Cancer patients tend to write two types of books: when their cancer goes into remission and they want to share how they regained their health – or when they fall terminally ill and want to leave a record in the final stage of their life.
However, Korean-American Joana A. Park, 36, does not fall into either of these groups.
Although she is terminally ill with cancer, she is writing a series of books inspired by her favourite K-pop boy band, EXO, to entertain other members of the global fan club, EXO-L, and also to give hope to those people in similar situations.
Pink Ribbons, released in February, is a fictional tale based on her fight against cancer, but inspired heavily by EXO leader Suho, who plays the counterpart character to her alter ego in the book.
The book features a love story between Myeon – a reference to Suho's real name Kim Jun-myeon – and Jojo, which refers to the author.
Park said she came up with the idea for the love story based on a dream she had during surgery, but everything else was fact – even the best friend Charlie (whose real name is Choua).
“My intent is to give awareness to others who may have the disease and not know it,” she said.
“I went to the doctor for a simple check-up and came out of her office with a diagnosis I never expected.
“Throughout my journey I [have] met many girls and guys younger than I with the disease.
“I thought of my EXO-L friends and decided to tell my story in a way they would enjoy and maybe help one or two of them,” Park told the Korea Times.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 15, 2016, when she was 34.
“My condition is terminal because I'm still fighting the cancer,” she said.
“I’ve had surgery and removed a new lump that was found this year, but I’m still having radiation treatment.”
Park, who lives in the United States, where she is undergoing treatment, continues to work part-time as an animal control officer.
Born to a Korean father and an American mother, she speaks English, Spanish and some Korean and Pink Ribbons is also available in the three languages.
It is one of her self-published books produced through CreateSpace on Amazon.
Although Pink Ribbon’s writing style and plot are not as refined or polished as traditional novels, Park’s persistence in writing while fighting cancer is laudable.
The book is part of a larger series – a continuing project – she is writing called “XO Book Series” inspired by the boy band EXO.
Park has published five books so far inspired by the members of EXO, each of whom is made into a character in one of the books of the series.
“The members of EXO are very interesting and super talented,” Park said.
“There are nine different personas that I can mould into whatever character I want in my stories.
“They give me motivation and inspiration to do my best.”
She added: “I’m an older fan. I began liking EXO in 2013. I was a big fan of SHINee and EXO just seemed to fit the same style.”
Apart from her book The Secret of the Cherry Blossoms, about three girls who get a dream job to work with idols and find love, published before her cancer diagnosis, she wrote the rest while fighting the disease. And she plans to continue.
“I’m currently working on A Moment in Time, which is about time travel and love.
“I hope to keep writing as long as I can.”
Proceeds from the book will be donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation in the US to help others with the same condition.
This article originally appeared on Korea Times.