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Cancer survivor warns: It's not just ‘an old person’s disease’
Local woman to raise awareness of colon cancer threat with Times Square ad
After being misdiagnosed with parasites and then E. coli, Kim Houston went to a gastroenterologist who found out she had colorectal cancer. Today, she is cancer free and is a staunch advocate for colorectal cancer awareness. - photo by Scott Rogers
Fight Colorectal Cancer

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When Kim Houston wasn’t feeling well, she didn’t think there was much of a problem. She was an event planner for Marriott International, so she thought she was just exhausted.

She didn’t really feel too bad at first, but as some of her symptoms continued, she knew something had to be wrong.

“I didn’t even know I was ill,” said Houston, a Braselton resident. “I just thought I was coming down with a cold.”

But after being misdiagnosed with parasites, and then E. coli, she went to a gastroenterologist who performed a colonoscopy. At age 45, on May 29, 2013, Houston found out she had colorectal cancer.

She’s cancer free now, and is a staunch advocate for colorectal cancer awareness. During March, which is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, she will be part of an advertisement in Times Square in New York aiming to provide more knowledge about the disease.

“We’re bringing our story to the public,” Houston said. “To put a real, live voice and facts of what we went through and what we are going through.”

Houston said mothers, including herself, always “put themselves on the back burner” and are constantly taking care of others. So she wants to make sure other women know it’s OK to slow down and make sure they’re healthy.

“If I’m not 100 percent, how can I help out someone else or take care of someone else?” Houston said.

She originally went to her internist after having “elimination issues,” but her internist couldn’t find anything wrong. She put Houston on antibiotics for 10 days, hoping things would clear up.

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But they didn’t. Houston said she felt a little better, but the original problems continued. Finally, a co-worker suggested she visit a gastroenterologist and that’s when everything started to make sense.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I envision this doctor coming into my room to tell me that he was 99.9 percent sure I had a tumor, and it was cancerous,” Houston said. “But once he said that, I couldn’t hear anything.”

Five days later, she was in surgery to have the tumor removed. After a full hysterectomy, which doctors had to do because of the location of the tumor, and removal of the tumor, Houston was sent home to recover for 12 weeks and begin six months of chemotherapy.

“Such limited information was available to me as a colon cancer victim, if you will,” Houston said. “I knew nothing about colon cancer. The only thing I knew about it was at age 50 I had to get a colonoscopy because that’s what doctors recommend. And it was an old person’s disease.”

She started researching, which is when she found Fight Colorectal Cancer, an organization that aims to bring awareness to colorectal cancer and supports research and education.

That’s where Houston learned a lot about what she knows about colorectal cancer now. But she said she wished she had known it earlier, and she’s worried more young people are in the same situation she was when she was diagnosed. And that’s why she has become so involved with Fight Colorectal Cancer.

“I got mad as hell and wondered why I didn’t know this,” Houston said. “I wondered why the medical community wasn’t talking about this for young adults.”

To make a difference and get people talking about colorectal cancer, she applied to be an ambassador for Fight Colorectal Cancer.

She was selected for 2018 and the advertisement she and the other 24 ambassadors will be a part of will rotate on the Nasdaq board in Times Square throughout March as part of the organization’s “One Million Strong” campaign.

“Wherever and whenever we can get out there in front of anyone who will listen,” Houston said. “Just to hear the stories, to hear the message, to encourage people to donate and to have those conversations.”

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