Carmen Hou has been living with advanced breast cancer for three years, thanks in large part to a trial medication.
Hou first noticed something was amiss in January of 2016. Her daughter, Evelyn, was only six months old, and Hou discovered two small lumps in her breast. Initially, she and her husband, Daniel, thought it was likely related to breastfeeding, as nursing mothers can experience a change in their breasts.
Hou had an ultrasound just in case, and it came back clear. She and her husband, who’s a radiologist, were relieved. They went about their lives.
However, months later, the lumps grew even larger, and Hou was experiencing tiny shocks in her chest.
She went back to her doctor, and this time the diagnosis was grim: she had stage III breast cancer.
But then additional tests found that the tumor had grown even larger and had spread to her spine. She was stage IV at only 32 years old.
“Because of my late stage diagnosis, I don’t know what the future really holds for us or how much time I have on this earth,” she said. “It’s really changed my perspective on life and I want to spend my days choosing love over fear and focusing on what’s most important, including precious moments with my daughter, husband and our loved ones.”
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Hou went through surgery, chemotherapy, and two types of precision radiation therapy. She also became part of the Personalized Onco-Genomics (POG) Program at BC Cancer, a medical center that provides comprehensive cancer control in British Columbia. The goal of POG is to determine what could be fueling an individual patient’s cancer and ideally help place them in clinical trials of treatments that may help. They do this by sequencing each patient’s DNA.
Hou has been on a trial drug called Ribociclib for two years now through the POG program. While the cancer has not gone away, it has remained stable with this treatment. Unfortunately, other patients on this trial medication have experienced a decline around the two-year mark. Still, Hou is hopeful, and grateful for the moments she has now.
“I hope with new scientific research that new drugs will be made available, drugs that could prolong my life or perhaps even eradicate my cancer so that I can have more years with my daughter,” Hou told Global News. “I’m staying hopeful and praying that I can be alive to watch my little Evelyn grow up.”
“t’s hard living with uncertainty, no one knows what tomorrow will bring, but we must trust,” Hou wrote on Instagram. “Choose love and show love over fear. Be kind to yourself. Love and light can be found even in the darkest of places.”
Hear more from Hou in this video.Whizzco