March 24, 2021
Colon cancer was not on the mind of 29-year-old Kayla King, a vibrant wife and busy mother focused on caring for her two young boys, enjoying country concerts with her husband, and working full-time. Everything changed when she learned she had stage 4 colon cancer; she was convinced “the doctors had it wrong.” Now, with her strong faith, a wonderful family support system and “amazing” medical team, she sees grace in this experience and realizes, “Everybody has a purpose,” said Kayla. “I know what my purpose is, and I want to share my story to help others.”
Starting in mid-2018, shortly after the birth of her youngest son, Kayla started feeling bloated and wasn’t having regular bowel movements with periods of diarrhea and constipation. With a normal appetite and no weight loss, she assumed she had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or a gluten intolerance, so she adjusted her diet. In August 2019, she saw her primary care physician whose diagnosis was IBS with diarrhea and constipation. The physician ordered lab work which came back normal.
By early February of 2020, “I continued to have bloating and cramping,” said Kayla. “After passing blood every time I went to the bathroom for about four weeks, my husband, Lance, convinced me to see a gastroenterologist.”
At the end of February 2020, Kayla saw Dr. Christopher South, a gastroenterologist who performed a colonoscopy on March 13. “When I woke up after the colonoscopy, Dr. South delivered the news,” said Kayla. “He saw a tumor in my colon and thought it looked like stage 2 or 3 cancer. He ordered follow-up labs and CAT scans which confirmed the cancer. It was stage 4 colon cancer, and it was in my lymph nodes and liver.”
“I was in a whirlwind when they gave me the news, shocked to be diagnosed with cancer at such a young age. I thought they had the wrong scans.”
Dr. South referred Kayla immediately to OHC’s Patrick J. Ward, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist and hematologist who specializes in solid tumors, breast cancer, and cancer research. “From the beginning, my entire team at OHC was amazing,” said Kayla. “Dr. Ward had a set plan and explained to me what was going to happen. I knew what to expect. He was the conductor of our train.”
“It’s important that our patients understand that our entire cancer care team is with them every step of the way to offer guidance and support,” said Dr. Ward. “We are there to reassure and comfort them when they are scared and overwhelmed.”
“I will never forget what Monica, my nurse navigator at OHC, told me when she outlined my treatment plan. She said, ‘We got you. We’ll get you through. We’re going to do this together.’ First impressions mean a lot to me.”
Kayla was to undergo five chemotherapy treatments prior to surgery. “I can’t say enough about the nurses in the treatment suite at the Blue Ash office,” Kayla said with a tear in her eye. “They always made sure I had what I needed, and they remembered what I shared about my family, days, even weeks prior. Lance couldn’t be with me during my treatments because of COVID, so my nurses were my biggest cheerleaders.”
On July 8, Kayla endured a seven-hour surgery to remove her cancer. Dr. Cory D. Barrat and Dr. Shyam Allamaneni completed a robotic assisted sigmoid colectomy to remove a portion of her colon, a liver resection, and removal of 21 lymph nodes. OHC’s gynecologic oncologist, Dr. Ajit Gubbi, also assisted and performed a hysterectomy. The tumor was pressing on both her liver and uterus.
“When I woke up, they told me it looked like they got all of my cancer.”
After surgery, Kayla would have seven more chemotherapy treatments. “It was important to me that things remain as normal as possible for my boys,” noted Kayla, whose sons Brantley and Easton are now five and two-and-a-half. “My mom gave me a lot of support—watching the kids, driving me to appointments, cleaning the house, and buying food.” Brantley, only four at the time, wanted to take care of his mom. He brought her drinks and frequently asked what she needed. “I told him all I wanted was snuggles,” said Kayla.
On October 28, Kayla received her last chemotherapy treatment. In sharing her story, Kayla reported that her most recent scans showed no sign of cancer.
“I cannot say enough good things about the entire staff at OHC. Everyone in the office knew my name and even the front desk staff made sure I had everything I needed,” recalled Kayla. “Dr. Ward was committed to conquering this disease with me. I called them my team.”
Kayla also took Dr. Ward’s recommendation to participate in OHC’s Genetic Risk Evaluation & Testing (GREAT) program. Given Kayla’s age and family history, Kayla’s grandmother had colon and liver cancer and her grandfather had liver cancer, she knew it was imperative. There was a possibility that they passed a genetic mutation (change) on to Kayla. Kayla’s genetic testing did not identify any mutations.
Kayla, who returned to work over six months ago, is finally beginning to feel like herself. Her goal in 2020 was to run a marathon, but life had other plans. She hopes to run that marathon this year while focusing on her family and health.
Although it’s been a challenging journey, Kayla has discovered her purpose. She wants to empower others to be self-advocates. Kayla advises, “Listen to your body, don’t delay in seeking help. Make sure your doctors listen to you and tell them every symptom you have.” A sense of peace and a radiant glow emanate from Kayla as she adds, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything and always remain positive.”
With prevention and screenings, you can reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer, including colon cancer. To learn more about colon cancer symptoms and cancer screening guidelines, or for a second opinion, visit ohcare.com or call 1-888-649-4800.Comments (0)