A Port Coquitlam basketball player whose courage battling cancer inspired her teammates and a community has died.
Karin Khuong passed away Sunday. She was 16.
Khuong, who would have been in Grade 11 at Terry Fox secondary this fall, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma — a rare soft-tissue childhood cancer — in September, 2018, after tumours were discovered in her chest and stomach following a routine exam at Royal Columbian Hospital to determine why her leg was hurting.
Khuong was immediately put of a treatment regime of high-dose chemotherapy for six months that prevented the avid basketball player from playing on her school’s junior girls team. Still, she was in their thoughts as the side capped a perfect season by defeating the Kelowna Owls 76-36 in the provincial final.
Khuong’s basketball and school community also rallied to raise money to send her to California to watch a Golden State Warriors home game and meet the NBA team’s players, and when she was given the “all-clear” by her doctors following an autologous stem cell transplant, she also travelled to Sweden to go dog sledding and stay at the Ice Hotel.
Khuong’s fortitude was recognized by the Port Coquitlam Sports Alliance, which awarded her its courage award in June, 2019.
By the start of her Grade 10 year, Khuong’s cancer was in remission and she was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Terry Fox Hometown Run.
Organizer Dave Teixeira said Khuong’s story echoed that of Terry Fox in a way that really connected with young people.
“Cancer impacts everyone, no matter what age,” he said.
That December, Khuong was well enough to return to the basketball court with her mates, now on the senior team. But the cancer returned shortly thereafter and she was on the bench as the Ravens made it to the provincial AAAA championship tournament in Langley, and even saw a few moments of time on the court as the team made it to the final but lost to the Semiahmoo Totems.
Coach Mike Carkner said the team drew strength from Khuong’s presence.
“They are a very resilient group,” he said. “Despite the adversity, the kids have stayed together.”
— with files from Janis Cleugh