Imagine having Stage IV bile duct cancer and being the healthy one in your home.
That’s the position in which Kimberly Bell of Enola finds herself.
After seven months of telling her doctors about stomach pain and being unable to rest comfortably at night, Kim was diagnosed with cancer in July.
“It’s scary, very scary,” Kim, 52, said of her diagnosis.
But things were about to get worse. In October, her husband James, 56, unable to withstand pain from what he thought were allergies, drove himself to the emergency room in the middle of the night. By morning, he had been diagnosed with cancer of the larynx.
While he had been taking care of her, things quickly reversed.
He can’t swallow, he can’t talk and gets nourishment from a feeding tube. He has undergone radiation and chemotherapy, and his weight has plummeted from 180 to 124.
“So he’s worse than me,” Kim said, noting that his cancer is considered curable while hers is not.
But she is optimistic. She is undergoing chemotherapy, has just started on hemp oil and has been approved for medical marijuana.
People tell her she doesn’t look sick, and she’s determined to keep caring for her husband and their home as long as she can.
She arises every morning, showers, attends to her hair and makeup and tackles the tasks of the day, although she notes she needs frequent breaks to rest.
Fatigue is one of the side effect of her chemotherapy, along with numbness in her fingers and toes, mouth sores and the horrible taste that never seems to go away.
“But I’m not letting it hold me down,” she said. “I go to the store and I go shopping, but I’m in a lot of pain.”
Kim has one important secret weapon in her arsenal, a year-old grandson she calls “the love of my life.”
He is, she said, a big reason why she continues to fight as hard as she does.
The Bells spent most of their lives in Marysville and are surrounded by what she describes as a “huge, supportive family” that includes two sons, who are 32 and 30.
Due to their illnesses, neither of the Bells is able to work. They have found some financial relief from the Marysville Moose, which holds fundraisers on their behalf, and Vicki’s Angels, which has paid their rent and car payment.
Without that help, Kim said, “we would be in big trouble.”
The kindness and love expressed by the volunteers at Vicki’s Angels are a source of joy for Kim.
“They’re wonderful,” she said.
Despite what life has dumped on the Bells’ doorstep, Kim said she tries to laugh and remain busy.
“What am I supposed to do? I have to keep moving on,” she said. “There’s days that disappoint me, but I just smile and get through it.”
-written by Nancy Eshelman