Emerald Yun


"I felt good because I was helping other people"

Four years ago Emerald's mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Emerald saw her mom go through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Emerald went through a hard time and came out the other side, using her experience as motivation to create positive change by fundraising for Rethink Breast Cancer.

Difficulty coping with her mom's illness

Emerald tried to be a good helper for her mom, but when her mom was diagnosed with a further type of cancer, Emerald stopped being able to concentrate at school, her marks dropped, she didn't want to play with friends any more. A psychologist suggested that Emerald was depressed and she was even tested for a learning disability. "I found it really difficult to concentrate because I couldn't stop thinking about my mom and wishing I could be with her," says Emerald.

"Talk about your feelings and let it out"

"I found it hard to talk about my mom's illness as I would start to think about what might happen," says Emerald. However, with the help of a counsellor, her family, teachers and friends Emerald eventually began to talk about her situation. "The hospital oncologist sat the kids down and explained that they were doing all they could," says Sandy, Emerald's mum. "It was a real turning point, as the children started asking questions and opening up from then on."

"My advice to young people in my situation would be to talk about your feelings and let it out," says Emerald. "It made me feel better to tell my friends how I felt."

Helping people feel better

Emerald attended a lot of hospital appointments with her mom and remembers the kindness of the nurses who would go out of their way to lighten the experience by showing her how to use different equipment. In the future, Emerald would like to be a nurse or a lifeguard. "They both get to work with people and help people feel better," she says.

Now, Emerald's grades have gone up and she is a lot happier. Emerald has also become a real asset to her school, helping other students get along and looking after people when they are down or hurt, staying with them until they feel better. "Emerald has looked beyond what she has gone through, and makes a real effort to think of others," says Sandy.

Paper cranes became a fundraiser

Since her mother's recovery, Emerald has become involved with Rethink Breast Cancer's "Live, Laugh, Learn" program that supports young women with breast cancer in Vancouver, including Emerald's mom. "Last year I folded 1,000 paper cranes at the night market to raise money for Rethink Breast Cancer," says Emerald. "People could write their name on the crane and hang it up, in return for a donation." The event raised lots of money, and Emerald was even brave enough to share her story as part of the charity's video campaign later that year. "Being involved made me feel proud. I felt good because I was helping other people."

Overcoming obstacles and making a difference

Emerald learned about Rick Hansen at school and sees his story in her own. "We both had a painful event happen, and we both made sure we kept going, stayed positive, tried hard and didn't doubt ourselves," she says. Last year Emerald was chosen by RC Tamley School in Richmond to receive a Rick Hansen Difference Maker Award for overcoming the obstacles she has faced and making a difference in the lives of others, just like Rick Hansen. "Receiving the award made me feel really proud and makes me want to carry on helping other people," she says.

We congratulate Emerald for her inspirational courage and determination, and for creating positive change in the world around her.

The Rick Hansen Difference Maker Program empowers young people to make positive change in their communities. Click here to find out more.

Read more stories of inspirational young Difference Makers here.