Survivor Overcomes Mesothelioma with Proton Therapy & Faith
- Stories from Survivors
- April 6, 2017
Cancer survivor Yvette King was not about to take a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis sitting down. As an avid runner, she credits her survivorship to exercise, God and becoming her own advocate.
Now, the 52-year-old Maryland survivor wants to use her strength and story to help others battling this aggressive cancer.
After her diagnosis, King launched an online journal to share her story.
With conviction and quiet strength, King told Asbestos.com: “This is my journey. This is my calling. I won’t be afraid.”
Faith Guided Her Through the Unknown
In October 2015, King began struggling with breathing and developed a painful cough. Her doctor found a mass on her lung; she was immediately admitted to the hospital.
After multiple scans, she returned home. Just 15 days later, she received the bad news: She had stage III pleural mesothelioma cancer.
“I think I’d heard of it before, but didn’t really know anything about it when the doctor called to tell me. I just said okay,” King remembers.
That’s when she began researching on the internet for information. She was determined to learn as much as she could about the disease and meet other people battling the same cancer.
The next few weeks were filled with chemotherapy to shrink the golf-ball-sized tumor on her lung. Two months into her mesothelioma treatment, King learned the tumor shrunk enough for her to qualify for surgery.
Doctors gave her two surgical options: A lobectomy, which would remove at least one lobe of her lung, or an extrapleural pneumonectomy, which removes an entire lung and the lining around it. King opted for the latter.
“I was never really scared. I’ve always been a strong Christian,” she said. Even when her doctor explained the difficulty treating mesothelioma, King’s faith remained strong.
Throughout her treatment, she always asked doctors to be up front with her. “I’m not afraid of what you will tell me,” she remembers telling her doctors. “I accepted [the cancer] the day I was diagnosed.”
This strength guides her through all treatment decisions and continues to guide her today.
Proton Therapy and Hope Lodge Changed Her Life
After undergoing surgery in March 2016, King started radiation therapy at Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC). Proton therapy is one of the most specialized and precise forms of radiation, beaming highly energized protons directly at cancerous growths.
The treatment requires patients to lie on their back for 30-90 minutes a day. Unfortunately, King was unable to do that immediately after surgery due to pain she experienced in that position. She began intensive physical therapy because doctors explained the radiation treatment right after surgery improves the mesothelioma prognosis.
Once she was done with her physical therapy, she began her six weeks of proton therapy at MPTC. The treatment center was nearly 40 minutes from her home, so naturally it was overwhelming to make this commute daily. That’s when Hope Lodge stepped in.
With sites located near many major hospitals throughout the United States, Hope Lodge provides a nurturing, home-like environment where patients and their caregivers can retreat and connect with others during a treatment cycle. This helps patients focus on what matters: Their health.
For King, Hope Lodge made it possible to stay near her cancer center throughout her radiation treatments.
Exercise Became Her Vice
King had always been athletic.
That’s one of the reasons the mesothelioma diagnosis surprised her. Because she had kept her body in good shape, she thought she would never get cancer.
But mesothelioma does not discriminate against the physically healthy.
After the diagnosis, King kicked her running into high gear. She improved her diet and prioritized working out.
After chemotherapy and radiation sessions, King made sure to get moving. Even after surgery, she knew the key to a better recovery was exercise.
“I was home every day, so I tried to exercise a lot to keep myself going,” King said. Her treadmill became her confidant. “I would be on my treadmill running and crying. It was my vice.”
When King opted to remove an entire lung, she worried about her breathing. “Now I’m breathing better than normal people breathe with two lungs.”
Advocating for Others Is Her Goal
Throughout King’s mesothelioma journey, God and the people around her have always helped her manage.
Between her medical team at MPTC, the warm folks at Hope Lodge, her extraordinary nurses and other survivors she’s met along the way, it’s her desire to inspire and help others that drives King today.
“This is my journey,” she proclaims. “This is my calling.”
Cara is a childhood cancer survivor, daughter of a long-term breast cancer survivor, and she knows life as a caregiver. She is also a member of the American Lung Association's LUNG FORCE leadership committee, a repeat team captain for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life and has the Social for Health Care Certification from Mayo Clinic and Hootsuite. Cara also frequently writes for HuffPost.