PROFILES IN LUNG CANCER
Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2015
Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2015
Day 17: Kim Ringen, Lung Cancer Survivor
"Everyone kept blowing off my concerns as typical pregnancy symptoms."
Twitter handle: @KimberlyRingen
Funny I can’t get away from cancer even in my former life….I’m a veterinarian oncologist. I love being a veterinarian. I wanted to honor the human animal bond when picking a specialty - I chose oncology for 2 reasons. #1 I wanted to help further honor that bond by helping guide pet owners through what is considered one of the darkest days for their companions. #2 I find the intricate cellular backbone that drives cancer biology so intriguing from a science standpoint. This has been one of the hardest parts of my former life to let go… being a veterinarian is not just a job it becomes part of who you are..regardless if you are able to practice of not.
I love skee ball. If I walk into a restaurant or bar with a skee ball machine I am hooked.
I have 3 dogs (lab, grey-mixed breed, and pug), a cat and 7 chickens – in the city. We named the chickens after our friends. We have them kinda trained like dogs.
I was a avid runner prior to my diagnosis – I loved running. If I could run again I would feel more like my former self. My previous half-marathon pace was 8:28/mile…. I would settle for 20 min miles now if I could.
Since I no longer run I have taken up watercolor painting and writing. I am enjoying these hobbies.
How did they find out you had lung cancer?
I was early in my 2nd trimester of pregnancy and I was very short of breath – I kept telling my OBGYN that was also very tired… I used the words morbidly tired. Everyone kept blowing off my concerns as typical pregnancy symptoms. I told my running coach that I swore I’d be that girl running as a preggo – but I couldn’t. I just kept trying and each week got harder and harder and I would say.. Damn, this pregnancy is kicking my ass….
The end of May 2013 I felt an enlarged lymph node along my collar bone and pointed it out to my OBGYN that it was enlarged. He wanted to have an ultrasound of my neck performed and I thought… Well Geez I could perform an ultrasound of my own neck at work… so I did… I knew right away that I had cancer. I was hoping for a curable kind and lung cancer was definitely not on my list of rule outs. Within 3 days of me performing my ultrasound the shortness of breath worsened and I could barely stand unassisted – I presented to the ER and a chest CT scan was performed right away. That’s when they discovered liters of pleural effusion, too many to count lymphs nodes, diffuse lung masses on right and left lobes and a right femur metastasis. Our goal was to continue with the pregnancy – however after a week in the hospital it was determined that my clinical status was too poor to continue with the pregnancy. On the same day I had a D and E and a left pleurodesis. 06-7-13, worst day of my life.
What is a typical day like for you, living with stage IV lung cancer?
Two years later and I am still adjusting – out of the last 2 years I have spent about a 1 year of it on supplemental oxygen. Therefore I get winded fairly easy. I have to take breaks while getting dressed because the minimal effort to put my arms above my head makes me short of breath. I was able to spend 6 months traveling around visiting friends and family while I was on a clinical trial for Alectinib and that was amazing! I typically wake up and cater to the dogs and chickens – I try to keep myself motivated with writing and painting – currently that is harder as my lung cancer is growing – so I retire to the couch often. I attend art classes twice a week – I suspect most of the “ladies” in the class are more naturally retired vs. me medically retired! That’s what I call the other students – “the ladies.”
Most days - I spend several hours a day researching lung cancer – I look for treatment options, survivorship articles and lung cancer community postings – some days I take a cancer break – but it’s never a full break – given I feel it every time I try to do routine household chores.
Honestly – thoughts of the cancer and/or its impact creeps into ~ 98 percent of my day – but I try to put on a smile as much as I can. It’s almost painful to try to fill this section in… compared to my previous life I am doing nothing. Geez, before I was a super busy body – between work, working out and family!
What do you want people to know about lung cancer?
Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. Even healthy, athletic never smoking pregnant women.
What brings you hope?
Knowledge – knowing that lung cancer research has started to gain its momentum allows me to feel hope that I could possibly live long enough for the next miracle drug to come down the pipeline.
Each day during Lung Cancer Awareness Month (November), a lung cancer blogger will share a brief profile of someone involved with lung cancer. The person profiled might be a patient, caregiver, advocate, researcher, or healthcare provider.
Yesterday's post was on Anita Figueras' blog, SciFiKnitter, where she profiled lung cancer survivor Kelli Cathy Stramel Joseph.
Tomorrow's post will be on Dann Wonser's blog Dann's Cancer Chronicles, where where he will profile Gail Kock Lemaire.
All profiles can be found the day after posting on the #LCSM Chat blog at http://lcsmchat.com/. A list of links to all the profiles on the original bloggers’ pages can be found at on the #LCSM Chat site on the Profiles in Lung Cancer page.