Alexis’ story: I’m proof you can survive Mesothelioma
At 37, Alexis was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer caused by asbestos, mesothelioma. When some patients don’t even survive one year, Alexis survived 12 and even helped her partner Christian through his own cancer diagnosis. Today, Alexis talked about beating the odds and dealing with survivor's guilt.
Alexis Kidd received her mesothelioma diagnosis more than 12 years ago. So excuse her for not remembering everything. What’s important is she’s still alive, which means she can inspire other female cancer patients to face their diagnosis bravely.
It’s probably the hardest journey you’ll ever take in your whole life, but you can get through it, I’m proof.
She’s held many labels in the last 12 years: mesothelioma patient and mesothelioma survivor are two of them. She’s also been a fighter. And her fight isn’t done yet.
Alexis Kidd: Mesothelioma Patient
Alexis lives in Houston with her husband, Christian Kidd. They met shortly before her peritoneal mesothelioma diagnosis, which unfortunately came on Christian’s birthday in 2007.
That day was part of an extended medical struggle for Alexis, who had her gallbladder removed before doctors knew of the cancer’s presence. Then they found tumors on her diaphragm, and they traced the disease back to her peritoneum.
At that point, I didn’t even know what mesothelioma was.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer that forms within the small membrane just outside of the abdominal cavity. This membrane, called the “peritoneum”, is filled with mesothelial cells. When asbestos infiltrates the body and irritates these cells, they turn cancerous. The disease often spreads into the abdomen and affects the many organs within this area.
Peritoneal mesothelioma affects women just as much as it does men. While pleural mesothelioma is a male-dominated cancer, peritoneal mesothelioma has close to a 50-50 split in gender. Women with this disease often have better survival times than men do: because they take initiative in responding to symptoms and take charge of their treatment. Alexis was no different, which is why she is an example of Girls Rocking Cancer.
Her young age worked in her favor, too. Alexis was 37 at the time, which is a young age for a mesothelioma patient. The average age for a peritoneal mesothelioma patient is between 50 and 60.
However, she had difficulty finding a specialist to help her. The mesothelioma wasn’t showing up on any scans, which made examining its growth and progress difficult for doctors.
Then Dr. Henry Zaleski entered the fold. The doctor, who worked at Houston Methodist
Hospital, took on Alexis’ case. They resorted to cytoreduction with heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) as the first line of treatment. During the procedure, doctors removed half of Alexis’ diaphragm to remove many of the tumors.
Alexis said it was all pretty dramatic, noting she went through so much, but it was all worth it.
In my head and my heart, just having that will ... I think that helped me more than anything else.
Alexis Kidd: Mesothelioma Survivor
Fifteen months passed between Alexis’ gallbladder removal surgery and the end of her HIPEC. As for what was to follow? No one could be sure.
The prognosis for peritoneal mesothelioma patients who undergo invasive surgery and HIPEC is often a few years. Alexis, being younger than almost all other patients, should’ve had an even longer mesothelioma life expectancy.
But the disease is aggressive and spreads quickly, and some patients don’t even survive for one year. Alexis has survived for more than 12. Survival isn’t always a blessing, though. Alexis dealt — and still deals — with survivor’s guilt.
It was really intense at first, probably the first four or five years. Whether I would lose someone close to me or if it was a celebrity, I would feel horrible guilt. It’s not a thing that drags me into deep depression. In the end, it makes me more grateful to know I’m supposed to be here for something.
She’s even more grateful because she was around to help her husband through his cancer diagnosis.
Christian is a punk rock artist — a member of the Houston-based group The Hates. In 2017, according to an article in the Houston Chronicle, he was diagnosed with stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma.
By this time, Alexis and Christian were married (they tied the knot in 2011). Christian had been with Alexis during her mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment. He stayed by her side through the lowest of lows.
So, she returned the favor — with her first-hand experience as an added source of inspiration.
It was so amazing how we were able to be there for each other. There’s nothing we can’t get through together because we went through so many experiences together.
Alexis Kidd: Mesothelioma Fighter (Still)
During the summer of 2019, a GoFundMe page published asking for financial support for Alexis’ health problems. According to the page, she has “Stage 4 congestive heart failure” and “Stage 3 kidney disease.” The fight never ends for Alexis.
Being sick all the time can take the wind out of your sails. You can get depressed easily. I was, at times, depressed. Which is understandable.
The fortunate side? Alexis has a lot of people in her corner. The donations quickly eclipsed the $2,500 goal. Those dollars will help cover the costs of treatment. They’re also a sign that Alexis and Christian have a community of support. That community will be happy to know Alexis is fighting back.
My heart is definitely getting stronger. It’s not quite back to normal yet. Because my heart is getting stronger, my kidneys are getting stronger.
Alexis knows many other women are struggling with peritoneal mesothelioma. She knows how deflating it can be at first, but she also recognises that these women are strong and capable of beating this disease.
You get to live, you get to enjoy your life. There are challenges, lots of challenges, but you get more time to do whatever it is you want to do in your life. That’s miraculous to me.
Thank you Alexis for sharing your experience and insights. And a very special thanks to the Mesothelioma Guide for helping raise awareness. Mesothelioma Guide is a free patient advocacy group that offers information and resources to those affected by mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos, commonly found among older age groups and retired service members.
Alexis and Mel