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The recipient of the $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot is an immigrant from Laos who is battling cancer

Cheng Saephan holds the display check (Jimmy Baker/Getty Images)

One of the winners of a $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot this month is an immigrant from Laos who has been battling cancer for eight years and underwent his latest chemotherapy treatment last week.

Cheng “Charlie” Saephan, 46, from Portland, shared at a news conference hosted by the Oregon Lottery on Monday that he and his 37-year-old wife, Duanpen, are taking half of the money, while the remainder will go to their friend, Laiza Chao, 55, from the Portland suburb of Milwaukie.

Chao had contributed $100 to purchase a batch of tickets with them. They opted for a lump sum payment of $422 million after taxes.

“I will be able to support my family and focus on my health,” Saephan said, noting his plans to “find a good doctor for myself.”

As a cancer patient with two young children, he reflected, “How am I going to have time to spend all of this money? How long will I live?”

After buying the tickets together, Chao sent Saephan a photo of them and jokingly remarked, “We’re billionaires,” before the drawing. To their surprise, they actually won the next day.

Cheng Saephan laughs at a press conference (Via Jenny West/Shutterstock)

Chao, on her way to work, received a call from Saephan with the news: “You don’t have to go anymore,” he told her.

Saephan, born in Laos and moving to Thailand in 1987 before immigrating to the U.S. in 1994, proudly wore a sash at the news conference identifying himself as Iu Mien, an ethnic group from Southeast Asia with origins in southern China.

During the Vietnam War, many Iu Mien were farmers and aided American forces. Following the war’s end, numerous Iu Mien families fled to Thailand to escape reprisals and eventually resettled in the U.S.

A significant Iu Mien community resides along the West Coast, with a robust presence in Portland, where Saephan has lived for 30 years since graduating from high school in 1996. He has worked as a machinist for an aerospace company.

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