Sensing alarming symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath, Jaymie was not expecting the discovery of cancer fluid in her lungs that led to a life-changing diagnosis. In December 2018, 32-year-old Jaymie Knox was diagnosed with Stage 4 ALK+ lung cancer.
Her symptoms began just months prior when she found herself with an irritating raspy nighttime cough. Soon, she developed a wheeze, but, like the cough, it was only an issue at bedtime.
It wasn’t long before the cough became more regular, impacting her around the clock. She was bothered – but not concerned – by the symptoms.
Jaymie scheduled an appointment with her primary care physician who referred her to an asthma/allergy specialist. The asthma/allergy specialist first prescribed her an inhaler for 2 weeks, and then sent Jaymie on her way with a cough suppressant and no follow-up.
The inhaler did nothing to help the wheezing. The cough suppressant did nothing to relieve the cough. Jaymie went about her business, and the cough and wheezing seemed to subside.
Never one to waste a moment of the day, Jaymie also discovered – and fell in love with – kickboxing. She quickly became a diehard. She assumed that her shortness of breath and mild backache were a result of the intensity of the workout.
Jaymie was annoyed, but not immobilized by her symptoms. She was young, healthy, active both professionally and personally, and truly living life to its fullest.
Then one day, in the fall of 2018, Jaymie was – as she did most days – running on the treadmill. Normally she would run a mile and then head over to lift weights.
Shortness of Breath Shows Jaymie Something is Wrong
As anyone who has ever run will attest, there are times that one becomes winded. Usually slowing down or pacing oneself helps to reset your system. That day, just a quarter of a mile into her run, Jaymie couldn’t breathe.
“It was different. It felt like there was no oxygen coming in. Something was wrong.”
Following the lead of physicians, all of whom seemed unconcerned by her symptoms, Jaymie went on with her busy life. In addition to a full-time job in facilities management, her passion is media and communications. She runs her own radio station and media company designed to advocate and educate people on health-related matters.
Sensing that her wheezing, and shortness of breath were indicative of something, Jaymie opted to seek a second opinion. And, because she had no real data or imaging to share, she was considered non-urgent. Jaymie waited three months to be seen. That visit, in December 2018, would change Jaymie’s life.
Cancer Fluid in Lungs Shocks Doctor
At this time, Jaymie’s husband – who serves with the US Army – was scheduled to ship off to Korea. He was scheduled to depart just days later. Jaymie was supposed to host a radio event.
“At that point, I hadn’t had any x-rays or scans. So, the first thing the doctor did was send me for imaging. I went to another part of the building for the scans.
When I returned to learn the findings, I walked in to find the doctor, pale as a ghost. He was asking me if I felt okay. My entire left lung was covered in fluid. He wanted to admit me to the hospital right then and there.”
She convinced the doctor to give her a few days to get things in order. Jaymie had a CT scan on Friday. Her husband departed for Korea on Saturday. And, on Monday, Jaymie was admitted to the hospital for nearly a week.
Immediately upon admission, the medical team drained her lung to the tune of 2.5 liters of fluid which equaled 6 pounds! The weight of the fluid had fully deflated Jaymie’s lung.
Diagnosis Finally Uncovered in the Cancer Fluid in the Lungs
It would be a few days before doctors were able to biopsy the fluid. Initial reports came back clear, no malignancy. In another few days, that diagnosis would change: the fluid did indeed show malignant cells.
Jaymie again took her lead from the physician and remained positive and calm. She was never offered any further information regarding her diagnosis or the stage of her cancer.
The next week Jaymie again experienced shortness of breath. This time, Jaymie saw a doctor who was covering for her own doctor’s absence. This new doctor told Jaymie that her lung cancer was stage 4 and ALK+.
Treatment Options for Jaymie’s ALK Positive Lung Cancer
As a young, newly married woman, Jaymie knew that she would like the opportunity to have a baby someday. With her team’s blessing, she put off beginning treatment long enough to have her eggs frozen. Jaymie’s spirit, energy, and sense of humor will make her a terrific mother someday!
In January 2019, just months after her initial symptoms, Jaymie began a targeted therapy. She takes four pills in the morning and four pills at night. Jaymie reports few side effects (weight gain and low heart rate). She has settled in with her diagnosis and medications, and reports being more active than she was before her diagnosis.
In fact, she can be found most early mornings doing circuit training with her gym family. Her treatment plan will remain in place as long as it continues to keep her cancer stable. Her most recent scans were “unremarkable” (the holy grail of cancer scans). Jaymie is considered to be in a medically induced remission.
Jaymie’s resilience and determination in the face of cancer fluid in her lungs being cancerous has been truly remarkable. Her story serves as an inspiration to others facing similar challenges, reminding us of the importance of hope, support, and the power of a positive mindset in the fight against lung cancer.