Medical Resident Shares One Symptom That Led to Her Metastatic Sarcoma Diagnosis — Now She Inspires Others (Exclusive)

Kimberley Nix was a 28-year-old medical resident when she was diagnosed with metastatic sarcoma. Today, she continues her studies while sharing her journey on social media

<p>Kim/Instagram</p> Dr. Kim Nix


Dr. Kim Nix

Kimberly Nix was well into her journey to become a doctor when life threw a wrench at her: She was diagnosed with metastatic sarcoma in 2021.

At the time, Dr. Nix was only 28 years old and in the third and final year of her internal medicine core residency. Even then, the Canadian resident didn't let the sad news dull her spirits. Instead, she leaned on her family and friends, decided to continue her studies and now uses her journey to inspire others.

"When I was first diagnosed, I was also studying for my specialty licensing exam (which I fortunately passed!) and working full time as a resident," Nix tells PEOPLE exclusively.

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"I was disappointed about the news, but between frequently meeting with friends to study, my supportive family (including my now husband), and working with a licensed cancer counselor, I kept my spirits high, which helped me immensely with the sarcoma cancer journey."

Nix was initially diagnosed with extra-skeletal osteosarcoma, but later found out she actually has undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma as "having an evolving diagnosis is common in sarcoma because there are over 100 subtypes," she explains.

According to the National Cancer Institute, undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma typically forms in the soft tissue (though it can also form in bone) and usually occurs in the legs, arms or back of the abdomen. For Nix, it started with a lump in her leg.

"Symptoms of sarcoma are so important because there is no screening test. My symptom was the most common symptom in soft tissue sarcoma. [Everything was] completely normal — including all my lab values — except for a small, but rapidly growing lump in my left leg," she reveals.

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"Mine changed rapidly, which led me to see my doctor right away. It went from the size of a pea to the size of a golf ball in just over a week."

To treat her cancer, Nix takes a targeted chemotherapy pill every day. Outside of lowering her immune system and preventing her from eating the spicy foods she used to love, Nix says she goes about her life as normally as she can.

She's currently going forward with her studies at the Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, where she is sub-specializing in general internal medicine while simultaneously partaking in the Clinician Investigator Program, "which allows resident doctors extra training time to study in a Master’s Program, for me epidemiology," she says.

She likes to travel, try new foods and spend time with her cute pets. Additionally, she's also managing her growing social media platforms, where she shares her journey with admirers, fellow sarcoma patients and of course, her loved ones.

Beginning in 2021, Nix started sharing her sarcoma journey on Instagram and TikTok. And while she could have chosen to showcase the downsides of living with sarcoma, she opted to go the positive route, showing her followers how she continues to live life to the fullest, despite the diagnosis.

Nix has shared videos from her 2023 wedding; her February bucket list trip to New York (which was put together by her loved ones); her life as a dog and cat mom, among many other videos and photos. The best of the content are her short and sweet gratitude videos, in which she simply cites a thing, event or person she's grateful for that day.

"I only have one thing in my life that is tough or hard right now. Yes, it is serious, but [it's] just one thing," Nix affirms. "Life is so much more. It’s friends, family, pets, your career, the perfect temperature first sip of tea, the beautiful snow-tipped mountains."

She continues, "So many people go through so much more with so much less to be thankful for. Seeing the beautiful parts of life each day helps me stay grounded and focused on what’s most important to me, and keep pressing forward with more treatment."

And even though the process of sharing her journey isn't always easy, she's already seen the benefits of opening up, as fellow sarcoma patients, other young adults with cancer and people with experience living with metastatic cancer have reached out to champion her and show solidarity.

Nix plans on continuing her studies. Her husband, Michael MacIsaac, also bought her a new ring light recently, which means there'll be more content coming soon.

As for what she wants people to know about sarcoma, Nix has this to say: "The most important thing to know about sarcoma cancers is that being seen at a high-volume sarcoma center can save lives," she urges.

"My team here in Calgary is excellent, and they collaborate on my care with other centers here in Canada and the USA too. A list of high-volume sarcoma centers is available through the Sarcoma Alliance website, which is a patient-facing organization."

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