TERRY FOX RUN: Student who beat Stage 4 cancer to speak at Hometown run

Karin Khuong is a Grade 10 student at Terry Fox secondary school in Port Coquitlam.

She spells the word slowly, closing her eyes to visualize the letters: r-h-a-b-d-o-m-y-o-s-a-r-c-o-m-a.

article continues below

It’s a term Karin Khuong has repeated often enough over the past year following a diagnosis at the start of Grade 9 last September at Port Coquitlam’s Terry Fox secondary school.

Just before then, the avid basketball player noticed swelling in her right leg.

Tests at Royal Columbian Hospital came back negative until the last CT scan revealed tumours in her chest and stomach, likely blocking the blood flow to her leg. Had they not been detected in time, Khuong said, she would have become paralyzed.

Two days after doctors discovered the tumours, a biopsy at BC Children’s Hospital confirmed Khuong had rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare soft-tissue childhood cancer that was already in Stage 4.

A series of immediate treatments were ordered by a team of specialists: First, high doses of chemotherapy every three weeks at BC Children’s Hospital. That chemo continued for six more months, until April, when she was admitted for an autologous stem cell transplant, a treatment that wipes out the cancer cells as well as the blood-producing cells left in the bone marrow.

Afterward, the clean stem cells are returned to the body.

For two weeks, Khuong laid in the hospital thinking non-stop about what she would do when she was discharged and could smell fresh air again.

She was determined her hospital stay would be short — and it was, breaking the record for the quickest turn-around by a BC Children’s Hospital patient following an auto transplant.

In her mind, Khuong yearned to see her family and friends and take back the year she'd lost.

But it wasn’t all bad, she said.

Shortly after her diagnosis, her school and sports community rallied and raised enough money to send her to California to see a Golden State Warriors home game and meet its players. That trip was allowed after she cleared her first recovery hurdle.

And during spring break, after her six-month “all-clear” mark had passed, the Make A Wish Foundation granted her a dream vacation to stay at the Ice Hotel in Sweden and go dog sledding.

On the way home, she stopped over in London.

Now in remission and enjoying her second week of Grade 10 at Fox, things are “back to normal,” Khuong said, although she’ll still have many medical check-ups. At school, she is taking three classes — Social Studies, English and Career Prep — and Math 10 via an online course.

Still, she can’t quite believe the journey she has been on for the last year. Time flew at a snail’s pace while she tried to beat the disease but she believes positive thinking was key to her success.

“I kept myself busy. I would go to basketball games to watch them play, or I practised with my team. I also kept the stats for them… I missed out on quite a bit but I tried not to let it keep me down.”

Khuong’s message of determination and strength is the reason Terry Fox Hometown Run organizer Dave Teixeira tapped her to be the keynote speaker at Sunday’s event in PoCo.

“We wanted to reinforce that Terry Fox was a young person,” he said. “Someone like Karin can really connect the Terry Fox story of hope and triumph and that resonates with the younger folks… Cancer impacts everyone, no matter what age.”

Although Khuong spoke at last week’s school gathering in the lead-up to the 39th annual Terry Fox Run — a launch with Premier John Horgan and Fox’s brother, Fred — she’s nervous about sharing her tale before the hometown crowd. As of Monday, she had yet to formulate her speech.

“I’m just very grateful that they picked me. I hope that what I say will help people who are going through cancer.”




Registration start: 8 a.m.
Run start: 10 a.m.
Place: Hyde Creek community centre (1379 Laurier Ave.)
Distances: 3-, 5-, 7- and 10-km (via Coast Meridian Road and overpass, Kingsway Avenue to the Port Coquitlam Community Centre)
Participation: Walkers, runners, dogs on leash, all wheels (bikes, walkers, strollers, wheelchairs, roller blades)
Emcee: Bruce Moore
Entertainment: Giggle Dam Band
Organizer: Dave Teixeira
To volunteer: Email terryfoxhometownrunvolunteers@gmail.com

Registration start: 9 a.m.
Run start: 10 a.m.
Place: Mundy Park
Distances: 2-, 4- and 8-km routes (interior trails)
Participation: Walkers, runners, dogs on leash, all wheels (bikes, walkers, strollers, wheelchairs) except for roller blades
Emcee: Greg Harper, Breakfast Television Vancouver
Entertainment: Mike Kozina, Julia MacLean (O Canada)
Organizers: Coun. Chris Wilson and Erin Davidson

Registration start: 9 a.m.
Run start: 10 a.m.
Place: Rocky Point Park (2800-block of Murray Street)
Distances: 2-, 5- and 10-km (via Shoreline Trail to Alderside)
Participation: Walkers, runners, dogs on leash, all wheels (bikes, walkers, strollers, wheelchairs) except for roller blades
Organizer: Mike Clay
To volunteer: pomoterryfoxrun@gmail.com

Registration start: 12:30 p.m.
Run start: 1 p.m.
Place: Anmore fire hall (2690 East Rd.)
Distance: 5 km
Participation: Walkers, runners, dogs on leash, all wheels (bikes, walkers, strollers, wheelchairs, rollerblades)
Organizer: Dave McCloskey 

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Tri-City News

Tri-City News POLL

Are you getting a live Christmas tree this year?

or  view results