Kim and I started working together four years ago. A couple months ago she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She is a great nurse, friend, mother, etc. She is married to Chuck who is a wonderful husband to her. They have a little girl Natalie and she has 2 stepchildren. This is an interview of how she found out she had a little thing called cancer and her thoughts related to it.
Kim and Natalie
Q: Can you tell us the events of how you found you had cancer these past few weeks? How it was discovered? What type of caner it is?
A: I was a severe asthmatic as a child but hadn't had any problems since 1998. So about a year-and-a-half ago when I started having trouble breathing and some wheezing, I figured it was just my asthma resurfacing, especially since we had just gotten 2 cats for the kids. I started seeing an asthma & allergy specialist and we started working on my breathing. It had improved some, but still wasn't great. In March of this year, both Natalie & I had been sick with a cough and all that. She then developed a temperature of 104* and was diagnosed with pneumonia. After a Z-pack, she was on the mend. My cough only worsened so I went to the doctor just to rule out pneumonia. She wasn't concerned, but ordered a chest x-ray just in case. A few hours later she called and told me I needed to follow up in a week or two because I either had pneumonia or a mass. Being a person with connections, I had a friend, a doctor, at work look at the x ray. He tried to be positive, but we knew I needed a CT scan. I ended up having to go to the ER for the CT scan, but that's another story...I had the CT scan and it was a fairly big mass considering. I was then seen in the Pulmonary clinic by a great doctor & friend. She told me it could be infection, cancer or a benign growth. I had a PET scan and then met with the multidisciplinary cancer team. It was decided that I needed a mediastinoscopy and bronchoscopy to check for lymph node involvement. If there was none, the mass would be removed, then tested for cancer. However, as it turned out, it was cancer & there was lymph involvement in the subcarinal nodes. The pathology report says adenocarcinoma. Stage IIIa. It probably started 3-4 yrs ago.
two different scans
Q: Did you have symptoms?
A: As I said above. Strangely enough, I consider myself lucky that Natalie had pneumonia. Isn't that terrible?
Q: Do you have a family history?
A: My maternal grandfather died after a bout with lung cancer, but he smoked...A lot. I don't.
Q: What is the treatment going to consist of in the coming weeks?
A: I was approved for a clinical trial so I'll be receiving 3 chemotherapy drugs once a week for 6 weeks. They are Carboplatin, Paclitaxel and Panitumamab. Boo to the side effects... I'll also be receiving radiation 5 days a week for 6 weeks. After these 6 weeks, if there is residual disease it will be treated with stereotactical radiation and possibly surgical resection. Sounds great, huh?
Q: What has been the scariest thing for you so far?
A: Reading the survival percentages for stage III lung cancer...Not good. Facing death is scary. The whole situation. The side effects of the chemo don't scare me. Being dead scares me...
Q: What has been the hardest thing for you so far? (if different from previous question?)
A: The effects on my family. Having to explain to Natalie. Not being able to comfort my mom. Its all been hard.
Q: How has Chuck been showing love and support to you?
A: Chuck is AMAZING. I can cry when I want, sleep when I want and do whatever whenever I want. He knows all about the treatments and has the information down. If I develop a side effect, he already knew it was possible. He insists on being with me for everything. He talks to my mom and dad about the hard stuff when I just can't do it...He's a constant source of positive support.
Q: What do you hope to learn about yourself?
A: This is a hard question. I know myself pretty well. I know I'll fight this til there's nothing left.... But can I look good doing it?? Lol. Probably not with the baldness & acne (thanks Panitumamab for making me feel like a sophomore in HS again.)
Q: Do you have a quote or bible verse you want to share that has given you strength?
A: Many of my (fabulous) friends have sent me bible verses and they have all helped. But the one that means the most to me is one that we all know. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me."
Q: What advice can you give to others who might be going through the same thing?
A: I'm definitely not a source of advice. I don't even want to get out of bed sometimes. Just fight. My friend Amanda M, a true blessing from God, said "you're just going to fight this. When you take the chemo just think "beat the crap out of the cancer." Thats what you're going to do." so that's what I've tried to do...
Q: How has the support from friends and co-workers been?
A: Absolutely overwhelming. I may have cancer, but I also am surrounded by the most amazing people on earth. I don't even have time to type out everything the wonderful people at UK have done for me. I feel very special and have NO doubt that people love me. I also have been blessed with friends outside of UK that mean the world to me. It has been very humbling to realize how much people think of me. I'll never forget one single kind word or gesture.
Q: What are you going to do with you hair?! and what are you going to wear on your head?!
A: I was going to shave it immediately because the thought of hair falling out on me in the shower & sticking to me makes me sicker than the chemo. But then she said it might not fall out for 3 weeks. So then I let Natalie dye it blue & red. It didn't turn out like the picture and actually only turned blonde & red. I've left it that way for a few days. I think I'll shave it soon though...Ugh. Loose wet hair. I'm gagging right now. ;) I'm not too terribly worried about being bald... It's not having eyebrows that bothers me.
Kim and I at a friend and co-worker's wedding
Morganne, Kim, and I at our friend's wedding
Neurosurgery Nurses' Night Out!
Neurosurgery Christmas Party
Love you Kim!