing to your so­cial jus­tice work, what kind of bias do you see against API peo­ple within the LGBT com­mu­nity?

I can eas­ily talk about on­line dat­ing when peo­ple say ‘No fats, no femmes, no Asians.’ That’s my fa­vorite one. It au­to­mat­i­cally discounts me in like three dif­fer­ent ways [laughs]. The other part is un­der­stand­ing that some­times it’s harder to come out as a gay man in the Asian com­mu­nity. Sim­ple things like your boyfriend meet­ing your par­ents, if you have an Asian par­ent that’s harder. It’s not just a cul­tural bar­rier but also a lan­guage bar­rier.

In the LGBT com­mu­nity, the vi­sion of the Asian com­mu­nity is white­washed to the point where ‘Oh if you’re Asian, you must be Chi­nese,’ when in re­al­ity there’s Kore­ans, South­east Asians, and so many dif­fer­ent skin tones. I get mis­taken for Filipino quite a bit when re­ally I’m just Chi­nese. I’ve vis­ited Hawaii and been mis­taken for a na­tive rather than a tourist.

It was also a big deal for me to see gay Asian char­ac­ters on TV the very first time, not just in movies like “The Wed­ding Ban­quet.” There was a day­time soap where there was a gay char­ac­ter who just hap­pened to be Asian and the sto­ry­lines talked about him be­ing gay and Asian. And not only that but he was hot and he was mas­cu­line, he wasn’t ef­fem­i­nate. That’s a big deal. That’s just some of the stereo­types in the com­mu­nity.

A lot of peo­ple ask me how they can get more Asian peo­ple to show up to their events and I say you just have to ask. I show up be­cause I want to do this work and I want to be part of my com­mu­nity. I do it be­cause I still like do­ing it and I’m not go­ing to guar­an­tee that I’m go­ing to like do­ing it for the rest of my life, but at the mo­ment I love do­ing what I do. I don’t want to be the leader for the Asian peo­ple in the com­mu­nity, but if the work that I do means that other peo­ple see an Asian per­son in a photo at an LGBT event, that’s the most im­por­tant part.

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