Thrive by IU Health

August 16, 2023

She’s served and been served by IU Health and finds cheer in every little act of kindness

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

She’s served and been served by IU Health and finds cheer in every little act of kindness

Kim Weist is the Gift Shop Project Coordinator for Riley Cheer Guild. She’s also a cancer survivor who looks for the best in every situation.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

Kim Weist says the best part of her story is this: Her manager promoted her when she was sick at home with cancer. But her story extends beyond the boundaries of her diagnosis.

Consider this: For more than a decade Weist performed a humorous skit about Victorian undergarments; she and her husband of 35 years, Mike Weist, once packed up and moved to the East Coast on a whim; she received a degree in fashion merchandising and marketing from Ball State University, learned to sew and pursued a career as a seamstress while raising a young son; and she repurposes gently used wedding dresses into gowns for “angel babies.”

“As I look at all the physical and emotional issues that have happened throughout my life I have always been able to pull through, using humor about my situation to get me to the other side,” said Weist, 60.

At IU Health, Weist serves as the gift shop project coordinator for the Riley Cheer Guild supporting seven gifts shops at IU Health University and Methodist Hospitals, IU Health North, and Riley Hospital for Children.

“I love my job because I love seeing all the people and the proceeds go back to the Riley kids,” said Weist. It was focusing on her job that helped Weist get through one of her toughest days.

In 2021, after a routine screening, she received a call telling her she had colon cancer. “I distracted myself by taking care of customers,” she said. “My boss at the time said, ‘I believe in you and I will cover for you until you get back.’ He motivated me to be the best person and the best patient,” said Weist. Two weeks after surgery, she was back at work. She was in the care of oncologist Dr. Andrew Greenspan. Surgery involved removing 32 lymph nodes, 18 inches of her colon, some small intestine, and her appendix.

Afterward, tests showed the cancer was circulating in her blood and she had a 90 percent chance of the cancer metastasizing. She began chemotherapy and joined an online support group, “ColonTown.”

“It was so new that I couldn’t really research it. No matter what, I’d come to work with a smile. I was determined to get through this because I wanted the cancer cells gone,” said Weist, describing the side effects of chemotherapy. “When I first got the diagnosis my whole identity changed. It’s like no one has a premonition that they’ll get cancer and then you have to decide, ‘am I a patient or a survivor.’”

She chose survivor. In the middle of the storm, as the side effects of chemo continued - peeling skin on her feet, tingling hands, and even skin cancer - Weist saw light at the end of the tunnel. Her husband works for a company that manufactures a test that detects Circulating Tumor DNA. It turned out the test was what may have saved her life. Her oncologist agreed to the test. The initial tests came back, “positive.” Others followed and she finally heard the word, “negative.”

Weist says she considers it a miracle that her husband worked for a company that made a specific test for colon cancer.

“I thought I’d have a big party when I got the results but I haven’t had the freedom to fully process it. I think it’s more about living my life to the fullest,” said Weist.

Part of that is giving back to others. She does that through her job with IU Health and also through her seamstress work. Over the years, Weist estimates she’s stitched together 50 “Little Angel Gowns,” for infants.

“You need to use fabric that is appropriate for sensitive skin and then you decorate them and make sure they are washed just right. It’s a labor of love. I’ve seen letters from people who have thought they were taking their baby home and then they were faced with the unthinkable,” said Weist. “After I sew each one I lay them out on the bed, and ask my husband to come and see them. Then I pray over them with tears coming down my cheeks. I love volunteering and in most cases I love to see people smile, but I also feel deeply when someone else is in pain.”


Colon Cancer

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