Kristion Kim just wants to sleep in his own bed again, but it will be awhile before that is a reality again, considering he’s still recovering from having a massive tumor removed from his stomach. Last year, Kristion was just enjoying his life as a teen living in Tigard, playing football at Tualatin High School, hanging out with his friends, eating whatever he wanted. In the middle of the summer, something started to change. He wasn’t keeping food down as easily, he was losing weight rapidly, going to the bathroom became more of a chore than a relief.
Initially doctors thought this was an eating disorder and even sent Kristion to psychiatric specialists because they thought it was all in his head. That’s when his mom stepped in. Staci Kim, mother of nine, along with three more grandkids at home, refused to accept that this was all in his head.
“I told them to keep testing. If they weren’t going to run the tests, I would have gone to their superior and demanded another doctor check my son out. I KNEW something was wrong. I just knew.” Staci said.
What Staci didn’t know was that there was a 24.7 pound monster growing inside of her 15-year-old son. After several tests and a biopsy, the doctors revealed Kristion was dealing with an extremely rare form of cancer called liposarcoma. This nearly 25 pound monster turned out to be a tumor in his stomach.
Doctors immediately scheduled the surgery and initially labeled the surgery a huge success, the tumor seemed to have been removed successfully and doctors told the Kim family the tumor was unattached to any vital organs, a rarity of its kind. However, when complications started arising, the doctors kept testing and found that the cancer had been attached to the pancreas, colon, and stomach, absorbing all of Kristion’s nutrients–to the point where he lost 40 pounds in a manner of months.
Since the surgery, complications continue and Kristion and his family are still partially living out of his hospital room. Kristion living there full-time, while different siblings or his mom stay in the room with him. There is no expected release date and the family is hesitant to believe any estimates given due to false hopes in the past. Kristion stays positive and keeps his head up, though. “Don’t look behind you. What’s happened has happened. All you can do is keep moving forward.”
“What he said” Staci Kim chimes in, echoing her son’s sentiments.
The community response has been overwhelming. Before they even discovered the cancer, Staci Kim set up a prayer page through Facebook (facebook.com/groups/2133031880076510), for people to offer their support and prayer. “I really believe in the power of prayer. I don’t care who you believe in, whether it’s Buddha, Allah, or even positive energy. We’ll take whatever you’ve got” Staci says. Before the surgery, a prayer vigil was organized at King City Park and members of the Tualatin, Tigard, and King City communities all came out in support of Kristion. Family members from Kim’s rival teams made shirts in his honor, Reynolds high sent over an autographed football, the city of Tigard paved Kim’s street to make it less bumpy for Kristion during his recovery, and over 1,500 people have Joined the prayer page started by Kristion’s mother.
The fight isn’t over, though. “Bills don’t stop when you have cancer. They don’t stop when you beat cancer. Everything is happening all around us while we’re stuck in this place.” The family is struggling to find a balance between finding work and ensuring the kids get taken care of, including Staci’s two-month old son, born in the midst of all the medical chaos.
For the Kims, they’re barely halfway through this battle. Kristion is still hooked up to feeding tubes while the bills pile higher every day. While the support from the community has been more than anyone expected, they still need help to get through all of the expenses that have piled up from the hospitalization as well as everything that’s accumulated surrounding the past 9 months.
For anyone who ever finds themselves ignored by doctors, like the Kim family was at first, Staci has a singular message: “Whoever that person is that needs help, if they aren’t being listened to, be their advocate. Speak up. Make sure that you get the help you need.”
Nobody knows what would have happened if the doctors had caught this a lot sooner, but if Staci Kim hasn’t advocated so hard for her son, they wouldn’t have figured out what was wrong and nobody wants to imagine what would’ve happened if it got worse: Right now, everyone is just happy to know Kristion is cancer free and will be sleeping in his own bed soon enough.
A GoFundMe page has been established at gofundme.com/15-year-old-warrior and friends and community members are planning future fundraisers to help the family. You can also reach out to the family directly by contacting Staci Kim at [email protected].