Kimberley Scott is a survivor. Make that a soft-spoken, intellectual, scrappy, no-nonsense lung cancer survivor.
Since Valentine’s Day in 2014, she has known two things: one, that frantic trip to the Emergency Department with what she thought was severe pneumonia would actually save her life; and two, she would summon mind, body, strength and faith to go toe to toe with whatever had invaded her body.
Dedicated to living a healthful lifestyle and a life long non-smoker, Kimberley thought like most Americans do: Lung cancer is something that happens mostly to smokers or those exposed to toxic environments.
Ivy League-educated (Cornell University) and living in Columbus, Ohio, Kimberley never considered that what started as minor fatigue and a small, annoying cough could be an aggressive, advanced lung tumor, called adenocarcinoma.
"I was in complete shock," Kimberley shares. "It just wasn’t even on my radar. I have since learned from Dr. Miguel Villalona (nationally recognized medical oncologist and lung cancer expert at the OSUCCC – James) that women my age who are lifelong non-smokers are actually becoming one of the fastest growing demographics for lung cancer."
Three months before her diagnosis, Kimberley began having breathing problems, so she went to her doctor, had X-rays and eventually a CAT scan, none of which turned up anything. In February, however, her mother rushed her to the Emergency Department after a near-collapse. Four days later, Kimberley got the diagnosis.
"At first," she says, "I was incredulous. I eat right. I exercise. I work hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle. So I kept thinking, 'How did this happen?' It flies in the face of everything we think about who gets lung cancer."
But after a few days of processing the news, Kimberley vowed to fight. And survive. "If I could offer advice to others who find themselves on this journey," she shares, "I would say seek out the best medical team you can find. I found the best at The James.
"I was so fortunate to have an incredible team come on board when I was still in the hospital. I asked lots of questions. I still do – you’re in the fight of your life. But I don’t believe in sitting by passively in this. I want to be engaged and to learn as much as I can about my illness, and I want to help others do the same – I think that takes some of the stigma and fear out of it."
Kimberley’s treatments consist of chemotherapy every three weeks. "I’m very fortunate that I went through four rounds with two medications, and I am celebrating because I’m down to one drug now.
"One of the things you learn at The James," she continues, "is that your oncology team personalizes your treatment specifically to you. You know how they say, 'There’s no routine cancer'? It’s so true. Everyone’s disease is different, so a treatment someone else might get for their lung cancer could be completely different from mine."
Though admitting there are times when she is still afraid, Kimberley credits faith, education about her illness, and her expert care team at The James for empowering her in her survivorship.
"Who knows how I got this disease," she says. "But I consider myself hopeful, joyful and very peaceful. A positive attitude is everything. Make sure you choose the right experts to take care of you. My doctors are very proactive. So I would tell others, if you suspect anything with your health, get it checked out. It might just save your life."