Staff writer

Kim Reed’s non-Hodgkin’s follicular lymphoma cancer has been in remission for two years.

At age 30, she was active and in good health. She was traveling a great deal for her job. When she became ill and began to lose weight, she thought it was due to stress but made a doctor’s appointment for diagnostic tests.

“I thought that the worst thing that could happen would be a simple surgery,” she said.

The doctor’s nurse called with the results and told Reed the tests were positive for cancer in the small intestine. A CAT scan was scheduled for the next morning. After reviewing the results of that test, her oncologist gave her the choice of being referred to the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas or M.D. Anderson in Houston. She chose M.D. Anderson.

She said that when she called American Cancer Society and talked to a representative, her anxiety level lessened. Phones are staffed 24-7 with information to help patients who must be away from home for an extended period of time, including places to stay offering a patient’s medical discount.

Reed said she found invaluable information regarding her type of cancer, treatment, drugs, side effects, and remission at www.cancer.com.

She said that within three days she was in Houston for 14 days of test after test. The results were the same.

She was prescribed a treatment plan and sent back to Stephenville for chemotherapy. Surgery was impossible because just the procedure could have spiraled the cancer through her body’s lymph system.

Reed said that she kept her mind positive by thinking, “I can do this. There is no doubt in my mind that I will beat it,” but the hardest part was looking into the eyes of her mother Sandra and her husband Richard to see their pain.

It was traumatic losing her hair, she said. But soon that was the least of her concerns. Other side effects caught up with her such as numbness in her hands and feet, mouth sores, nausea, and other discomforts. She persevered through four treatments.

Just prior to beginning her fifth round of chemo, Reed said she became incoherent. Her mother took her blood pressure which was 62/32 which resulted in admission to the hospital for transfusions.

She then began to experience third-spacing, which is an extended stomach cavity due to the amount of fluids having no other place to absorb.

“My body was saying it was enough, but we didn’t know if it was,” Reed said. The fluids had to be drained.

She returned to M.D. Anderson. She said it was the most difficult part. “I didn’t think cancer was going to win,” Reed said, “but this pushed me over the edge.”

With a loving family, friends and community support, she continued to fight her battle. She said there was some serious soul searching for what was most important in her life. There were numerous cards, calls, and visits.

“Someone was always there to help me with anything I needed,” she recalled. She considered her employer, First Financial Bank, her security family.

Reed said that she remembers well that typically normal day which turned into a different life. But once remission became a reality, she never looked back.

“It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but one with the greatest rewards,” she said. “I don’t sweat the small stuff and live life to the fullest.”

Christi James, Erath county’s representative for the cancer society, nominated Reed for Hero of Hope. She said she never dreamed of being selected. James made the announcement at the May 2007 relay when 169 survivors participated. Twenty-eight survivors were selected from Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Hawaii to be spokespersons for cancer patients and educate others on all aspects of surviving. They will serve as public speakers at any event to share their stories.

In August, Reed said she traveled to meet the other 27 survivors from teen aged to those 80 years old. They shared stores and struggles.

“We all know the emotional toll, the true value of life, and believe in what the American Cancer Society is all about,” she said. “They have amazing support.”

One of the its programs is “Look Good, Feel Better.” Reed said that there were skin care classes, free wigs for those who could not buy their own, cosmetic pointers, and anything else for cancer patients to feel better about their appearance in public.

She is known as the colonoscopy queen since she has experienced 13 of them and helps to dismiss fears of others when their time comes.

Her positive attitude and humor have been constant companions.

“God makes you lose your hair because He knows there will be a time during your illness when you don’t want to deal with style,” she said.

It took a year and a half before Reed felt like her old self. “Holidays were measurements of how much better I was feeling since the last one,” she said.

She says she still experiences anxiety just before a checkup. “I was sick when I was diagnosed, but not down, so there is always the fear that perhaps I am not as well as I feel”

She said she is confident that should the illness reoccur that there is treatment. But she dwells on good thoughts, good times. Her checkups are every four months, and she is hoping for every six months after this month’s appointment.

Her advice is to, “Go for checkups. Listen to your body. Eat right and exercise.”

Reed said that with the Hero of Hope publication and through her speaking engagements, she will tell her story to others.

On her dining room wall hangs a collage of pictures, cards, letters, and emails received during her recuperation.

“It reminds me everyday that life is a precious gift from God,” she said. “It reminds my husband and me how strong our marriage is and how lucky we are to be loved by so many people. And it reminds me to remember to live every day to the fullest because lives can change in a split second.”

As a Hero of Hope recipient, personal goals have been set for the 2007-2008 ACS tour. Reed wants to spread the word of ACS to over 5,000 people to ensure that they know what the society has to offer through research, education, advocacy, and services.

“I have already reached over 1,500, so I am well on my way to reaching this goal,” Reed said.

She also wishes to increase the survivor participation in the local Erath county relay by 10%, and she said she believes it can be done.

“God left me here on earth to fulfill a Greater Mission,” Reed said.

Reed has been employed at the First Financial Bank for 10 years and is presently the vice president of loan operations. She is one of the three top nominees for this year’s Business Woman of the Year award.

Additional information regarding the signs of cancer, treatment, and survival can be found at www.AmericanCancerSociety.com or contact the local ACS office.

SHERRY BOARDMAN is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune and can be reached at sherry.boardman@empiretribune.com or (254)968-3124, ext 229.