All she’s known

Washington woman, formerly of Wiscasset, faces latest life-saving challenge
Posted:  Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 1:45pm

Down one kidney from cancer and already living with two heart devices in her, Kimberly Emerson, 33, has faced one medical challenge after another since childhood. It’s all she’s ever known, she said Monday.

The Washington, Maine woman has lived in Wiscasset and elsewhere around the Midcoast. When the 2001 Medomak Valley High School graduate moved here with parents Tammy and Mike Fiore, she had a number of housekeeping clients in the Boothbay and Wiscasset areas. The Fiores still live in Wiscasset, as does her aunt, Wiscasset General Store owner Carla Chapman.

Depending on how several pre-surgery tests go April 26 — the day before Emerson turns 34 — her latest procedure is tentatively set for early May. It’s open-heart surgery to bypass her heart’s damaged left side with a heart pump. She said it should help keep her alive another few years, when she hopes for a heart transplant. She can get on the waiting list when she’s five years cancer-free, on Feb. 13, 2018.

At 12, she got a lump in her rib cage. She said a doctor told the family it was a boil, and to put hot compresses on it and try to break it open like a pimple. That didn’t work. Then her father tried another doctor and Emerson, then 14, was diagnosed with cancer. The 18-month chemotherapy treatment worked, but she said it had side effects that led to new issues. For one, she wasn’t supposed to ever be able to have a child.

“But God had other plans for me,” she said. Daughter Kandace is 5.

Emerson has faced cancer two other times, most recently kidney cancer. She lost her left kidney at 28.

Due to congestive heart failure, she has both a pacemaker and an internal defibrillator she said could jump-start her heart until help arrived. Her resting heart rate is about 150 beats a minute; her heart function is 10 percent of normal, she said.

According to her parents, through the years, she’s been stronger than they have in dealing with all her life-threatening medical issues. “She’s taken everything a lot better than we have,” and has reassured them, even as a teen, it would be OK, Tammy Fiore said. She and  her husband said Emerson always cares more about others than herself. When the couple lost their mobile home on Cronk’s Lane to fire two years ago, Emerson made the calls to get her parents’ medications replaced and their power turned back on so they could stay there in a camper until they replaced the home.

Mike Fiore said when they got their daughter’s first cancer diagnosis on a long holiday weekend, he was a wreck, with many questions. Since that diagnosis and the others that have followed, Tammy Fiori said, “It’s been terrifying, not knowing what’s going to happen to our child.”

Emerson has a campaign entitled “Heart Transplant on the Horizon” to try to raise $1,000 for gas for the many visits to Portland she’ll have post-surgery, and to help husband Travis Emerson stay in a hotel when she has the surgery. Doctors don’t plan to wake her up until the next day, she said.

She said although it’s a big surgery, she is looking forward to it, because she knows she will feel better afterward. And it gets her a step closer to her main goal, a transplant, so her daughter will still have her, she said. “I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to get to it.”