Patient Story

Groundbreaking clinical trial helps local woman become cancer free

Kristen Hirst and family

To 50 year-old Kristen Hirst, she was the healthiest person in the world. She has been active her entire life from lifting weights to running long distances. To Kristen, if there was one thing she could be certain about, it was her health. Then, one day her husband and neighbor both took note of a mole on the side of her leg, a mole that had been there for years, raising concern of its new appearance and referring her to a dermatologist to get it checked out.

In denial of any serious issues, her appointment went just as she planned. The dermatologist successfully removed the mole, no hassle. However, after further testing, it was confirmed, the mole was malignant and she would be referred to Northside’s Melanoma & Sarcoma Program for further consultation.

Kristen's doctor was able to remove a larger area of where the mole was during surgery, and insert a dye to show the two nearest lymph nodes, indicating whether or not the cancer had spread. There was a five percent chance that the cancer had spread. On her follow-up, it was confirmed, she was that five percent. Kristen could finally accepted that she had cancer.

The second surgery to clean out the lymph nodes was a success, but now came the hard part: treatment. After research, Kristen stumbled upon a clinical trial at Northside and consulting with her doctor, Kristen put her life in the hands of a yearlong clinical trial.

There was the looming shadow of the possibility that after a year, the trial could not work. In addition, there was the possibility she would be given a placebo. Come to find out, Kristen got flu-like symptoms a couple months after the trial began, a side effect meaning the trial drug was working.

As things progressed, Kristen’s ability to remain active dwindled. She went from running five miles to simply walking up the block. This was all fine with Kristen though, because her family had agreed they would remain positive throughout this journey, and whether it was doing a little bit of weights and a walk around the house, this was her way of remaining in control.

Come October 26, 2014, Kristen was declared cancer free and hasn’t looked back since. She has never felt better and never been healthier. Thanks to clean bill of health, she has completed her first ever Ironman and continues to return back to the life she knew before cancer.

*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.

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