Kim White: Choosing Faith in a Fight Against Cancer
Kim White is a Latter-day Saint woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter and a friend who has been battling stage 4 cancer for nearly five years. On today’s episode, we talk with the woman thousands of Instagram users have come to love and pray for through her account @KimCanKickIt.
*Kim White passed away on February 14, 2020, less than a year after this interview. We will forever be grateful she chose to share her light with us.
MORGAN JONES: In January 2014, Kim White was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child when an 11-centimeter tumor was found in her right adrenal gland. Kim was faced with the heartbreaking reality that if she didn't deliver immediately, neither she nor her baby would survive. Her son, Hinkley, did not live. But Kim, who at the time of her diagnosis with stage four cancer was told, you'll be lucky if you make it five years, is still alive and fighting nearly five years later. Kim White 's journey with cancer has inspired thousands through her Instagram account, @kimcankickit.
This is All In an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I'm excited to talk with Kim White today. Kim, thanks so much for being here with us.
KIM WHITE: Thanks for having me.
MJ: So the first time I ever read your story, Kim, was in an article and these are the words that I read, "Without a shadow of a doubt, I can tell you I am now and will forever be grateful I was diagnosed with cancer." Can you give us a little synopsis of what the past five years have been like for you? And how you can even possibly say that you're grateful that you've had cancer?
KW: Yeah, my story is definitely complicated so I'll try to be brief. But it started when I was 14 weeks pregnant. And I just went in for my regular checkup and my blood pressure was 166 over 106. And my OB was really concerned because a regular blood pressure is 120 over 80. And he started asking me about my daughter Hensley's pregnancy and if I had high blood pressure during that, and I didn't, I had a totally healthy pregnancy with her. And so he had no idea what was going on because 14 weeks is too early for preeclampsia. So he sent me home on some blood pressure medicine. Within two weeks, my blood pressure just kept getting higher and higher and so he finally called an internal med doctor and said, "Do you have any idea what could be going on?" And that doctor recommended doing an ultrasound on my kidneys. So they scheduled that for another two weeks out. And so at this point, I was 18 weeks pregnant, and they found an 11-centimeter tumor on top of my right kidney. And at first, they were just really confident like we should be able to remove it and keep the baby safe. But then, three days later, I got hellp syndrome and the only way to cure hellp syndrome is by delivering the baby. So we delivered, or I delivered my little boy at 18 weeks, and we named him Hinckley. And at the time, they still had no idea what this tumor was. They didn't think it was cancer because of the way it was acting. But my body was to extend surgery, so they sent me home. A few weeks later, they brought me back and went in for surgery. And as soon as the surgeon got in there he knew, just by looking at it, that it was cancer. So he informed my family after surgery that it was indeed cancer. And at that time, I just thought when they told me, I just thought that it was over because they had removed it. And I was so naive to the world of cancer that I didn't understand that that's not how it works, that you don't just remove it and then it's over. I mean, in some cases it is but it had already gone into my IVC, which is your inferior vena cava, it's the largest vein in your body that goes to your heart. So it already got into there so they assumed that it was going to spread. And they didn't know what type of cancer it was. A few weeks later, pathology came back and they called me and told me you have adrenal cortical carcinoma. And I just remember not having any idea what the person on the phone had even said to me.
MJ: Like, I'm going to need a spelling and I'm gonna need to Google that.
KW: Yeah, I just remember being like, Huh? And so I wrote it down, I couldn't even reread it, what she said, I was just like, I don't even know what that is. My husband got home later that night and he pronounced it perfectly. And I was like, "Yes! That's what she said, it's adrenal cortical carcinoma." And he immediately went and googled what it was. And it was, it wasn't good. And I had already had all like the worst-case scenarios, I already had a checkbox next to all of them. So we find out and we finally met with an oncologist a few weeks later and he basically just said 20% of patients live five years, of those 20%, those are the ones that had stage two and caught it early. And they diagnosed mine as stage four because it had gotten to the IVC. And so he was like you'd be lucky to live a year. And at that point, I was 26 years old, my daughter was 18 months old and we left the Huntsman and we sat in a parking lot and my husband and I just sobbed. And I just remember calling my older sister and just saying, "How am I supposed to call mom and dad and tell them that their daughters dying?"
