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A kidney stone may have saved Kim's life

Kim was expecting a kidney stone, not non-Hodgkin lymphoma. As a community builder, he turned to the hospital that felt like his own.
Category: Cancer

A DIFFERENT KIND OF LUCK

“I am so lucky that I got a kidney stone,” said Kim Levitch, with a laugh, “I certainly never thought I would be saying that.”

Kim has a good reason to be grateful for that diagnosis; it very well may have saved his life.

Kim, a resident of Shelburne, had started having stomach pain. The pain came and went for two months, but wasn't constant.

“It was only once or twice a week, but some days I felt horrible and on one of those horrible days, my wife urged me to go see the doctor,” said Kim.

Kim made an appointment with his primary care physician and within minutes learned that he very likely had a kidney stone.

“I was dreading that; a friend of ours had just experienced a kidney stone and it sounded awful,” he said.

Kim made an appointment with Dr. Richard Alexander of Baystate Urology, who ordered an MRI. The imaging showed the “dreaded” kidney stone that Kim and Dr. Alexander had expected. What they didn’t expect to find, but unfortunately did, was an enlarged spleen and enlarged lymph nodes. Kim had non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Kim recalls the confidence with which Dr. Alexander recommended that he stay at Baystate Franklin Medical Center for oncology care.

“He told me that I didn’t have to go to Boston or travel for the best treatment, that Dr. John McCann is as good as it gets. The hospital is a fifteen minute drive from my house. With my wife working, and a busy life, I was relieved to not have to drive two hours for a day of treatment, only to return home while feeling horrible, not to mention the traffic!” he said.

TEAM KIM

While Kim received the majority of his care from Dr. McCann, from the Baystate Regional Cancer Program, in Greenfield, he traveled on a few occasions to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. There he underwent several biopsies during the diagnosis phase and had a chemotherapy port inserted into his arm. He also had lymph node surgery at the new surgery center at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, under the care of Dr. Thampi Ampadi, of BMP- Greenfield Surgery – who Kim describes as “confident with a great bedside manner.”

“When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t tell many people. However, I knew I needed support, so I enlisted the help of some friends,” said Kim.

Two of his friends, Rita and Martha, helped with the out-of-town appointments and drove him to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield as needed. While Baystate Franklin Medical Center provides free transportation to Springfield for oncology care, Kim opted to ride with his friends.

“It was really an excuse to stop for lunch at new places,” he said, “at least the times I was feeling well enough.”

The trio referred to themselves as “Team Kim” and the appointments that may have otherwise been difficult became a high point in Kim’s life.

His wife, Nancy Fournier, was by his side for all of his chemotherapy treatments (every three weeks) in Greenfield. From the beginning of treatment, she promised him that she would keep her glass "overflowing" so that his glass always stayed at least half-full.

“During treatment, I just kept thinking of my friends and family. I was trying to focus on what is important, and that was it. Many friends and family were so wonderful during this time and were constantly in touch to see if we needed help with anything whether it was dropping off food, helping with transportation or just making a phone call to check in to see how I was feeling,” said Kim.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION

Kim’s connection to Baystate Franklin Medical Center began very early in his life, in fact, the beginning of his life. He was born at the hospital 70 years ago.

“It’s my hospital, my family’s hospital really,” he said. “My father worked here in 1950, after the war, as an assistant treasurer. He would take the paychecks to the doctors and staff, personally delivering each and every one.”

Franklin County has always been home to Kim, a graduate of Greenfield High School. He has owned and operated K. Levitch Associates, a real estate appraisal business, for more than 40 years. One of his early jobs was completing an appraisal of the hospital in the 1980s when plans were underway to add new inpatient units. He has also been an active volunteer and board member for many location organizations. It’s no surprise, then, that he saw many familiar faces while receiving treatment – including family friends that just happened to be seated next to him during chemotherapy.

“There is a real sense of comradery on the oncology unit at Baystate Franklin. While getting a CAT Scan, the tech said to me, ‘you’ll be in great hands – they have a great department there.’ Wouldn’t you know it - on the first day of my treatment when I walked into the oncology unit, the head nurse practitioner, multiple nurses and staff, and volunteers greeted me and I immediately understood and felt that I indeed was in good hands.“

Kim and Nancy “can’t say enough” about the oncology department and all of their staff at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

“Their professionalism, positive attitude and compassion made all of the difference during treatment” and they are “forever grateful.”

LIVING WITH “LESS PRESSURE”

Kim Levitch patient with dogs

In between chemo treatments, Kim, Nancy, and their son Dan had the chance to fulfill a dream and decided to seize the moment.

“We had the chance to buy tickets to a Red Sox World Series game. Nancy and I looked at each other and said, ‘The three of us have to go!’” said Kim.

He explained that he wasn’t feeling very well at the time but that the experience was unforgettable and the energy at Fenway was “electric.”

Kim continued to work throughout his treatment and he credits his staff for being “amazing.” When asked about retirement, he looks perplexed.

“Why would I retire when I love what I do? I have a great life, and love to work, but I am approaching it with a little less pressure,” said Kim.

When he finished his treatment, he recognized that the experience had changed him. It’s hard to imagine him without a smile on his face, but he describes this attitude as a choice that he makes for himself.

“I’m still recovering from the side effects of the chemotherapy, but it’s up to me to stay positive and I think I do a pretty good job.”