Kimberly Hislop

Hope and the love and support of my family and friends give me the strength to continue to fight this terrible disease.

It has been just over 15 years since I lost my mother to adenocarcinoma of the lung only 8 months after her battle began. She was only 59. I never thought I would face a similar battle at 51. I would like to share a little of my story with the hope that it will help someone.

In February 2019, my husband and I had flu like symptoms. He recovered after a few weeks and my cough became progressively worse. I coughed night and day for over six months. There were many sleepless nights, and I was becoming exhausted. I went from walking up to 8 km a day before work to barely being able to climb a set of stairs. I received multiple prescriptions of antibiotics for what was presenting as pneumonia on the chest x-rays. In April 2019, my family physician requested that I take a month off work to rest. That was the last time I was able to work outside of the home. I met with an internal medicine physician who specialized in respiratory issues. He ordered a CAT scan, which I had in May 2019. It was inconclusive. I was booked for a pulmonary function test in September 2019 and a bronchoscopy in July 2019. I made many phone calls to try and move the dates as my symptoms became worse. The pulmonary function test and bronchoscopy were rescheduled to June 2019. The evening of July 1st I had pain in my right side radiating into to my back. It was a pain like no other that I had ever had before. That was the moment I knew that this was not pneumonia. My husband took me to the emergency department and the Dr. on call told me that there was something hiding behind the “crap” that was showing up on my x-ray and CAT scan. We were still waiting on the bronchoscopy results. I made an appointment with my family physician for July 5th, 2019 because I was not able to get the pain under control. She had received the results just before my appointment. The diagnosis was stage 2 NSCLC Mucinous Adenocarcinoma. The emotions you feel when you hear those words are indescribable. The worry I have for my family keeps me up at night. What can I do to make this easier for them?

Things moved fast once I was diagnosed. I had a bone scan right away because of the extreme pain, also a CAT scan of my head. I had a PET scan the day before I met with the thoracic surgeon. Her recommendation was to remove the lower lobe of my right lung. My surgery was scheduled three weeks later. The plan was to do the surgery by VATS (Video Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery) however they had to do a thoracotomy as my tumour was 8 cm and attached to my chest wall. The surgery was considered a success- the margins were clear and no spread to the lymph nodes. Prognosis was excellent. I started chemotherapy after I recovered from my surgery in October 2019. I had 4 cycles of cisplatin and pemetrexed. My last round was New Years Eve 2019. All looked good.

In March 2020, I had my 3-month follow up CAT scan. It answered the questions I had of why I was not progressing with my recovery as I had hoped. My surgeon called with the results on March 26th, 2020. The CAT scan revealed there were nodules in both lungs. My care would be returned to my oncologist and Immunotherapy looked like my best option. I was not a candidate for radiation or targeted therapy at that point.  Nivolumab was started in April 2020. After 3 cycles I had a CAT scan in July 2020 and again the results were not what we had hoped for. Immunotherapy was not working. On to the next plan. I started docetaxal in July 2020. I had 3 rounds when my oncologist requested a chest X-ray and did not like what she saw so I was sent for another CAT scan. She booked an in-person appointment for October 23rd, 2020.  She had many discussions with the pathologist to review the findings for targeted therapy. When she first looked at the report KRAS G12C mutation was mentioned however on further review my mutation is KRAS G12A.  She was in touch with contacts in Toronto to see if there were any clinical trials on the horizon. Unfortunately, there was nothing at that time. She spent over an hour with me and my husband discussing my options. One option was to try one more chemo, which would probably, only cause more sickness. We decided not to try the chemo. We want to spend as much time together without me being severely sick from the treatment.

COVID-19 has made this past year even more of a challenge, however we are facing these challenges the best way we know how. We Face Time with those we love and spend time with our small family bubble. I have had the opportunity to take courses virtually to help with some of the challenge’s cancer brings. I am extremely fortunate to live in rural Nova Scotia. COVID-19 cases have been lower than in many other provinces. Living in the country with my husband and three dogs has made it easy for us to isolate when needed and social distancing is not an issue for me. My husband is self-employed and follows all the recommended protocols to keep us safe. COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to slow down and focus on what is important in life.
I continue to fight each day. I have found so many wonderful people on this journey. The support I have received from my family, friends and health care providers has been beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I now have a palliative care team that is taking care of my needs. They are wonderful, kind and caring people. This fight is not over. I have grandchildren I want to spend time with watching them discover this wonderful world. I have learned to love the life I have and share all I can with those I cherish.