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Don’t ignore symptoms

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Kim Greer has a tattoo on her right wrist that features a cancer ribbon circling an anchor and the words, “I will not sink.”

Greer, 50, was diagnosed with anal cancer in March 2018 and endured a grueling eight-week regimen of radiation and chemotherapy to treat it. Her care team included Dr. William Decker and Dr. Matt Triplett and nurses and staff in the Susan O’Brien Fischer Cancer Center at Bothwell Regional Health Center.

“I had 30 sessions of radiation for six weeks and two weeks of chemotherapy,” Greer said. “Radiation was five days a week in the mornings, and on weeks two and six, I carried a chemo bag that transfused the medicine into a port.” 

Greer said she ignored symptoms that started in December 2017 before finally having a colonoscopy in March 2018.

“I started having blood in my stool,” she said. “I have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and my mom has Crohn’s disease and colitis, so I thought that was the problem. Honestly, I was in denial and didn’t want to think I could have the same diagnosis as my mom. I never once thought it could be cancer.” 

She got the call that “it’s cancer” at work. She told her husband, Tracy, but stayed at work and let him tell their three daughters, Jessica, 30, Jacqueline, 26, and Olivia, 22.

“There were lots of tears when I got home,” Greer said. “But they all told me they were going to go through it with me, and they did. My two younger daughters were still at home at the time and they and my husband helped me so much. I would not have made it through without my family.”

Greer said the Bothwell cancer team also became like family.

“They were excellent,” she said. “I could not have asked for better doctors and nurses. They were nothing but great to me and my husband, who was with me at my treatments.”

In August 2018, Greer received the good news she was cancer-free and now tells people to not ignore their bodies’ signals. 

“The first thing I would tell everybody is don’t wait, don’t ever wait,” she said. “If you have issues going on, get them checked out, don’t be like me. My outcome wasn’t good, but it could have been so much worse if I’d waited any longer.”

As for her tattoo? Greer said it serves as an everyday reminder of her struggle with cancer and overcoming it. 

“When it came down to it, I wasn’t going to let it beat me.”

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