Instagram's Kay Hsu on living with breast cancer, functional medicine—and getting aggressive about her own care
Kay Hsu is global director at Instagram Creative Shop, the social media platform’s in-house creative hub. A year ago, she was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer, an incurable form of the disease that has spread to her bones.
In this episode of the “Ad Block” podcast, Hsu talks about living and working with cancer, dealing with doctors and picking the right treatments. “People always say you’re going to fight it, but it’s not one of those things,” she says. Someday, the doctors tell her, “the medicine will stop working.”
In 2015, she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer, and she underwent radiation and chemotherapy. “This time, because the situation is a little more dire, I’ve taken a little more control over my treatment,” she says. She found a new medical team, and she’s learning about functional medicine and trying experimental therapies and off-label uses for medications. “You have to get very aggressive about your own care,” she adds.
Hsu doesn't have many options for standard treatments to manage her disease. “Typically women die at this stage, and there’s not a lot of investment into it by the pharmaceutical companies,” she says. She also fasts for five days each month, drinking only water and black coffee, and eats a diet low in fat, sugar, starch, red meat, soy and dairy.
She is still working full-time at Instagram, and while she’s prioritizing the tasks she puts her limited pool of energy into, she’s also become more focused on the legacy she might leave behind. If her post is vacant someday, she’d like the next occupant to be a woman of color. “Whether I’m not here in two years or 10 years, or even 20 years if I’m really lucky, I just want to make sure that there’s an abundance of women who are ready to take this and make it way better.”
Hsu also weighs in on the sheer volume of fascinating content on YouTube, what to wear to chemo (loose, comfortable clothing) and her ideal meal at McDonald’s.