“There are just so many things I still want to do.”
She was 25. Beautiful. Talented. Dying.
With those words, my friend Thuy Doan taught me what gives life meaning.
We went to lunch at Lotus of Siam. It was 2010, so it was before everyone in Las Vegas knew it was the best, hole-in-the wall Thai food in town (or maybe that’s we made up, thinking we were in on a secret only poker players knew).
Thuy’s hair was growing back and the pixie cut suited her sweet demeanor and beautiful face. I met Thuy through Phil Galfond, one of the most well known poker stars in the industry. She was kind and competitive, my kind of girl.
I got the tikka masala, while she ordered the papaya salad.
“I’m following a pretty strict diet. I’m just doing everything I can,” she said. That was like her. I’d only known her a couple of years, but at age 23, she was already crushing high stakes poker. Only the most courageous, talented and hard working kind of people can rise up the stakes that quickly.
A year prior, she was diagnosed with cancer, a sarcoma the grew on her leg. But that day we were both excited and full of hope. She’d finished chemo and her health was stable. Thuy talked about having met with poker agents who wanted to work with her. Since I was working for PokerNews, I brainstormed ways we could get her more visibility. I suggested making a funny video.
“Maybe we could do a video about what it’s really like to be a girl in poker,” she said, happily poking away at her salad.
“Yes! And maybe we could act out what it would be like if we switch roles!”
“I wuv it!” she exclaimed, laughing, with a mouth full of papaya.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
We ended up going with that idea and shooting a video.
She was a natural on camera. Everyone who met her agreed on her limitless potential.
But month’s later, Thuy’s cancer returned and spread quickly. In one of the last conversations I had with her, she said, “There are just so many things I still want to do.”
She died at age 25.
It’s been almost exactly 7 years since her death, and I still think about those words. They are profound. The desire to experience, to conquer, to learn, to love— THAT’s what gives life it’s meaning.
Yet so often, we don’t risk for what we want because we’re afraid. Fear of rejection, failure, and what people think are enough not only to lull you into inaction but trick you into believing you don’t even want it anymore. Then days begin to pass, one by one, no different than the last.
It was tragic that she died so young with limitless talent and it’s also heartbreaking when people die while they are still alive.
So damnit, give yourself the permission to dream and desire. Stop wasting time trying to be modest and embrace the fucking gifts you’re meant to share. And don’t give me some bullshit about: I don’t have any gifts. YOU DO. Everyone has love, compassion and presence to give. That in itself can change the lives of many.
WAKE. UP. While you still have the chance.
May Thuy’s short burst of light in this world be a reminder that to us all to treat life like the privilege that it is.
RIP Thuy Doan. I miss you.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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