Cancer intruded in Kimberly Holmes’ life while she was eight months pregnant, raising two other small children, and helping her husband run their restaurant on charming Market Street in Corning, N.Y.
What was supposed to be a routine obstetrics appointment on a June day in 2013 turned into a terrifying diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia, followed by weeks and months of medical tests, treatment, and tearful prayers.
Although her developing baby was safe for the moment, Holmes needed treatment immediately. Her Elmira obstetrician advised that the Wilmot Cancer Institute was awaiting her arrival, that same night, 100 miles away.
At Wilmot, molecular analysis of her blood cancer uncovered a mutation of the CEPBA gene, giving her a more favorable prognosis. It also provided an opportunity to enroll in a national clinical trial for an experimental targeted treatment — a study only available at Wilmot within the Finger Lakes region.
In addition, Wilmot offered Holmes a cadre of specialists as diverse as oncology, high-risk obstetrics, infectious disease, intensive care, cardiology, and ophthalmology. Holmes would need all of this help and more. After being admitted, she faced the emergency premature delivery of her baby, Liam; five cycles of chemotherapy; approximately 100 blood transfusions; a life-threatening infection and two stints in the Intensive Care Unit; the temporary loss of vision in one eye; a heart complication; and the emotional turmoil of learning that a rare, inherited genetic mutation had likely predisposed her to developing leukemia.
Her primary oncologist, Jason Mendler, M.D., Ph.D., says that Holmes’ situation illustrates everything Wilmot has to offer, particularly when the case calls for innovation and experience.
“Having the chance to participate in a case as challenging as Kim’s and impact her life in a positive way has been a true privilege,” Mendler says. “I’m grateful to work at a medical center with a critical mass of experts who can provide the type of high-quality care that can make a story like hers possible.”
Liam Benedicio Holmes was born on June 28, 2013, five weeks premature but without any serious complications. And his mother’s cancer remains in remission.
“I can’t say enough about the care, how I was treated as an individual, and how professional and well-prepared everyone was for the crazy twists and turns of my journey,” Holmes says. “People ask me if I’m comfortable talking about what happened because it seems so overwhelming sometimes. But I’ve discovered that telling my story is helping me to heal.”