Posted May 23, 2009 @ 01:17 AM
Woman’s strength of faith helps her survive lung cancer
Given six months to live, cancer disappeared
Most women don’t look forward to their 40th birthday.
Kiers Rowley, 39, from Independence can’t wait for hers.
“I’m happy to turn 40,” she said. “I’m happy to have gotten this far.”
That’s because she wasn’t supposed to live to see it.
Last June, Kiers began to feel a little ill.
“My kids had been sick, and I thought it was just something that was passed around,” she said.
She also thought it was because she’s so busy. She owns a business with her husband Steve called Heartland Solutions Inc., she has three children, Chandler, 10, Conrad, 8, and Ella, 3, and was giving voice lessons to about 25 students.
It wasn’t until at a Parent Teacher Fellowship luncheon at her children’s school, Lee’s Summit Community Christian, when she had trouble breathing that she knew she had to go to a doctor.
His diagnosis shocked her.
She had stage-four lung cancer. To almost 98 percent of people diagnosed, it is fatal.
“It’s a horrible experience; there’s nothing else like it. You’ve just been kicked in the gut,” she said. “It’s just an overwhelming sadness. My youngest daughter, who was 2 at the time, would never remember me,” she said. “All the pictures in the world would never relate how much I love her.”
The odds were clearly against her. She said at that point, the only thing she could do was turn to God.
“The nurse walked in with the paper with my cancer diagnosis on it. I took the same paper and tore it up into four pieces and wrote ‘I will praise you in the storm,’” she said. “I plastered it everywhere around my house because I knew that in that moment it wasn’t something I could fix. I’ve learned that nothing really is.”
Ninety percent of lung cancer is caused by smoking. Kiers was a healthy woman who didn’t do any of the typical things that cause lung cancer.
“I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life,” she said. “I’ve never been around smoking.”
In fact, she took pretty good care of herself. She exercised three days a week, and ate healthy.
There was no logical reason why she should’ve gotten cancer, especially fourth stage lung cancer. It literally came out of nowhere.
Lung cancer kills more Americans than any other cancer. It’s dangerous because it usually spreads to the bone or the brain, and unless periodically screened, patients aren’t diagnosed until the advanced stages.
“You don’t know you have it before it’s too late,” Kiers said.
The high probability of dying from lung cancer didn’t seem real to her until her doctor gave her a simple breath test to see how damaged her lungs were. She failed miserably.
“I thought I would easily pass it, and I didn’t. I thought for the first time, ‘I might not survive this,’” she said. “You have an intense desire to do anything necessary to live. There’s an incredibly stressful feeling ‘I got to do as much as I can with no guarantee it’s going to work.’”
She was rushed to the University of Chicago Medical Center to cut as much of the tumor out of her as possible. Doctors told her the cancer was too far along to be operated on. The tumor encompassed her entire left lung, and spread into her chest wall and lymph nodes. She also had cancerous fluid in the bottom of her lung. They gave her six months or less to live. She went to the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Tulsa, Okla., to see if there was anything they could do.
“I really didn’t give her much of a chance. I had hope inside, though,” said her doctor, Dr. Simone Jaggernauth. “It was a fight for her life, and it was an uphill battle.”
Radiation was out of the question because the cancer had spread too much. She only had one more option left, chemotherapy.
Jaggernauth was extremely aggressive. He knew Kiers was young and had a strong body, so he gave her the largest dose of chemo a body is physically capable of handling. She had six treatments and was on three different types of chemo drugs: Taxol, Carboplatin and Avastin. It was incredibly hard on her body and took over her whole life. She even spent her 39th birthday in chemo.
“During chemo, the worst part was my joints. It hurt so badly,” she said. “You get up in the morning and where you used to hop out of bed you hunch over. I thought to myself ‘I look like I’m 80 years old.’”
The cancer wasn’t only hard on her body, it was hard on her kids. She had to tell them that their mommy might not always be with them.
“It was the inevitable conversation you have with a child. You never think it will be when she’s 10,” she said. “When you have the conversation with your child, it’s like this is about devastating, but at the same time you have to make them aware that you’re doing all you can.”
It was also hard on her husband.
“My husband, like most men, is a fixer. We own our own business and in true fashion he wanted to find every possible way to fix it,” she said. “It was very hard on him because we didn’t know if it was something we could fix. We had to surrender that to God and say ‘we’re hands off now.’ That my husband would be alone to raise three small children, it’s the hard part.”
At the CTCA she learned different holistic ways to fight the lung cancer such as switching to an organic diet and meditating.
“It’s amazing how the mind can affect the body. I meditated with Scriptures, ‘I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.’ That has been my meditative mantra,” she said. “You have to be positive. Some days you’ll spend more energy fighting off negative thoughts then fighting the cancer. Trying not to go into a downward spiral is alone as much work as chemo, but you have to do it.”
She learned not to ever let the low survival rate make her lose hope.
“Don’t think of yourself as a statistic; think of yourself as an individual,” she said. “You can’t let statistics get in the way of your recovery and progress.”
Kiers’ final chemo treatment was in December. When she went to her doctor for a checkup in January she received another shock. This time it was a good one.
Her cancer was completely gone.
“I said ‘praise God.’ That was the first thing that came out of my mouth,” she said. “I sunk into my chair and said a prayer of praise.”
She wasn’t the only one shocked.
“My doctor told me ‘When you came here I didn’t expect you to see Christmas,’” she said. “‘To have nothing is just beyond modern medicine. There’s just no explanation for it.’”
Jaggernauth also thinks chemo wasn’t the only thing that saved her life.
“There are many studies that prove that the mind of how a patient enters into treatment dramatically affects how they receive and respond to it,” he said. “Do I think it was all chemo? I don’t think so. I think her willingness to do everything possible was a significant factor in her recovery process.”
For all the trauma cancer has brought into her life, Kiers thinks there’s a silver lining.
“I think for my children it has brought a level of compassion that they wouldn’t have had at such an early age. It’s brought a level of ‘life is precious, don’t take it for granted,’” she said. “For my husband too. It’s brought a sense of faith in action. You have to put your faith into action.”
Her relationship with her family has irrevocably been changed, and so has her relationship with God. ….