International business junior Cindy Chong passed away Sept. 10 at Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center at the age of 20. She was diagnosed with lupus her senior year of high school in 2004.
Members of the co-ed business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi participated in the seventh Annual Lupus International Race for Life Sunday, Oct. 1 in memory of Chong, a loved former member. Under the name “Team Cindy,” members and Cindy’s family ran or walked in a 5k at La Mirada Regional Park.
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood and kidneys. As an autoimmune disorder, the immune system loses its ability to tell the difference between foreign substances (antigens) and its own cells and tissues.
Since Chong’s immune system was down, she was more susceptible to contracting other illnesses, including pneumonia, diabetes and arthritis. She also suffered multiple seizures, strokes and, at one point, she needed a bone marrow transplant.
“For someone as ill as she was, (in) some ways you wouldn’t know it,” said Carol Docan, Cindy’s former business law professor in spring 2006. “She was a positive person.”
Chong had been an active member of Alpha Kappa Psi since her first semester at CSUN in fall 2004. She was the newly elected vice president of membership for the current school year.
“Alpha Kappa Psi (was) her life,” said sophomore Justin Mallo, vice president of operations. “She eventually wanted to become president.”
Chong was the typically small, short and shy Asian girl, said information systems graduating senior Lowell Hahm, who is the fraternity’s pledge instructional chair.
Despite her small stature, she’s the biggest person you’ll ever meet, he said.
“She had a great personality, fearless ? she would do any extreme sports ? try everything,” Hahm said.
A list of goals was posted on Chong’s dresser mirror. These were things she wanted to accomplish before she passed away.
They ranged from reading all the Harry Potter books and getting her motorcycle license to studying abroad and going back to Hong Kong.
Cindy did a lot of the things on the list, said Mallo, who has been a close friend since high school.
During Cindy’s 20 years, she lived more than most do in their entire lives, said Janet Huynh, another member of Alpha Kappa Psi.
“She was a really good mentor,” said business law alumna Zari Robles, who was Cindy’s roommate and friend. “She always gave inspirational words of advice to me.”
“She was like a sister to us all,” Mallo said.
Cindy was often either on her laptop or in the kitchen cooking, he said.
“She was my personal map quest,” said Huynh, a marketing and management graduating senior. “I would always call her for directions.”
“She was a fountain of knowledge,” Hahm said.
Chong is survived by her mother Carly, her father Chester and her 14-year-old sister Cora.
In an online journal entry dated Oct. 16, 2005, Cindy wrote: “Life is short. Break all the rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that made you smile.”
“The lessons and advice she gave (and) everything she taught us is still alive because of how we act today ? she’s always in our hearts,” Mallo said. “If you meet her once, you’ll always remember her.”
Even though Docan hardly knew Cindy or even of her fatal condition, she said Cindy taught her that no matter how bad life is, you can have a good attitude.
Based on the results of several nationwide telephone surveys, the Lupus Foundation of America estimates that approximately 1.5 million Americans have a form of the disease.
Lupus can affect men and women of all ages, but it occurs 10 to 15 times more frequently among adult females than adult males.
According to the LFA, lupus is two to three times more common among African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans.