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Finding Another Treatment Option for Stage 4 Lung Cancer: K.C.’s Immunotherapy Story

Immunotherapy has given me hope. There are so many other people out there this can help. Other patients that had come before me inspired me so that’s my hope to let my experience help the next person. My name’s K.C. Dill — I live in Conroe, Texas. I’m a wife, a mom, an insurance agent. I was 40 years old, and I had facial swelling so I went to the emergency room and I was diagnosed with stage IIIA lung cancer. We had a very fast-paced, busy lifestyle. My husband and I were both working full-time but on top of that my mom was battling her own stage IV lung cancer which was the same type and sub-type that I was diagnosed with. That was one of the hardest things I had to do leave the hospital, drive to my mom’s house and tell her I had the same thing. My prognosis was very grim. It was a large tumor. My course of treatment was just standard of care chemotherapy and radiation. It was about 15 weeks of treatment. I had just said, “that’s enough.” We’ve got to find another option because it was literally killing me.

When I saw Doctor Zhang after the chemotherapy and the radiation it had progressed to a lymph node under my left arm so I was then upgraded to stage IV. I did not have the option of treatment not working because of my family. – At that point, we’d already had encouraging data about immunotherapy, so that was the first option that I offered to her. The fact is that she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and that is traditionally considered not curable. When she told me I was going to be treated with immunotherapy I immediately came home and found some other patient stories like mine. They had been treated with nivolumab in clinical trials. I thought, wow, if it worked for them, it could work for me. So at that time, nivolumab was initially approved but not for her type of cancer then we applied for the compassionate use.

Some of the pharmaceuticals actually set up this program to help those patients which we clearly have evidence to show that they will benefit from this treatment. I took treatments of nivolumab every two weeks. After my first treatment, I felt a little sore a little flu-like symptoms, but I went to work out the next day after the first couple of treatments I had color back in my skin. My hair was growing, I had more energy and after the first scans, there were a few little spots but after 16 treatments, no evidence of disease. We were in remission. That made everyone in the room including Doctor Zhang cry. You always want to see the best result from your patients, you know? It makes me very happy for her. Her elder daughter is going to college this year and she’s back to work. Ringing the bell signifies the end of your treatment. For me, that signaled my path to a new life. I was on the road to recovery. I was healed. I have been no evidence of disease for 25 months and off treatment for 19. The Cancer Research Institute, they’re pushing for immunotherapy to become standard of care.

They have made my treatment possible through research. I’m just so appreciative. .