I’d like to introduce you to one of our amazing team members: Kim Hiser, Mindset & Health Coach extraordinaire.
Kim is one of the most inspiring people that I know! Her smile is contagious, and she has a way of making everyone who crosses her path feel special and loved.
But the road for Kim and her family hasn’t been easy! In June 2014, Kim’s 16-year old daughter Tayah was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Despite the difficult circumstances, Kim and Tayah chose to maintain a strong, positive mindset throughout Tayah’s journey. And what an incredible difference it made!
In today’s interview, you’re going to find out why mindset was key to helping Kim and Tayah get through this tough time, and how building a courageous, hopeful mindset can also help you face life’s challenges with confidence and clarity…
Q: How did you find out that Tayah had stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
A: In April, 2014, Tayah started experiencing typical cold symptoms: sore throat, sinus drainage, tenderness around the glands in her neck. After multiple visits to the doctor and tests for mono and strep throat that came back negative, the doctors thought Tayah had nothing more than a cold.
But as the lymph nodes in Tayah’s neck became more swollen, an ultrasound was ordered to dive deeper into what could be going on. When the results came back, I was told that Tayah was anemic and that she needed to supplement with iron.
Upon hearing this news, a red flag went up! I knew that something didn’t seem right – an iron deficiency couldn’t be the only factor responsible for Tayah’s symptoms.
A couple of days later, Tayah began to feel even worse. After a visit to urgent care and another doctor’s office the following week, Tayah was sent to the hospital to have a lymph node needle biopsy done.
Once we got to the hospital, the doctor who was going to perform the needle biopsy decided that Tayah should first consult an infectious disease specialist. He felt they needed more information before subjecting Tayah to an invasive procedure.
We met with the infectious disease specialist that same day, and he ordered a complete chest X-ray, as well as a CT scan of Tayah’s head and neck.
The next day, I got a phone call that the specialist wanted to see us in his office right away. I had this gut feeling that the news wasn’t going to be good.
When the doctor showed us Tayah’s images, I remember seeing golf-ball sized nodules over Tayah’s heart, and all over her chest. At that point, I kind of blacked out and didn’t hear anything else that he was saying.
The doctor then told us that they would need to do a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, but he was pretty sure that Tayah had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
I started to become emotional, and Tayah looked at me and asked, “Mom, what is he saying?” The doctor turned to her and said, “I’m telling you that I think you have cancer.”
As he left the room, it was just Tayah and me – left to deal with this devastating news.
When we reached the parking lot, my husband Tony was just pulling up. I told him what the doctor had said, and that I needed a minute alone to gather myself. I suggested that maybe Tayah should ride home with him.
After a few moments, he walked over to me and said, “Tayah needs you right now. Can you pull yourself together enough so that she can ride home with you?”
I told him that I could, and that I would be okay. And then Tony added, “This is about her.”
During the car ride home, Tayah and I didn’t say too much, trying to process what we were told.
The next step was to schedule a biopsy in our hometown. While Tayah was originally going to be seen by an internist, after our initial visit, I knew that we needed to consult someone who specialized in cancer patients.
A conversation with a physician friend confirmed that decision, and I spent an entire day doing online research and talking with different hospitals.
Mayo Clinic was one of the hospitals at the top of my list, and after talking with them on the phone, they were phenomenal.
We headed to Mayo Clinic as a family at the end of May, and based on the initial tests, the doctors were pretty sure that Tayah had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
When they showed us Tayah’s PET scan, the cancer was everywhere: her liver, lungs, spleen, she was full of it.
The doctor explained to Tayah that they would be doing several procedures all at once to determine the stage and type of Hodgkin’s disease, as well as to insert several chemotherapy ports into her heart.
As I started to become emotional, Tayah looked at me and said, “Mom, we just have to go forward. We just have to do this.” She then looked at the doctor and said, “What do I need to do?”
The doctor replied, “You’re going to have a fight on your hands. But you’re going to have to go in with a good mindset and a faith, or whatever you draw from.” Tayah answered, “I’ll do whatever you tell me. That’s what I’ll do.”
A few days later, after Tayah’s 6-hour procedure, we found out that she had stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Q: What was Tayah’s treatment like?
A: Before Tayah started chemotherapy, one of the hardest things was learning that chemo could cause Tayah to become sterile and never have kids. We were told that we would need to visit a fertility specialist and make some choices regarding harvesting Tayah’s eggs for the future.
I remember thinking to myself how wrong it is for a mom to have to have to make that decision for her 16-year-old daughter. While we were meeting with the fertility specialist, Tayah’s oncologist called to say that there wasn’t time to harvest her eggs. It was critical for Tayah to start chemotherapy right away.
The very next day, Tayah started chemotherapy, and she handled it like a trooper, despite being very sick. The chemotherapy triggered nausea, vomiting, and bone pain.
Often, Tayah would double up in pain. I remember her curled up in the fetal position, begging me to take the pain away because she didn’t know how she was going to endure it. Those were hard times.
