Meet Kim – 36, Stage 4 Lung Cancer & a Wonder


My best friend in cancer world is a woman named Kim. I met her several years ago at the clinic where we both get complimentary care to enhance our ability to survive our vicious treatment regimes. She was so young, so pretty, so caring towards others; and so bald. I wanted to encourage her. Then she showed up with dramatic weight loss, leaning on others to walk, even her huge smile was dimmed. I approached her husband when she was in treatment, giving him my contact information, “if I could be of help”. He gave a resounding “yes” and so we went out to coffee that day. Kim, it turns out, had just learned that her lung cancer that she felt confident in defeating at stage 3c, was actually stage 4. She was crushed with what that meant.

With brief daily exchanges, we track each others relative positioning – are we needed or are we both set to make it through another day with metastasized cancer colonizing our bodies. While monitoring each other we have fun. Perhaps the best part of our relationship is that we never need to explain.

But Kim is good at explaining. I think many of us wonder, “What the hell do other people do all day?” Well, here is a glimpse at one day in the life of someone staring at mortality all day, every day. Kim used to be a top athlete; now her triathlons are all with the medical system – our shared new norm.   warmly, marcy


One Day

by kimmywink

I worked on a little project for the organization Caring Ambassadors.  I was asked to write about daily life with lung cancer.  This is what I came up with:

Living with Lung Cancer is no easy task. It is difficult to decipher which is more difficult the physical challenges or the mental challenges. I’ve been asked to comment on what it is like each day living with my terminal disease. Honestly, I feel my life is better summarized on a monthly basis. Each day can vary greatly. Is it a doctor appointment day? Scan day? Day before a doctor appointment day? A day of total rest and relaxation? A day that the thought of me dying before age 40 leaves me immobilized, weeping in bed, and tightly grasping a heating pad? In a month’s time I go through all of these typical days, and then some.

I will run you through a Wednesday of mine. This particular Wednesday is a scan day, the day my cancer is checked up on to see if it is shrinking, staying the same, or growing. The morning looks like any other morning. I wake up before 8 am to the smell of brewed coffee. I have a cup while I make a morning protein smoothie. For the most part, I eat a very consistent diet in hopes to eliminate GI issues, that are often a problem. As a former morning person I say my AM’s are slow. After smoothie is made I plop myself back down into bed, with my computer, and 2 bottles of pills. Fist down is the anti-nausea pill; 30 minutes later is my daily targeted chemo pill. Once I feel like my stomach has settled, at least one hour after anti-nausea pill, I begin to prepare for my day. I dress head to toe in cotton, give myself my daily blood thinner shot, and pack a light daypack. Today I will perform my new version of a triathlon. I am going to have scans, blood work, and EKG. I’m even going to add a quick stop at the pharmacy for good measure. I arrive on time for a 10:00 am check in for scans. The first is the quick CT of my lungs and abdomen. Thankfully the needle went in trouble free and my blood work was able to be drawn from the same injection point. Next is the brain MRI. This image is peskier clocking in at 45 minutes. Once scans are complete I venture up a few floors to get my EKG. I did not get a latte before my EKG this time; I know it will show an abnormally slow heart rate because of that and a side effect of my targeted therapy. Oh well. After 2-hours of actual doing things at my care center and 2-hours of wait time, my only stop left is a quickie at the pharmacy. I need to exchange my full sharps container from my daily blood thinner shots for an empty one. Finally I am ready to leave.

I make it home without too much frustration after navigating the parking lot. I’m hungry and need to eat before nausea kicks in. I eat a nice salad and drink some herbal tea. Nap time it is. Me, laptop, and cat are ready for our afternoon snuggles.

Tomorrow I’ll be getting the results of my scans. I can’t help but begin thinking about it now. Finally, I am able to catch my required 2-hour nap. This short snooze gives me the boost I need to visit with my my sweetie when he gets home from work. We’ll chat briefly, then decide where to go out for dinner. It’s a night to celebrate and all my running around has left me unable to spend a drop of energy on what to make for dinner. The sweetie could do it, but it’s best to use his energy for meal prep when I’m ill and require his assistance.

Since the blood work was already taken earlier, I can drink wine and not fear that my liver counts will reflect poorly after such indulgence. After returning home from a great meal with meaningful conversation, we’ll end the night with an easy 8-block walk. Now, I am ready for bed. I’m dressed in bedclothes and preparing my evening drug doses. I’ve learned the hard way to take them when I still have food in my stomach. Anti-nausea pill down, anti-depressant down; 30 minutes later targeted chemo down. I’m now officially ready for bed. Or, better put, ready to lay in bed and think of all the possible outcomes of today’s scans. I suspect sleeping will be difficult; within reach is my iPod with several meditation tracks at the ready.

Some days are better. Some days are worse.


About marcy westerling

I am a long time community organizer with a passion for justice and founded the Rural Organizing Project in 1992. Derailed by a Stage IV Ovarian Cancer diagnosis in spring 2010, I have stayed in treatment since then. I am learning how to embrace livingly dying and hope that by starting a Phase One immunology clinical trial at UPenn in spring of 2013 I will have more time to find the sweet spots of thriving while terminally ill.

9 responses »

  1. Thank you for sharing, and for summoning the courage to write about a day-in-the-life. Your life has changed — from free of care to full of care — and makes me think that, in an instant, any of us can be detoured onto a similar path. I have just joined this website blog to prepare to help my sister who has ovarian cancer. Thank you.

    • Good luck with your sister and *thanks* for being such a caring sister by trying to understand what she is actually facing. Dont forget that this is a familial disease with experts now presuming that 25% of ovca cases have a genetic component. So your risk is small but now is a good time to get educated on what you should be tracking in your own body. The best rule of thumb is any symptom that you can calendar for 11 days in a month bears greater scrutiny. If I had done that I would have been diagnosed at stage 3 or better.

  2. Thanks to Marcy for sharing Kimmy and thanks to Kimmy for helping us understand what some of our friends are going through but who don’t have the energy to explain it to us. Sending you both deep love.

    • And thanks to all of YOU!, dear readers, that allow Kim and I to be visible at a time when illness is trying very hard to disappear us. Please share our blogs so that we can both help others and stay alive one way or another. xoxo marcy

  3. Your love for life and generosity of spirit shines through these posts. Gratitude and blessings to both of you, Marcy & Kim, for sharing your lives and experiences. It helps us be more compassionate and caring friends and family.

  4. Thanks, Kim, for the glimpse into one day of your life. Much love to you, Marcy, for just being the exceptional woman that you are. 🙂 I will venture to say that your impact will be remembered long after you are gone, regardless of how long it takes to “disappear you”.

    For those of you supporting cancer patients, you may find this blog interesting. It is written by 2 women – one a mother and one a wife – of cancer patients and speaks very frankly about their experiences.

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