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Stories from the Road

A Hoya for Life

25-mile Rider and cancer survivor Kim Marsh shares her commitment to her alma mater through BellRinger

4 min read

After growing upin Denver, Colorado, Kim Marsh was full of life with big dreams for what her future had in store. During her teenage years, her life took an unexpected turn at the age of 13 when she was diagnosed with Granulomatosis with Polyangitis (GPA), a kidney disease that causes inflammation in blood vessels and slows blood flow to organs across the body. Despite her illness, she maintained her academic ambitions and moved to Washington, D.C. to attend Georgetown University. It was during her sophomore year in 1984 that she underwent her first kidney transplant.

The kidney transplant lasted for ten years before her body eventually rejected it. Kim underwent a second transplant, which has remarkably lasted for over thirty years. As a transplant recipient, she has had to take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection, which, while essential, have also made her immunocompromised and more susceptible to illnesses, including cancer.

In the years leading up to 2020, Kim experienced persistent sinus and ear infections. Despite various treatments, her condition puzzled her doctors because her kidney and lung functions appeared stable. It wasn’t until she sought emergency care at Georgetown that a radiologist suspected something more severe than your run-of-the-mill common infection. In January 2020, she was diagnosed with stage three squamous cell carcinoma of the sinuses and paranasal sinuses.

Under the care of Dr. Tim DeKlotz, a head and neck surgeon, and oncologist Dr. Ann Gramza at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Kim began an aggressive treatment plan and underwent induction chemotherapy followed by radiation. The first round of chemotherapy resulted in dramatic disease regression, giving Kim a renewed sense of hope and demonstrating the effectiveness of the treatment. Despite losing her hair and enduring significant side effects, she faced her treatment with the same resilience and positive attitude that had carried her through most of her life.

“I had a chemo treatment at Georgetown on St. Patrick’s Day in 2020. I often wore scarves and wigs as I continued to lose my hair during treatment, but this day I dressed the role with my fancy green wig. Going through this during COVID-19 posed its challenges, but I made sure to have fun when I could, because that’s what mattered most to me. I had the best team of caregivers, a support system of loving friends and family, and my amazing husband Mike that got me through it all, and I made sure that I never let my circumstances get the best of me.”

Kim has been an integral part of the BellRinger Community since 2021. After riding virtually in year one, she took on the 25-mile route last October with fellow friends and cancer survivors.

“When I finished my first ride in BellRinger, I just felt a sense of pride. A sense of accomplishment. I loved every chance encounter with old friends, seeing Georgetown students decked in Lederhosen, and sharing the experience with fellow cancer survivors. It’s such a wonderful community to be a part of.”

With BellRinger Weekend just around the corner, Kim and her team Spokes for Hope are looking forward to yet another year of being a part of the community and fighting for a cancer free future.

“I will always be passionate about giving back to Georgetown. I’m so grateful for my transplants and especially for the care I received from all my physicians during my journey with cancer. Georgetown’s been there for me my entire life, and I’m grateful to be here and to give back in any way I can, especially through BellRinger. I ask everyone I know to get involved and build a team, even my doctors as they were about to start my recent knee surgery. BellRinger is so important to me and to countless others, and I want everyone to be involved.”

May 23, 2024

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