PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Like most high school freshmen, Kristion Kim is pretty active. The 15-year-old Tigard resident plays football and basketball at Tualatin High School but he began losing weight last summer.
In fact, he lost 40 pounds between summer and the end of January.
“At the time I was trying to eat more calories. I had to stop activities that I liked doing and at the same time I was still losing more weight,” he told KOIN 6 News. “I felt like I had no control.”
His mom, Staci Kim, said she recently went into his room. “I saw him bending down and I could see his ribs showing from the back, from his back.”
Doctors thought he might have an eating disorder, but she didn’t believe that. “I know what you eat,” she said. “I see what you eat.”
She demanded more tests.
“I said, ‘There’s something very wrong with my son because, I said, one of the times I saw his stomach, his stomach was bulging out. That bulge is not normal. I said I want to see a G.I. doctor (a gastroenterologist). I want more tests. I said, ‘Something needs to be done now!'”
Staci said she was told the special tests might be a couple weeks, but she demanded something the next day.
They got in to see another doctor and then he called her.
“He was, like, ‘Are you sitting down?’ And I’m, like, Oh my God. My heart’s racing. He said, ‘This is a very rare liposarcoma cancer.'”
The National Institute of Health defines a liposarcoma as “a tumor that arises from fat tissue. This tumor often occurs in the thigh, legs, behind the knee, or in the abdomen, but it can be found in other parts of the body. … Most patients with liposarcoma have no symptoms until the tumor is large and invades the neighboring organs or tissues, causing tenderness, pain, or functional problems.”
Liposarcoma can cause stomach pain and swelling, feeling full sooner when eating, constipation and blood in the stool.
Inside Kristion, his liposarcoma was a 25-pound tumor. Doctors removed it on February 26.
When he first saw the picture of the tumor, he said he was “kind of disgusted.” It was like “having a monster in your body at all times.”
The tumor, he said, “felt like my stomach would bulge out a little bit, but I’d stick it in just to not show the bulge.”
But the tumor was massive.
“It was just, like, monstrous. My friends have seen it and they said it kind of looked like an alien almost, just like a bump coming out of my abdomen.”
Doctors, he said, “told me that this is astonishing to have something that big inside of a teenager.”
Now he’s just anxious to get back to normal, but this episode made him appreciate life.
“I took a lot of things for granted, like family,” he said. Kristion has 8 brothers and sisters, “You really have no idea who is there for you until they need to be there for you.”
And his mom was there for him.
“If you feel like something is wrong, you need to speak up. Speak up for yourself, speak up for your child, speak up for your mother, father, if you’re taking care of them,” Staci said. “You need to be that person’s advocate.”
She worries about what would have happened if she hadn’t pushed for answers, but noted Kristion is strong.
“He gets upset with me and his dad when we start to tear up. He says, ‘Get out of the room.’ He doesn’t want to hear that.”
The community has been supportive as well. The Kim family set up a GoFundMe account to help with all the unexpected expenses that have risen.
Kristion Kim will have to keep checking his progress for the next 10 years.
Though they hope he can go home soon, Kristion has had some complications since the surgery. He won’t be able to leave the hospital until he’s able to keep food down and other internal issues come together.
His mom hopes he can get back to school in a month or so.
“I thank God that my son is here today and we’re going to get over this,” Staci Kim told KOIN 6 News. “So he is cancer-free. They took out everything. He has clear margins.”