Cancer Survivor in Oregon Strikes $1.3B Powerball Jackpot

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In the bustling town of Salem, Oregon, an unexpected twist of fate unfolded as Cheng “Charlie” Saephan, a 46-year-old immigrant from Laos, came forward as a co-winner of the colossal $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot drawn earlier this month. A cancer survivor, Saephan has been grappling with his illness for eight years, fresh from his most recent chemotherapy session held the week prior.

As if his story wasn’t awe-inspiring enough, part of Saephan’s sparkling smile at Monday’s press conference held by the Oregon Lottery rested on the promise of richer days ahead. Joined by his 37-year-old wife, Duanpen, Saephan revealed plans to keep half the stunning windfall, granting the other half to their friend and fellow ticketholder Laiza Chao, a 55-year-old Portland suburbanite from Milwaukie. Having pooled her savings in a $100 investment for a batch of lottery tickets, it was indeed Chao’s lucky day. Post-tax, the trio opted for a lump sum take-home totaling a staggering $422 million.

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The win, Saephan mused, means he can finally provide for his family and his health. He has dreams of engaging the services of a stellar physician with plans to battle his ailment with newly found resources. Father to two young children, Saephan’s thoughts are touched with characteristic humanity, with his poignant question, “How am I going to have time to spend all of this money? How long will I live?”

Fueling the flames of this fanciful tale was the playful gesture between friends when Chao, having bought the shared tickets, sent a photo to Saephan captioned, “We’re billionaires.” Little did they know the prescience of their jest – they indeed struck gold the very next day. Chao vividly recalls Saephan’s call on her way to work: “You don’t have to go anymore.”

Saephan’s story provides captivating snippets of a journey akin to the American Dream. Born in Laos, relocated to Thailand in 1987 before making the ultimate move to the U.S. in 1994. At the press event, he sported a sash representing his southeast Asian ethnic group Iu Mien, tracing its roots to southern China. Iu Mien emigrated to America post-Vietnam war, fleeing retaliation and seeking refuge in Thailand before settling in the U.S. Portland has since been home to a thriving community of Iu Mien folks.

An alumna of the class of ’96, Saephan has been a proud Portland resident for three decades. A skilled machinist working for an aerospace company, Saephan participated in the Powerball with vibrant beliefs, scribbling numbers on paper and tucking it under his pillow.

His prayer? A plea for divine intervention: “I need some help — I don’t want to die yet unless I have done something for my family first.” Little did he know, his prayers were about to be answered precisely.

The iconic winning ticket, a beacon signaling the end of a dry spell spanning three months, was found to have been sold at a Plaid Pantry store in Portland. However, Oregon Lottery kept the announcement under wraps until a comprehensive security check and vetting process were performed.

Under Oregon’s legislature, lottery winners cannot conceal their identity with minimal exceptions. Winners enjoy a one-year window to claim their top prizes. This specific jackpot noted a cash value of $621 million before taxes if the winners chose the lump sum option, followed by a barrage of federal taxes and Oregon’s state taxes.

Powerball’s $1.3 billion bonanza reflects as the fourth-largest in its history, earning the eighth position in the top U.S. jackpot games, per the reports from the Oregon Lottery. To put it in perspective, the most colossal U.S. lottery prize ever won was a monumental $2.04 billion in California in 2022. Saephan’s extraordinary journey is a testament to resilience, hope, and a touch of serendipity.