Working Together to Beat Cancer
I didn’t know anybody at Hoag; I just knew it’s where I needed to be
Kim York wasn’t supposed to end up at Hoag, but after doctors at
another hospital found a large cancerous mass in her rectum, she didn’t
want to be treated anywhere else.
“I didn’t know anybody at Hoag; I just knew it’s where
I needed to be,” the 56-year-old said.
Although challenges with her insurance prevented York from at first making
the transition, she kept fighting and eventually the stars aligned, bringing
her to what she calls “The A Team” – a group of Hoag
surgeons, oncologists and nurses who energetically took on her case.
“The support system is amazing,” York said. “I just feel
like I’m surrounded with beautiful people full of hope and encouragement.”
When York met Hoag colorectal surgeon Babak Rad, M.D., she said there was
an instant connection.
“He was probably the most real doctor I have met,” she said.
“He held my hand and was very compassionate. He said, ‘I’m
going to get you through this.’”
But York had a tough road ahead.
The cancer had metastasized to her liver and she would need four surgeries
over 14 months to remove it, along with aggressive chemotherapy treatment.
She remembers committing to getting up every day, putting on her makeup
and getting dressed – a routine she believed would mentally help
her take on each day.
“My family knew that if they didn’t see that happen, it was
a bad day,” she said.
What her family didn’t know was that on the bad days, even the really
awful ones, York got up and got dressed anyway.
“You just do what you have to do,” said York, who has been
married 32 years and has two daughters, ages 24 and 28.
With that mantra in mind, York told her doctors to do what they needed
to do to help her successfully fight cancer.
That is where Hoag’s multidisciplinary approach and highly skilled
experts came in.
“As specialists, treating colorectal cancer is our primary focus,”
said Dr. Rad, program director of Hoag’s Colorectal Cancer Program.
“Hoag has a comprehensive program that consists of a multidisciplinary
group of physicians who are committed to working together to provide the
best possible outcome for our patients.”
This approach is why York believes she is still here today.
“Dr. Rad saved my life,” she said. “He’s a genuine
man and a gifted surgeon. And the nurses and doctors at Hoag Family Cancer
Institute are some of the finest people I’ve ever met in my life.”
York has been cancer-free for nearly two years, but she is still going
through maintenance chemotherapy to keep the disease at bay – a
decision she left to fate.
“I flipped a coin to decide whether we were going to continue being
aggressive with my treatment,” York said. “I’m doing
everything possible to keep it away. I didn’t want my kids to think
I could’ve, would’ve or should’ve done more.”
Much has changed since York was diagnosed in February 2014 but she wouldn’t
trade her experience – even the most difficult parts.
“The last two years have been the hardest of my life but they have
also been the most rewarding,” she said. “It’s been
a beautiful experience and I am grateful.”
A woman who once shied away from birthdays, York now looks forward to each
celebration – every passing year a testament to her will to fight.
“I used to be worried about a new wrinkle on my face or how my body
changed,” she said. “With every birthday, people better be
showing up with cards and cake because they mean something now.”
Her experience also has inspired York to mentor others embarking on a similar
journey – she now volunteers at the Hoag Family Cancer Institute.
“I’ve just held their hands and listened to their stories,”
she said. “To help them has been a fabulous thing. I’ve gotten
so much from Hoag, I just wanted to give back.”
Hoag’s Colorectal Cancer Program comprises a team of highly skilled
surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, endoscopic gastroenterologists and
nurse navigators trained to provide optimal treatment plans for each patient.
“Hoag is an institution that takes great pride in providing our patients
with the best possible care,” Dr. Rad said. “Not only do our
patients have access to highly skilled and compassionate physicians, they
also receive a lot of support through a dedicated nurse navigator and
extensive support services.”
Part of a comprehensive plan also includes encouraging patients to know
their risk factors and get routine screenings.
Patients without a family history of colorectal cancer should get screened
every 10 years starting at age 50. Those with a family history of colorectal
cancer need to be screened at an earlier age and on more frequent intervals.
“Everyone needs to be screened,” Dr. Rad said. “Screening
is a very important part of preventing colorectal cancer and that’s
the goal: we want to prevent it.”
For more information, call 888-556-8364.