Kristi’s cancer story began in March 2014 – only a few days after she celebrated her 49th birthday. She had previously seen a physician for complaints of a tightness in her chest that later developed into a tickling cough. After first being diagnosed with a chest wall strain, then treated for acid reflux and finally asthma, an x-ray and CT eventually confirmed stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer (adenocarcinoma) which had spread from her lung to her lymph nodes, spine and hip.
After radiation and extensive testing, Kristi was informed that she had a rare mutation called ALK and could be treated with an oral targeted therapy vs. chemotherapy. She started on Xalkori/Crizotinib which successfully eliminated some of her tumors and reduced the spread of the remaining cancer for almost four years. However, after new tumors were found in February 2018, Kristi switched to Alecensa//Alectinib as her second line of treatment.
Kristi’s first two PET scans this year have shown reduction in the tumors. She feels blessed to be able to receive this targeted therapy. Although she has many side effects, she said, “They are only slightly annoying and less debilitating than those some might expect while on traditional chemotherapy.” Kristi has been able to maintain an active lifestyle and continues to work and do the things she really enjoys, such as spending time with her large extended family, traveling with friends and attending various sporting events (Skol Vikings!).
Since Kristi was first diagnosed, research has led to additional drugs that will be available to Kristi when this medication stops working. She is thankful to have hope for a future that she did not think she would have at the beginning of this journey.
“Having such a serious health condition, I felt like I was living alone on an island. A few months after my diagnosis, I realized I needed additional support and bravely attended my first Tuesday night lung cancer support group in Edina. I met Mj McKeon – one of the co-founders of A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation – and I learned about the organization. The very first A Breath of Hope event I attended was the outdoor vigil on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol. It was a very cold evening but my heart was warmed by the wonderful stories of hope!” Kristi shared.
She also attends the A Breath of Hope Women’s Wellness Teas and has volunteered at ABOH lung run/walks, the Midwest Lung Cancer Summit and other events.
“Words cannot express how grateful I am to A Breath of Hope for contributing to the research that has been instrumental in creating the drugs that are extending my life,” Kristi said.