Kim Tronic went to the Cedars-Sinai emergency room for what she thought was a gallbladder problem.
A day later, the then 36-year-old woke up to the worst news of her life: You have cancer.
At Kim's final chemo session, she thanked Dr. Li by giving him a cake with his face on it
Kim waited for her biopsy results to confirm the diagnosis—stage 3 ovarian cancer.
"Stage 3 is a scary number. All I could think about is, 'Am I around death's doorstep?' and then, 'I've never been to Hawaii. I don't know how to surf. Am I going to turn 40 and not cross anything off my list?'" says Kim.
What kept her from falling apart was Cedars-Sinai gynecologic oncologist Dr. Andrew Li. His confidence, calmness, and bedside manner offered Kim the comfort she needed.
"He said to me, 'Whatever this is, I'm going to get you through it,'" Kim says. "And just like that, in that moment of panic and despair, it was like this unicorn came to me in the form of an ovarian cancer specialist."
Chemo and costumes
Kim's cancer had reached her ovaries, uterus, liver, belly wall, and even her spleen.
Dr. Li recommended a treatment plan that included 9 consecutive weeks of chemo, then surgery—which removed her ovaries, uterus, and part of her spleen—followed by 9 more weeks of chemo.
To fight the despair of her diagnosis, Kim decided to wear themed costumes and bright wigs to her chemo sessions.
"You can't be scared of chemo when you're wearing a coconut bra," says Kim. "It lends itself to making you laugh. Plus, other patients would come up to me and say, 'Thanks for making me smile.'"
Dr. Li says Kim's optimism and support system played a role in how well she weathered her cancer treatment.
"We loved the costumes and we love her," says Dr. Li. "Kim is an amazing person, and her energy is infectious. She made us smile, and we enjoyed seeing her, taking care of her, and seeing which new outfit she was going to wear."
Kim says being positive helped her recover faster. She chose to shave her head and wear costumes as a way to remain empowered.
Kim (center) with Dr. Li and nurse practitioner Corina Hernandez.
"I was taking control. I wanted to do this on my terms," she says.
Her last chemo session was September 15, 2017.
When she was diagnosed, Kim gave up running to focus on her treatment. Less than one year after that diagnosis, Kim is cancer-free and training for her fifth LA Marathon.
"I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate being able to use my body again, and what a great way to kick off 2018," says Kim, who expects to wear a colorful outfit during the race on March 18, 2018.
She says none of this would have been possible without Dr. Li and the amazing nurses.
"I will forever be grateful for the world-class care that I received at Cedars-Sinai," she says. "This journey has been a crazy one, but was made a lot smoother by the Cedars-Sinai team."