It’s difficult to see the triathlete in her. Her form, her humble demeanor, and welcoming attitude suggest that she’s gone through a typical, flawless life. But at the age of 27, Joy Wong was struck by cancer.
Now, over a decade after surviving one of life’s biggest ordeals and tackling two 70.3 Ironman races, Wong’s mission is to continue inspiring her family and to guide those in need through a moving advocacy.
In an exclusive interview, PlayPH sat down with Joy, as she talked about being resilient, finding inspiration, and finishing strong.
Since I was young, I was never really engaged in any type sports. I didn’t go to the gym, no fitness plan, and I ate what I wanted. Actually, I felt very unhealthy,” says Wong.
According to her, it was a choice brought by lifestyle. For most part of her life, Joy’s focus has been drawn to studying, serving the community, and towards her corporate life. “My early inspiration came from my grandmother, si Nanay Goreng Villareal, who would often share food, money, and her time with people in our community,” Wong shares. “At an early age, I was already exposed to the act of serving other people. It’s (serving) been engraved in our family.”
She’d later on carry the trait on into her career- posing as the Chief Executive Igniter for People Ignite, a company that focuses on training, planning, and team building.
Two years into her marriage, Wong’s life took a swerve cancer hit her reproductive system. Although cancer didn’t appear itself to be Joy’s worst problem, “I was mad at a lot of things then. I was disoriented and lost all motivation…It really wasn’t the pain of cancer that hurt me. It was the dent and pain of not being able to bear any biological children.”
Looking back and released by the bonds of cancer, Wong has began to see things from a new angle. “Biglang nagkaroon ng kulay, nagkaroon ng storya ‘yung boring kong buhay,” Wong fondly recalls.
“Gold is refined in fire, as character is refined in the furnace of humiliation,” Wong shares as she makes a reference to a recently read bible verse. According to her, it was cancer that helped shape what she is today. “I was facing the humiliation of not being able to bear child and the lack of me being a woman,” she says.
It was her husband, Wowie Wong, a photographer and renowned cinematographer that inspired her to fight, “He never let go of my hand during that time. He told me he felt complete with me.”
And as things started to pan out for the Wongs, it was then when they realized that adoption was they’re calling. Today, they stand as the proud and loving parents of Angelica (11) and Pao Pao (4).
From a non-sport lover and a self-proclaimed sedentary woman, Wong decided it was time to unlock her potential and try her hand out at the worlds toughest endurance race – the Ironman. According to her, it was a dream at the back of her head for a while.
“I woke up one day and got scared of being old,” Wong laughs. “I was afraid of the idea of sunsetting.” When asked about her drive, she told PlayPH that it was to hopefully inspire other cancer survivors or other people battling sickness with her story.
“F.F.F.,” as Joy says, stand for faith in God, faith in yourself, and fun. When asked what her advice would be to first time racers – it was just to believe in God, trust in your capabilities, and enjoy the journey.
For a huge chunk of her life, she’s been fighting back and reaching for inspiration in all places possible – from friends, from family, from God. But as Joy Wong slowly starts to find purpose once again and moves forward, it’s her turn to give back to the world that never gave up on her.
Through inspiring others, in career and in sport, Joy Wong truly is a remarkable Ironwoman.
The Regent Aguila 70.3 Ironman will take place in Cebu this weekend, August 5. Stay tuned to PlayPH for more exclusive content.