At age 37, Kim Grieshop, trauma nurse and mother of two young girls, faced what she says she feared most in life since her teen years – being diagnosed with cancer.
“When I was 17, my mom passed away from cancer…one month before my high school graduation,” Grieshop said. “Cancer has always been my Achilles’ heel. Being diagnosed myself was completely devastating.”
Unusual pain led to an OB/GYN appointment, in which doctors told her there were “no true red flags to worry about,” but they ordered a mammogram to be safe. Her mammogram results then led to an ultrasound and, ultimately, a biopsy.
The results: stage 0 breast cancer – the best-case scenario, Grieshop says. Her next step was meeting with surgeons and determining the course of action and recovery.
With her family history, Grieshop decided to be aggressive and opted for a bilateral mastectomy just weeks after her symptoms first appeared. Only two days after her surgery, when Grieshop thought she was over the hump, she received a call from her doctor. He told her the cancer was invasive in nature and would require chemotherapy.
“That was an extra punch in the gut,” Grieshop recalls. That’s when she selected James Sabiers, M.D., an oncologist with Dayton Physicians Network, for her cancer care.
For Grieshop, the bad news wasn’t over yet. Her tumor biomarkers were HER2+, making her cancer more aggressive in nature, which meant it also would require a year of immunotherapy.
“I’m not going to lie – there were days when I laid in bed and had a pity party for myself,” Grieshop said.
Chemo treatments were every three weeks and lasted four to six hours. While Grieshop feels medical advancements in the treatment of cancer made her symptoms more manageable, it was still a difficult time.
Grieshop relied on her faith; her husband, Joe; and the incredible support from Dayton Physicians Network to carry her through to recovery.
“My faith has really kept me going,” she said. “I’ve always had a relationship with Jesus, but this just intensified it. I don’t necessarily know why things happen all the time, but God has provided me some clarity that, even through the deep, dark valleys, He provides what I need, and He’s been faithful in life.”
As a mom of three- and five-year-old girls, a wife and trauma nurse educator, Grieshop said she had to put herself first, so she could heal and recover.
“My husband took on every role I couldn’t accomplish, and he did it all without saying a word,” Grieshop said. “Cooking, dishes, bathing the kids – he allowed me to be that person who needed to go lay in bed.”
Seeing both sides of care
Grieshop’s career as a nurse was both a blessing and a curse.
“I think it was a blessing I was a nurse, because I felt like I could advocate for myself more than maybe someone who didn’t have the same knowledge,” Grieshop said. “I work with medical colleagues, so I have a network of people I can reach out to.”
Conversely, becoming the patient meant she had to relinquish some of that control. “I had to let my own research go and rely on my doctors. I broke off my relationship with ‘Dr. Google,’” she said. “I’ve had to let go of being the nurse and allow my doctors to take care of me.”
Grieshop worked fulltime through her chemo, and she had a boss who never batted an eye when she said she wasn’t feeling well. “She was okay with my putting work last when I needed to.”
And if Grieshop was ever feeling down or overwhelmed or just plain “not well,” her support team at Dayton Physicians Network was always available. Grieshop felt comfortable calling her oncologist with any question.
“No matter what, I was able to call Dr. Sabiers, and he talked to me,” she said. “That place is just so welcoming when you go in there.”
Grieshop recalled a day when she just wasn’t herself. The DPN receptionist noticed, which allowed Grieshop to be honest about her feelings. That’s when the woman gave her a green angel key chain, which had the birthstone of Grieshop’s mother.
“I just don’t think these things are coincidental,” she said.
Less than a year after being diagnosed, Grieshop is now cancer-free and still going strong.
To learn more about the cancer care options available through Dayton Physicians Network, call 937-293-1622.More Perspectives