January 2007

Jim & Kim’s Colondar Bio

January 2007 – Enjoy the Little Things

Jim Farmer | Franklin, TN | Diagnosed at 38 | Survivor since 2002
Kim Gimpel | Montgomery, TX | Diagnosed at 28 | Survivor since 2005

Kim Gimpel and Jim Farmer were occupied with their hectic lives when a serious disease slowed them down and reminded them to take time for themselves.
Kim spent several months going to doctors and had multiple tests before finally being diagnosed with stage II colon cancer. She learned to juggle her family while dealing with exhaustion and other difficult side effects of surgery and chemotherapy. Kim kept herself going by working out regularly and remembering that many others go through much worse things in life.

Jim was a professional athlete, having played four seasons in the NBA. Years later, while playing in exhibition games and launching a country music career, he became overwhelmed with fatigue. He went for tests and was quickly diagnosed with anemia and stage III colon cancer. Jim’s chemotherapy was so exhausting that it forced him to relax and take more time for himself.

Although Jim and Kim have many obligations in their lives, they still try to enjoy the little things each and every day.

Kim’s Story as told by Kim:

Growing up, going way back to the beginning, I’ve always been irregular as far as going to the bathroom. Looking back I don’t know if that has anything to do with the cancer or not. It took me about three months to get diagnosed – they told me at the beginning of January, so it was October, November and December.

My son Dylan had just turned one when I was diagnosed. When I was pregnant with him, he was pretty big and in the end when he could move around I would tell everyone I know you think I’m crazy but he is stepping on something. I don’t know if there was something there or not. I went to the doctor and said “There is something there.” He did an ultrasound but he said, “Well, there’s nothing there.” When Dylan moved, the pain was so bad that I would almost go to my knees.

In October of 2004, I started experiencing a lot of pain in my abdominal area, but I played it out for a few days thinking it was nothing serious. I have a friend who’s a nurse and she said to take a stool softener. I felt like I needed to go, but when I tried it was really painful. That was over the weekend and by Sunday night I knew in the back of my head that there had to be something more serious wrong. I went to the emergency room and sat there for eight hours. When they started passing me up, when they took three or four other people first, I thought that it obviously wasn’t serious enough and so I went home.

The Friday before I had tried to get in to see my doctor and the receptionist didn’t even put me through to the nurse.  She said, “Oh.  Well, he’s busy.” So, Monday, I called and said, “I don’t care if he’s busy. I’ve got to see him.” I got in and he sent me down for a CT and said I had an infection. He gave me antibiotics and sent me to a surgeon who said it was probably diverticulitis and that I needed another scan in two weeks. I didn’t understand everything, but the surgeon said that it couldn’t be diverticulitis and sent me to another doctor for a colonoscopy. I drank a whole gallon of the prep but it didn’t work. I went in for the colonoscopy and said, “I don’t think it’s going to work.  I’ve never had a colonoscopy before but I don’t think you can do it,” and they couldn’t. The prep hadn’t worked at all.

So I went home and the next day I tried the prep again and it worked a little. So she went in anyway.  She got in enough to notice that there was a blockage and she took a piece and did a biopsy. It came back cancerous and she said, “There is no way.  You’re too young.”

This was over Christmas of 2004, and my doctor was awesome.  She called me every day to see how I was doing and she kept on top of my case. At first she said, “Maybe it’s Crohn’s disease.” She was waiting on results, but meanwhile she put me on medication, so I got on the medicine for a few days. She just didn’t believe it could be cancer because I was so young.
The doctor was not satisfied and so she wanted a bigger piece to biopsy. I did a barium enema and I said, “If you ever ask me to do that again, I will run!” So then they went in and did a sigmoidoscopy and got a bigger piece and it was definitely cancer. They went in to do surgery and the surgeon said, “I’m not sure what we’re facing, so let’s not do laparoscopic. I’m opening you all the way up because I want to see everything.” Sure enough, it had perforated and attached to my rectum and vagina, so they took a lot of that out as well as a foot of my colon. I was kind of worried about having part of my vagina taken out. I had to go two months without sex, and I’m not a sex fiend so I won’t die without it, but my poor husband. It’s not that big of a deal, but I was worried at first. But nothing feels different.  Sex does not feel different.

