Looking Out for Future Survivors
- Lifestyle radio host and beautician Kimba Barry was only 28 years old when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer, also known as colon cancer.
- For an entire year in 2019, the Australian native suffered from nausea and embarrassing diarrhea. When she started struggling to keep food down and eventually lost her appetite completely, it finally prompted her to go to the emergency room.
- Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel, but generally we use the term colorectal cancer —or colon cancer or rectal cancer depending on the location—in the United States.
- Overall, many patients have a hard time discussing symptoms with their stool and bowel movements, but it is crucial that we get over that and put our health first. It can save your life. After all, getting over your embarrassment can save your life.
Unfortunately, the devastating news did not stop there as she continued to received blow after blow—but ultimately, and incredibly, Kimba beat the advanced disease after highly intense treatment and surgery.Read More
To make matters worse, doctors found what they called a secondary rare cancer in her abdomen tissue (peritoneal cancer), which now classified Kimba’s bowel cancer as stage 4.
Although the former beautician is very young to have received this highly difficult diagnosis, it’s important to note that her grandfather had battled the same disease … except in his 60s, and her mother has had cervical cancer. (It is crucial for you to know your family medical history and always relay it to your health practitioner.)
“Doctors believe I had the same gene as my mum’s cervical cancer but my body mutated it, and it only needs a slight mutation for it to develop into bowel cancer,” she told the FEMAIL health vertical of Daily Mail Australia.
“I had cold sores that scarred all over the top of my lip, down the side and up into my nose cavity—and I never had any before in my life,” Kimba recalled of her frightening health experience.
Fortunately, Kimberly’s mother is an ER nurse, and urged her to go get medical care. However, doctors initially brushed her symptoms off as anxiety, and when Kimba asked for a scan of the area bothering her, she was rejected.
Finally, Kimba was cleared for a gastroscopy, a procedure which allows doctors to see inside the stomach. By this point, her symptoms had worsened considerably.
“I had rapid weight loss, dark blood in stools, bleeding and have bowel movements five or six times a day,” she shared, adding that sometimes those bowel movements were “like jelly,” which finally caught the attention of her medical team. Results came back showing a 6cm cancerous tumor in her colon.
“That same day I had an opening show for a stage production I was in, so I had to go on stage and pretend like my life wasn’t completely falling apart,” she said.
Even though the diagnosis process was highly stressful, Kimba was “relieved” knowing she would be getting the cancer taken out of her. The following month, she underwent a four-hour surgery where surgeons removed 32cm of her bowel, along with several lymph nodes.
Kimba’s Stage 4 Bowel Cancer Diagnosis
While she was under, her medical team “investigated” Kimba’s endometriosis, which is where tissue grows outside of your uterus.
That extra care and precaution is what saved her life, as they found a secondary cancer of the peritoneum, which lined the thin tissue of her abdomen. They then wound up taking out 36 lymph nodes—eight of them were showing cancer.
“The oncologist then came in and said: ‘I’m really sorry but we’ve elevated this to a stage four cancer.'” Kimba said of the earth-shattering news.
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“It was the chemo that scared the shit out of me more than anything, because you hear people talk about how awful it is.” And beginning four weeks after her surgery, she would need six months of it.
“I think my saving grace through it all was my medical team,” Kimba expressed. “I pretty much handed my life to them, I didn’t sway from their advice and just lived my life as best I could.”
A Grueling Second Surgery
Once Kimba got through the grueling six months of chemo, Kimba and her surgeons determined that the best thing for her physical and mental health was to remove as many areas with potential cancerous cells, opposed to “waiting” for the cancer to come back. They did just that during the 11-hour peritonectomy procedure, which is a surgery to remove the lining of the abdominal cavity.
Kimba’s intestines, bladder, and stomach were “pulled out” so they could get to the area they needed. Kimba said that her “removed anything she could live without, including her reproductive system, cervix, gallbladder and appendix.”
Kimba, now 31, is on hormone replacement medication and feeling exceptionally grateful for her life with her hubby, Ryan Barry.
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She gets scanned every six months, and so far, so good! No news is good news, as they say in the “cancer world.” Her last scan was in May and everything is still looking good.
Kimba has since dropped out of college to focus full-time on her career and health, in addition to helping others advocate for their own health. The incredibly brave survivor hosts a lifestyle radio show called Evenings With Em & Kimba and also enjoys doing tarot card readings.
Frequently stressing how important second opinions are, Kimba also urges people to listen to their body. If you feel something is off, most likely it is. Remaining hopeful is always essential, but a bit of caution will always prevail.
What Is Bowel Cancer?
Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel, but generally we use the term colorectal cancer —or colon cancer or rectal cancer depending on the location—in the United States.
Bowel cancer, like all cancers, presents its own unique challenges for patients on the road to recovery. But Dr. Heather Yeo, a surgical oncologist and colorectal surgeon at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, wants to remind people how far the treatment of this disease has come.
“One of the most exciting things about my job is that we’ve made a lot of progress on treatment options,” Dr. Yeo says in a previous interview with SurvivorNet. “However, patients are still — while they’re living longer, they are still living with colon cancer, and so I think it’s really important that we talk about how some of the things in your life affect you.”
Dr. Yeo also reminds people of the importance of colorectal screenings such as colonoscopies because most colorectal cancers can be prevented early with screening.
“In the United States, on a national level, colorectal cancer has been decreasing for the last 20 years,” Dr. Yeo says. “And much of that is thought to be directly due to screening for colon cancer.”
Symptoms of Bowel Cancer (Colorectal Cancer)
Colorectal cancer might not immediately cause symptoms, but these are possible symptoms to look out for:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss