Prompt surgery gives Barbara Kimmitt continued quality of life

Jay FitzFarragut, Our Town Health

Some hobbies are just for fun or to pass the time. Barbara Kimmitt’s hobby is all that and more. It’s become something of a mission.

Kimmitt, 72, loves fabric, and the scraps she’s collected over the years were starting to pile up in her Farragut home. Now she’s putting them to good use.

“I have started quilting and I’m not very far because I’m a real perfectionist,” she says. If you ask Kimmitt why she didn’t start when she was younger, she’ll give you a very direct answer. “I never thought about dying before I could sew all this stuff up,” Kimmitt says.

Kimmitt came to the emergency department at Parkwest Medical Center one morning in February 2018 with a bowel obstruction. She wasn’t too concerned because it was something her mother had experienced as well. “I thought, OK, well, I’ll have surgery and everything will be hunky-dory,” Kimmitt says.

Instead, Kimmitt was stunned by a further diagnosis that would change everything. Parkwest surgeon Norma Edwards, MD, had some good news and some bad news. I don’t even remember what the good news was,” Kimmitt says. “All I heard was, ‘You have a bowel obstruction. More than likely, it’s cancer and it is not curable.’”

Dr. Edwards, board certified general surgeon, was calm and reassuring. “It’s not a death sentence,” she told her patient. “She had done her routine colonoscopy. She did everything she was supposed to do. She just happened to have the bad luck of having a tumor that grew quickly between her colonoscopies,” said Dr. Edwards.

Kimmitt was old enough to fully understand that life isn’t always fair. Still, it was devastating to hear. “I just about died right there on the spot,” Kimmitt says, “but everything worked out OK.”

Dr. Edwards performed a bowel resection, removing the area where the cancer had developed and reattaching the open ends of the colon. Several weeks later, Kimmitt returned to Parkwest so Dr. Edwards could insert a port for cancer medication. The first medication was chemotherapy.

“Chemotherapy worked for a month or two,” Kimmitt says. Then continued testing began to show that her carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) numbers, a type of tumor marker indicating cancer cell growth, were going up and the chemo wasn’t working the way it should.

After further tests, an oncologist prescribed a cancer medicine that worked with Kimmitt’s immune system to interfere with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

“It’s been like a miracle drug,” Kimmitt says. “My CEA had been up at about 2,400, and normal is considered zero to five. Now I’ve been steady for about six months at 3.4.”

Since then, Kimmitt has relied on Dr. Edwards for both medical treatment and medical advice. “She’s kind of like family to me. I just love her to death,” Kimmitt says. “And I love Parkwest. I don’t think I’d go anywhere else.”

Dr. Edwards accepts the compliment, but says Kimmitt deserves some praise, too. “She’s a very motivated patient and she did everything we asked her to do,” Dr. Edwards says. “It makes a huge difference in post-op care and recovery when patients participate and do the things that we ask them to do. She’s done remarkably well.” More information at Covenant Health News_Barbara Kimmitt-Parkwest

Information provided by marketing department of Covenant Health.

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