It wasn’t on this young family’s radar…
…until Oct. 24, 2021, when crippling stomach pain led Kyle Andersen to the ER.
That’s when pancreatic cancer entered the picture.
Kyle was 47 years old, healthy and fit – he thought the symptoms he had been experiencing were IBS-related.
He was looking forward to making many more memories with his wife Kira and their three children, ages 4, 2 and 1.
“You have your life all planned out, and then cancer hits,” Kira said, an echo of what many feel when pancreatic cancer intervenes. “This disease does not care about your dreams. It doesn’t discriminate.”
Today Kyle is getting chemotherapy through Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
He has his sights set on complete healing, Kira said.
“We both have hope, and we believe in miracles. People do survive pancreatic cancer – why can’t that be us?”
As he looked at the bell at Siteman recently – the one that patients ring to signify and celebrate the end of treatment – Kyle said to Kira, “I can’t wait.”
Kyle, a partner in the financial planning firm Edward Jones, and Kira, a fitness instructor and entrepreneur, had a quick connection when they met years ago. She was looking for a partner who was strong in their faith and who enjoyed helping others, who prioritized family, and who was passionate about their career. Kyle was all of those things.
“I fell in love with his heart,” she said. “He was so humble, so kind.”
Kyle’s stage 4 diagnosis came right after he and Kira celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary and just before their son celebrated his first birthday.
The couple was busy working, raising their children and planning for the future when, in a split second, their world changed from dream to nightmare.
“Boom,” Kira said. “A bomb went off. And here we are four months later, fighting for my husband’s life.”
Kyle’s doctors have said that he may only live for one year with standard-of-care chemotherapy. The couple won’t accept that.
“Hearing that prognosis just means that I need to fight even harder for him,” Kira said.
Kira is unflinchingly optimistic. She maintains that mental health is a priority for her. She sees a trauma therapist who helps her with coping strategies. She stays focused on the good parts of each day, makes a note of the things the family has to be grateful for, and focuses on positive words and thoughts.
She also makes sure to find time every day to re-fill her own cup.
“I’ve had to retrain my brain – from a ‘fight or flight response,’ and feelings of desperation – to reminders to myself that I CAN do this.”
Just last week, a CT scan revealed that tumors on Kyle’s pancreas are shrinking. Other tumors, including those on his liver, aren’t responding as well to treatment.
But Kira and Kyle aren’t backing down.
“There is always hope,” Kira said. “We are all in this together, as a team, and we are here on Earth to do good things and create a better world for us and future generations. The same is true for pancreatic cancer. We can change the future of this disease.”
PanCAN PurpleStride Ambassador Mindy Kaling agrees. The actor, writer and producer is a supporter of all those facing pancreatic cancer and has partnered with PanCAN to raise awareness and funds to improve survival.
Mindy said, “I am so moved by Kyle and Kira’s story, and by the countless others that I’ve read about and heard about – people who are so bravely fighting back against pancreatic cancer and the families who give it their all to support them. I am excited and hopeful about the work that PanCAN is doing to make this disease one that people can live with and not just survive – but thrive.
“That’s why I joined forces with PanCAN. Like Kira said, we are all a team and I encourage others to join this team and support PanCAN’s mission.”
As soon as Kyle rings the bell at Siteman Cancer Institute when his treatment is over, Kira wants to throw a big party.
She’s already told Kyle to get prepared.
“He is the finance guy and is always thinking about costs,” Kira said. “But no expense will be spared. And I’ve already told Kyle, ‘You better not say a word!’”