After surgery I went to the oncologist for my chemo. I had been very concerned about taking care of my kids while I was on chemo, so I was worried. I would go in for my treatment all day on Monday and they would send me home with a bag for 48 hrs. They gave me two or three different drugs on Monday.  Then I went home with the bag. My first treatment went really well and I thought, “Okay, wow.  This isn’t going to be too bad.”  Then my next treatment didn’t go so well. So many people said, “I can’t believe you do all that you do,” and I said, “Well, what would you do?” With kids, you can’t slow down, so I just made the best of it and kept going.

The norm, I guess you could say, is that I would have no energy, and I experienced a lot of really weird things on chemo. I had nose bleeds and my oncologist gave me stuff for that. Every morning I would wake up and my nose would just start bleeding. My oncologist has been practicing a long time and I was a lot of firsts for him. I would get this crazy feeling in my body, my fingers and toes.  I couldn’t touch anything cold, and I still don’t have full feeling in my toes. Things tasted different.  I think that’s normal too, from talking to people at treatment. I lost a lot of hair but I didn’t lose all my hair.  I was very nervous about that.

It got to the point where I didn’t even want to tell my husband. He was very, very supportive, but you just get to the point where you feel like all you do is complain. I did twelve rounds of chemo and that was it. Of course I’m still doing checkups, getting PET scans and crossing my fingers, hoping nothing else comes up.

I’ve not even met one other person who’s been diagnosed, and that’s been hard. Where I live, there’s nobody else around. My gastroenterologist told me about The Colon Club website.  She was so funny. Someone in her office found the website and ordered a Colondar and she told the doctor. She remembered me and she told my doctor, “Look at this. Don’t you have a young girl?” When I went in she said that I had to sign up for the Colondar – that I would be perfect for it. At the time I just thought there’s no way I could go through anything like that.

As months went on and things got better, I thought, “You know what?  That would be really cool.”  I finally logged on to The Colon Club website and started reading the stories and meeting people and I thought it was too cool. I really enjoyed reading the stories.  It made me feel better. What I went through was not wonderful, but there are so many people around my age that have gone through so much more. Not that I’ve ever sat around and felt sorry for myself, but everyone thinks, “Why me?” Then I thought if I really did get in the Colondar, I could go and sit down and talk to people who have the same problems I have, and just talking to other people about what I’ve gone through would be really nice.

Jim’s Story as told by Jim:

I was getting ready to go on tour to play basketball at some small colleges and I was putting together a team with Mark Miller, the lead singer for Sawyer Brown. I hadn’t had a physical in about 10 years since my last year in the NBA, so I figured I’d better get a physical and get in shape. The physical showed that I was anemic, and the doctor didn’t know what was wrong so I went in for some tests to try to figure out why.

The tests didn’t really show anything, but a few days later I woke up and I had a really bad stomachache. I felt like I had a stomach virus, so I went to the doctor for that – they ran a bunch of tests again, but still couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I got to where I was feeling better, so I went ahead and played in about five of the college games that we had been planning. The only symptoms I had were feeling drained and tired, but I was doing the same thing at 38 that I had been doing at 20, so I just figured that I was getting old.

Finally, in one game I just couldn’t get my breath. I couldn’t get up and down the floor. As a last-ditch effort, the doctors said “Why don’t we just do a colonoscopy.” That’s when they found a two-inch tumor. The colonoscopy was on a Thursday or Friday, and we scheduled surgery for Monday. They cut out the tumor, 12” of my colon and 23 lymph nodes. Four of the lymph nodes were affected; the four that were closest to the tumor itself were cancerous.

I started chemo a few weeks after surgery and went through six months of it. It was 2002, so I just did 5FU and Leucovorin. I always tell people I’ve broken just about every bone in my body and been stitched up all over, but I would rather do that all over than do chemo again. It wracked me up; I lay in bed three weeks out of every month. I just didn’t even want to speak.

