Hilary Chung: year of challenges and gratitude

After fundraising enough money to be treated with the life-lengthening drug Ibrance, a thankful Dr Hilary Chung is making the most of every day.

Director of Global Studies, Dr Hilary Chung.
Director of Global Studies, Dr Hilary Chung.

Since Dr Hilary Chung first talked to UniNews in March, a lot has happened.

First, and most importantly, she’s still alive after raising enough money for treatment with the life-lengthening drug Ibrance.

Second, progress has been made, following much lobbying, with the establishment of the National Cancer Programme and additional funding of a range of cancer drugs.

“I’m glad I was able to able to play a small role in the campaign,” says Hilary, whose own experience of Ibrance, which is still under consideration for funding, has been significant.

“I am pretty well. My latest three-monthly scans show the metastatic disease in the bones is still stable,” she says. “The wonderful thing about Ibrance is that it does not have the debilitating side effects of other treatments, so I do feel well.

“I get more tired than I used to, but I’m happy to be working and staying active. I have now used all the money raised to pay for 11 months of Ibrance, at $6,000 a month, which is required before being able to receive the drug without further charge."
She is now on her 12th cycle of treatment.

“It felt strangely liberating to collect my most recent prescription without having to pay a small fortune for it. I can now keep being treated with Ibrance while it continues to benefit me. So far, so good!”

Hilary was deeply moved by the Give-a-Little campaign that raised the money she needed.

“I am so grateful to friends, colleagues, students and the many other donors who have enabled me to continue to enjoy comparatively good health,” she says. “UniNews has played its part – many people responded to the piece in the March issue and I was so touched to receive a generous donation from Mr George E Smith, an alumnus living in the United States who graduated in Physics in 1957 and read the story. I have no words to express my heartfelt thanks.”

It felt strangely liberating to collect a prescription without having to pay a small fortune for it. I can now keep being treated with Ibrance while it continues to benefit me.

Dr Hilary Chung

Hilary says she’s waiting to see how the new cancer agency evolves.

“I continue to support the charities that look after people with metastatic breast cancer: the Breast Cancer Foundation, Sweet Louise and the Cancer Society. I’m happy to be interviewed to maintain awareness and to help provide support for others.”

“Last month Sweet Louise launched their fundraising e-cookbook. I contributed a recipe and an interview. There are some great recipes in it – it’s not too late to download your copy!”

Hilary, who is Director of the Global Studies programme, says it is growing in popularity.

“We have made two new academic hires who will be on board from the beginning of 2020 and applications are up 25 percent on last year. We will also see our first graduate walk across the stage at the next Autumn graduation ceremony.”

Part of Hilary’s role is to spend time going into schools to tell them about the degree.

“I am so inspired by the enthusiastic response of high-school students.”

She says Global Studies students have been winning scholarships to study all over the world as part of their degree and that the degree will take them on a multitude of different career paths.

“The jobs landscape in the 21st century is changing amazingly fast – today’s graduates can expect to have eight careers or more. What a Global Studies degree offers is a broad skill set, language skills, international experience and global perspectives on pressing issues. It enables our graduates to be nimble on their feet and to take advantage of new opportunities as well as being engaged global citizens.”

This Christmas Hilary will take a well-earned break from all this to spend some quiet time at home with family.

“And there’ll be more time for me on the bike and the paddleboard – I’m hoping for good weather and that it’s not too windy!”

Denise Montgomery

The Sweet October cookbook is available to download for $31. Sweet Louise hopes to raise $100,000 to continue to support New Zealanders living with incurable breast cancer.