College freshman Annie Zhu, 19, died of cancer in her Raritan, N.J., home Tuesday morning.
Zhu’s father, Chengyue, said she had been an osteosarcoma cancer patient since her freshman year of high school.
After years of battling cancer with multiple chemotherapy treatments, surgeries and remissions, it was at the beginning of November that a doctor told Zhu’s family that her cancer spread to her lungs and was progressing too fast for treatment. The family was told she would have about a month left.
“Annie was my best friend,” College freshman Manna Fujiu wrote in an email. “She lived her life fearlessly.” The two lived on the same hall, but met at an alpha Kappa Delta Phi event and soon after started having regular Thursday dinners.
“From rushing sororities, to frat parties, to our first homecoming game, to James Franco, she jumped into every opportunity Penn had to offer us,” Fujiu wrote.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah on Feb. 29, 1992, Zhu moved to Raritan in 1998 and graduated last year from Hunterdon Central High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society.
Since her diagnosis, Zhu participated in many cancer-support organizations and initiatives. This includes being a member — and later, a counselor — at the Paul Newman-founded Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a summer camp for children and their families coping with serious illnesses. Zhu also gave a graduation speech for fellow Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center patients at a special convocation held at the center.
Zhu’s prognosis, however, didn’t affect her buoyant personality. Even in her final days over Thanksgiving break, she entertained friends.
“She was still trying to be cheerful and you could hear a lot of laughter,” her father said. “She’s an amazing kid — sunny and cheerful to everybody. Only rarely did she show her sad side, but mostly she kept an unfading smile all the time that was contagious to friends around her.”
“Her story shows that we must always work harder to find a cure to cancer,” he added.
Engineering junior Gawain Lau had known Zhu since high school. “She was the most courageous person I knew, and more importantly, the sweetest,” Lau wrote in an email. “Annie touched many lives, and those closest to her knew they were” very fortunate to have been part of her life.
“From the few times I talked to her I gathered that she was a great friendly person,” explained College freshman Kiara Vaughn, who recognized the importance Zhu held to those she knew. “Her death has been felt by our class and she will be missed.”
Fujiu feels that she learned a lot from Annie. “Especially with finals coming up, it’s so easy to get lost in the stress and anxiety of it all,” Fujiu wrote. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life and be thankful for small things, like a satisfying meal, or the warm sun, or the beautiful fall colors around campus.”
Funeral services are planned for Dec. 3 at 11 a.m. at the Flemington United Methodist Church in Flemington, N.J. Calling hours will be held from 9:30 a.m. until the service starts.
Zhu is survived by her parents, Chengyue Zhu and Dongqing Chen, as well as her sister and grandparents.
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