After a lot of thought and soul searching, Minden resident Shalene Hillbrick decided to drop out of a promising drug trial she was undergoing in Seattle, Wash.
The 47-year-old has stage-four lung cancer.
“It’s hard to explain to people why you’re quitting a trial that appears to be working. I felt like I was going to get chemo’d to death before I got any better,” Hillbrick said. “I felt the study drug wasn’t right for me. I knew after I did one round of treatment and it took me three weeks to recover that I was in trouble. I didn’t realize how bad it was going to be.”
Another contributing factor to Hillbrick’s decision to quit the trial was that it was taking her away from her two daughters, ages 12 and 14, three weeks a month.
“My kids weren’t doing well without me. It wasn’t working for them, and it wasn’t working for me,” she said. “One of the happiest moments in their lives was when I told them I was coming home for good. Knowing I don’t have to leave again is the greatest feeling ever.”
The single mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, 2011. After multiple surgeries and months of chemotherapy, she was declared cancer-free in 2012, only to have it return and spread to her lungs this year.
Hillbrick has decided to visit Dr. James Forsythe, an oncologist in Reno, who combines low-dose chemotherapy with holistic treatments.
“He has a better success rate than traditional chemotherapy or the Cancer Treatment Centers of America,” Hillbrick said. “He gave me a lot more hope than any other doctor I’ve talked to in a long time. He told me my situation was very serious, but not hopeless.”
Hillbrick starts three months of twice weekly chemotherapy on Monday.
“Hopefully, this is my miracle I’m looking for. I’m at peace now,” Hillbrick said. “I feel good about the decision, and being home is going to be the best thing for me.”
The biggest hurdle for Hillbrick is the cost for treatment. Insurance covers the chemotherapy, but not the many supplements she needs to take which cost about $650 a month.
She is also in need of rides to and from Reno, as well as prepared meals for her family when she’s sick from chemotherapy.
“At this point I just have to pay for it any way I can.” Hillbrick said. “I want to get through treatment, and get my life back.”
Seeking treatment close to home has also helped Hillbrick’s daughters cope with her illness.
“The kids are behind it. They feel like they’re participating in my treatment now,” Hillbrick said. “They help me stay on my diet and organize my supplements, and keep me on track.”
As for the immediate future, Hillbrick is looking forward to spending the holidays with her daughters.
“We’re going skiing on Thanksgiving. My youngest is counting down the days,” Hillbrick said. “We are also going to cut our own Christmas tree. I’m definitely looking forward to that.”
To track Hillbrick’s progress visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/shillbrick.