I had been singing since high school, but didn’t really get serious until after I left the NBA and moved to Nashville. I had just released my album and sang live on ESPN when I was diagnosed. I had a deal with Blockbuster and was in the process of doing a record deal with an independent label. I had been offered a deal by Mercury but nothing had been signed or anything. We were going back and forth with them, but also started looking at the independent people. When I got sick that shut down everything that I was doing with my music.

At the time I didn’t really know what I was doing and what effect it would have on me. I don’t necessarily have regret, but the cancer took the wind out of my sails musically. Especially with my music, I figured maybe this isn’t what God wants me to do, or maybe just not right now. I still struggle with it because I had worked so hard to get to that point. I don’t let it bother me too much. Maybe it wasn’t the right time, maybe it wasn’t what God had for me to do, moving from basketball to music.

I felt like maybe God was using me to make young, healthy people aware that you don’t have to be some 50 year-old, fat, old woman or man to get diagnosed. At the time I certainly never thought that a 38 year-old could get it. I thought of it as an old person’s disease and I never discussed it with anybody or really even thought about it.
Now, people who know me say, “Wow, if he had colon cancer then I’m going to get checked.” I played in the NBA, I was only 38, I had 3-4% body fat, I was doing modeling and singing, I was working out and I was playing basketball. I’m the picture of health; I’m active and in great shape, and other than being tired sometimes I was feeling pretty good. But even with all of those things in my life, I got colon cancer and I feel like I got it to make young people aware.

Now I’m healthy, but I don’t know if I have the energy to pick that back up right now or not. I don’t know why, if it’s the cancer, my age, or I just lost the desire. If something came along, maybe I would. I think if I’m going to pick my music back up – either something will come along, or maybe I will decide to pursue it. The coaching thing might work out or maybe I’ll be doing something else. I enjoy working with younger players who need my help and need to be taught certain things, whether it’s life or basketball. Maybe that’s why I got cancer, maybe I’m supposed to be working with kids. I’m still at the point where I don’t know what God wants for me to do after this. Right now I’m trying to get a job scouting for an NBA team and I still have opportunities to coach and to do my music, but I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of that that.
When you work so hard to get somewhere and it’s taken away from you by something you can’t help, you know it’s meant to be and you have to move on. I’ve never been a person who looks back on my life and says, “Well, why didn’t I do that?” I give 110% to whatever I’m doing. I don’t feel like I quit on music; something happened I couldn’t control. So, I’ll either pick that back up and give 110%, or I’ll give that energy to something else. The past doesn’t upset me because I look and say maybe that’s not what I’m supposed to do.

There are some things that bothered me later on about cancer. I feel like it has aged me, physically and mentally, and that’s good and bad. I have a big scar that I don’t like. One of the things that bothered me, when I would first tell people who didn’t know, or if I met a girl and told her, it was like I had the plague or something. I think because of people’s lack of knowledge, and mine, about what colon cancer is and what’s involved, it’s almost like it was an embarrassment to even talk about it. “Oh you’ve got colon cancer? Bye.” It’s like you have some huge problem, which obviously it is, but once I was past it I figured I’m past it and I’m moving on with life. I’ve just got a scar on my stomach. So the lack of knowledge is an odd thing; it was odd for me for a little while but I got over it. That was weird, how people I didn’t know reacted.

The people I know were great – everyone in my life was shocked, but they all were there for me. When I woke up from surgery, the Alabama coach was there, Mark Miller was there. I have two older sisters and my mom – all of my family was there. I woke up to guys who are wonderful friends and family, everybody was there for me. My dad wasn’t around to go through this which was probably good because it probably would have killed him. My mom left Alabama and moved to be with me through chemo. My sisters were in and out, and my friends and family have always been behind me. I’ve been fortunate to have had them behind me in anything that I’ve done and this was no different.

Everyone around me was scared, but I believe that everything happens for a reason. I think getting colon cancer didn’t even faze me. I’ve had to jump through hoops my whole life; I was never supposed to be able to do things I’ve done. Starting from way back, I just used that to prove people wrong. I would say, “Don’t tell me not to do something because then I will turn around and do it.” I look at this the same way, it’s another thing I’ve got to whip in life, and that’s how I’ve always lived my life.