In 2004, at just 40 years old, Kirstie Misquez was diagnosed with breast cancer – found after receiving her very first mammogram.
“I lived in Denver at the time. My daughter was in second grade and my son was 18; I thought I was going to die,” Kirstie said. “That first diagnosis was the most terrifying experience in my life.”
A Personalized Approach
Fast forward 15 years and Kirstie is facing a similar diagnosis, but this time she’s not afraid. Last year Kirstie was diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer, affecting her bones and soft tissue organs. Kirstie also learned that her cancer is HER2-positive, and estrogen receptor-positive.
“I’m not afraid this time, I’m older and have a lot of fight in me,” she said. “I believe that treatment options have progressed in a way that’s more personalized. I’m able to have targeted chemotherapy this time, designed specifically for my cancer.”
In addition to advanced treatment options, Kirstie said her care team has made a major impact in her outlook and experience this time around. Her providers, Kevin Mulvey, M.D., and Megan Whitmore, PA-C, made a particular impression.
“I met Dr. Mulvey for the first time when I was hospitalized for a bad case of the flu and had to receive blood platelets,” she explained. “Let me just say, he’s the man. He keeps me grounded and present in what’s going on right now, not worrying about what might happen in the future. Megan is the perfect blend of professional care and compassion –she absolutely cares and empathizes with her patients.”
Support when it counts
In addition to being treated at Kootenai Clinic Cancer Services, Kirstie found some other resources particularly helpful. For the first two months of her treatment, Kirstie and her parents were all able to stay in Kootenai’s Walden House, a low-cost home away from home for patients, or family members of patients, being treated at Kootenai Health.
“When I first moved to Idaho, I was staying with my son and his family. While I loved living with them, being in a home with small children doesn’t always promote a restful and restorative atmosphere,” she said. “The Walden house was so welcoming – the volunteers at the house were instrumental during the first part of my treatment. We bonded with the other people staying in the house and everyone supported each other.”
Throughout the course of her treatment, Kirstie expanded her support network, working with social workers to navigate the health care system and billing process, and of course from her family and friends.
“At some point, all of my family members and friends from across the country came to visit and support me,” Kirstie said. “Then later in my treatment I discovered the women’s cancer support group and have been attending ever since.”
The Women’s Cancer Support Group meets weekly at Kootenai Clinic Cancer Services in Post Falls. The group is open to any woman who has experienced a cancer diagnosis. Group members have a variety of cancer types and range from women who are newly diagnosed to others who are well in remission. A similar group for men and women is also available.
“I enjoy running the women’s support group,” Travis Geib, Kootenai Clinic Cancer Services social worker, said. “Everyone’s journey through cancer is unique. The support group provides patients an opportunity to engage with others that have a shared experience. The support and kindness members provide each other both inside and outside the clinic is an amazing thing. Sometimes we have potlucks and guest speakers to provide members education about topics of interest.”
Kirstie feels good about her care plan moving forward and is thankful for the support she’s received from her care team and family. She’s hopes women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are able to find the support system they need.
“I would tell any woman facing a breast cancer diagnosis a few things I’ve learned,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to cry, take comfort in those who love you and ask for help when you need it, lean on your care team to provide the answers to your questions, and above all else, fight like hell.”
You can learn more about Kootenai Clinic Cancer Services at kh.org/cancer or call (208) 625-4700.