After three weeks at Mayo Clinic, we had to decide whether we would stay at Mayo Clinic or continue chemotherapy treatment closer to home. Although it was hard to leave the fantastic care at Mayo Clinic, it ended up being a blessing because we were able to work with a phenomenal doctor and nurse who were only three hours away from us.
Tayah also had to have six weeks of radiation in Colorado. So, Tony and I would take turns staying in our camper for a week at a time while Tayah was having treatment. Radiation tires a person out, and I can remember some days when Tayah would just go to bed after having radiation treatment and sleep until the next day.
One thing that I want to mention is that the moment we knew about Tayah’s diagnosis, we never looked back.
I never thought that Tayah wasn’t going to be here – that never entered my mind. The biggest thing was for her to get well, and that she was going to be okay.
Q: What was one of the hardest points during Tayah’s recovery?
A: During the ride home from Mayo Clinic, Tayah told us that her hair had started falling out in clumps, and that it was all over her clothes. She asked her dad if he would shave her head once we got home so that she could be done with it.
When the four of us – Tayah, Tony, myself, and my oldest daughter Lateesha, returned home to Wyoming at one o’clock in the morning, Tony got his razor out. We stood downstairs over Tayah as Tony shaved her head, and we all cried. It was pretty emotional.
But after we had our crying session, we moved forward. We knew that everything was going to be okay, and we were going to go on.
Q: What advice do you have for those who are facing challenges?
A: When you’re going through a tough time, it’s easy to think about the worst thing that could happen, but it’s important not to do that. You have to keep a positive mindset, and think about the good things that are happening in the present moment, as well as the things you’re looking forward to in the future.
For me, it helped to think about Tayah graduating the following year, knowing that she would walk on stage and receive her diploma. Thinking about Tayah getting married someday and seeing grandbabies kept me going. I knew those things were going to happen.
For Tayah, it was the same thing. What kept her going was thinking about her family and the things we were going to do together, as well as what the future held for her. It was never about the dark side.
And to this day, Tayah has never asked, “Why me?” She just knew what she had to do and kept going.
The other thing that’s really important is community.
It’s key to surround yourself with people who are going to lift you up. One of the first things that I did when Tayah was diagnosed was reach out to my community on Facebook, and here in Douglas, Wyoming, to ask them for prayers and support.
And throughout Tayah’s journey, we never walked it alone. We always had friends and family who were behind us, and you can feel that. The power of community is amazing.
Another helpful tool is meditation – quieting your mind can make a big difference in how you think and feel. Meditation is something that Mayo Clinic had recommended to us, and it’s something that I had learned from my grandmother and great-grandmother early on in life.
Getting back to nature, which is something my dad taught me to do, is another great way to ground yourself.
Q: Is having a positive mindset a deliberate choice?
Yes, absolutely. My grandmother and mother were this way – I was raised that you’re dealt things, and you pick yourself up and go on.
You don’t stay in what I call the dark side. You can stay there a moment – don’t get me wrong, we all have our days. But you don’t stay there! You have to make the choice to move on.
Some people are raised that way, but having a strong mindset can also be learned later in life.
Q: Did you have moments when you were completely silly in order to cope?
A: Oh gosh, yes! Before Tayah left for Mayo Clinic, the one thing she wanted was to have a water fight. So, we had a full-blown water fight with hoses and water balloons!
We did a lot of fun, spontaneous things. My husband likes to play the guitar on a broom and both of my girls love to sing. We often break into song while in the car and rock out!
Q: Do you have a favorite song?
A: When Tayah was going through treatment, the song that I listened to the most was Fight Song.
Q: Are there any takeaways you learned from this experience?
A: There are so many! It was a hard time, but it makes you appreciate what you have even more. It also makes you a stronger person.
Q: How is Tayah doing today?
A: At the end of December, Tayah will have been in remission for 5 years! She’s currently attending college and is a track and field athlete.
Recently, Tayah has been struggling with migraines, and an MRI showed that she has something called Chiari malformation. That’s a condition in which brain tissue extends into your spinal canal. There was a chance that she may have needed surgery.
But the good news is that after meeting with a neurologist at Mayo Clinic, Tayah doesn’t need surgery at this time. We have so much to be thankful for!
Thank YOU, Kim, for sharing your family’s journey! What an incredible inspiration you all are.
Kim not only used a positive mindset to survive every parent’s worst nightmare, she also made the decision to train as a health coach and join team JJ full-time so she could empower others with the tools and support it takes to build a resilient, grateful mindset.
If you’re ready to take concrete action steps to face your own challenges, check out the Miracle Mindset Academy!
A self-paced online program, Miracle Mindset Academy gives you the tools, advice, and support you need to grow a strong, positive mindset. You’ll also have access to our private online forum, where you can ask questions, find an accountability partner, and celebrate your wins.
You might notice that the link above also offers you Reignite Wellness 365, which is our online membership site where you can get access ALL of our online programs for one low monthly price.
With membership in RW365, you’ll never have to feel alone in your health journey! Thanks to the warm community in our private forum, masterclasses with JJ, and live events with Team JJ coaches, including the incredible Kim Hiser, you’ll feel more supported than ever.