Cedars-Sinai Blog

Cancer Won't Take Away From Kirstin's Positive Attitude

Cedars-Sinai Cancer patient Kirstin Millard

Last year, Kirstin Millard moved across the country to pursue a career in entertainment. The 26-year-old was enjoying her first Los Angeles summer when things took an unexpected turn. 

She felt sharp pains in her back and thought it was a muscle spasm. After visiting her local urgent care, she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was prescribed antibiotics and muscle relaxers. When her pain didn't subside, she decided to go to the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai

"I'm a person that believes you can find a silver lining in any bad situation."

A CT scan revealed a mass in her chest, which led to a diagnosis of large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, an aggressive type of blood cancer. 

"I had never been sick or hospitalized, or even had a broken bone," says Kirstin. "To go from thinking I had a spasm to pneumonia to actually having cancer was a big shock." 

Kirstin's treatment journey

Kirstin was referred to a specialist at Cedars-Sinai's Tower Hematology Oncology.

Dr. Jeremy Lorber outlined a treatment plan that centered around six, 96-hour inpatient chemotherapy sessions. She started treatment almost immediately. 

Over the next months, she received a week of treatment and then took two weeks to recover before repeating the cycle. She experienced side effects from the drug, including mouth sores and hair loss. 

"Losing my hair really made the whole experience more real," she says. "Things happened so fast I didn't really have time to process everything that was happening to me, but that made it sink in."

Kirstin tried to take her hair loss and cancer treatment in stride, choosing to focus on the positives in her life.

"I always try to be intentional about finding joy in challenging situations and always try to turn lemons into lemonade," she says. "I'm a person that believes you can find a silver lining in any bad situation."

Both her parents are pastors, and Kirstin credits her faith with getting her through the tough time in her life.  

"My situation looked ugly, but I believed through my faith that I would get through it," she says. "It was my foundation, and it's the reason I was able to respond so positively to all of this." 

After she completed treatment, Kirstin's tests showed she was cancer-free. She was cleared of cancer six months after her initial diagnosis. 

"Everything happened very fast," says Kirstin. "It's crazy to look back on it now that I'm on the other side, but it felt great to get a positive report."

"What helped Kirstin through treatment was a consistently positive attitude and a very supportive family," says Dr. Lorber. "Her lymphoma diagnosis was a sudden and large change to her life, but she has dealt with it fantastically and has her life and health back on track now."

A sweet send-off

On the last night of her treatment, Kirstin received a special surprise from her care team. Nurses and clinical partners celebrated her last round of chemo with a song. 

She had been focused on how to thank them for their care, but she wasn't expecting such a kind gesture from the people she says had already blessed her so much. 

"It made me feel pure joy," Kirstin says. "You really form a relationship with them, and they became my chemo family. We finished this thing together, and they're a part of my fight story."