And every time I drive to Huntsman, I look at that park and I just think about a moment. It was probably one of the hardest moments that we've had. Because everything was still so new and it was still such a shock at what had just happened in our world. And so we didn't want to go back to that oncologist because he wasn't ready or willing to fight. So we ended up traveling to Chicago for about a year with an oncologist there. I had another surgery there to remove tumors from my lungs. And after a year of that, then we finally started IV chemo. I did that for a year and it was a week on of chemo, three weeks off, and then another week on and three weeks off. And I did that every month for a year. And by the end of that, my lungs were full of cancer and it also spread to my liver. And at this point, my oncologist said, you probably have two to three months to live and I don't know what else to do, I've tried everything I know how to try. And that's when a friend from California contacted me and told me about immunotherapy drugs. And they were really new at this time, they had just recently been FDA approved. And he had been on a trial clear back in 2011 with these drugs, and he had renal carcinoma and had been given six weeks to live. And he's still alive and doing awesome now. So I flew to California to meet with his doctor. And they started me on a drug called Keytruda. The cool thing about this drug is President Uchtdorf had given me a blessing just shortly after I was diagnosed. And in that blessing, he had said that there was a drug that was not yet on the market, that would be for my benefit and be for my good. And at the time of the blessing, Keytruda wasn't on the market and then I think it was seven months later that it became FDA approved. So we started this drug and I immediately start feeling better and things, like I have more energy, and things just start going really well. And we just kept thinking it has to be working. After four infusions, we did a scan, and my 50 plus tumors were down to one in my lung. And then I had to still had the two left of my liver. And that was like, such a miracle, we were all just shocked of what had just happened and honestly didn't even know what to do. I remember my oncologist kind of staring at the computer just in disbelief of what had just happened.
MJ: It's amazing.
KW: So we celebrated that summer. It was the first time since I was diagnosed that I felt healthy, and could actually go and really celebrate life. So we really did that summer, we loved it up. And thankfully we did because a few months later, that September, the tumor in my liver went crazy. And it was 18 centimeters. It had just taken up almost my entire liver. And so they started me immediately on Y-90 radiation, which is when they put radiation directly into the liver. And that didn't work. So then they tried chemo embolisms, which is when they put chemotherapy directly into the liver. And I did two rounds of that and that caused my hair to fall out for the second time and it just made me really, really sick. And it made me so sick that I had to get my gallbladder emergency removed.
So my husband had taken me to the ER that night and they were like, "Yeah, her gallbladder is so inflamed or enough to take it out." And so the surgeon, he ends up having to open me up instead of doing it laparoscopically, like most gallbladder surgeries, because my insides are pretty messed up from the liver being so large from the tumor and the previous surgeries I had had. So this was the second time my abdomen was sliced open. So he opens me up takes my gallbladder out. And that surgeon ended up being very important. He asked me at my follow up if he could take my case to the tumor board. And I, of course, was like, sure, you know, and I didn't think much of it, and left his office and was just focusing on recovering from yet another surgery. And by that point, it was my third major surgery from cancer. And so a few weeks later, I got a phone call from my IR doctor saying that there was a surgeon in this tumor board that set up and said, I can take that tumor out. And he was like, "I think it's way too dangerous and I don't think you should do it, we still have options." And I just remember being like, yeah, I've always been told that I'm inoperable. Like well, who's this crazy surgeon, you know?
MJ: Yeah. The nerve.
KW: Yeah. How dare he, he doesn't know who I am. But he, thankfully, he did say like, I think you should still talk to him and just see what you think. So I did, I went and talked to him and I was fired up, I was ready to just be like, you have no idea what I've been through, who I am and you just want to use me as your guinea pig to do some surgery to up your career basically. I was just, I wasn't having it. So we went to meet with him and we were sitting in his office waiting for him to come in and I was all fired up. And the second he walked in the room, all of that went away. And he walked directly over to me and he just said, "Hi, Kim. I'm doctor Zendeyhas, you can call me Dr. Z. And I knew, before he even talked to me about anything, that he was about to change my life forever. And he sat there and told us how insane this surgery was, that there was a very likely chance I would die on the table. But then he said, but if we don't do anything, you'll die in two to three months anyways. So we left his office, scared to death, but also knowing that he was the answer to so many prayers. And a couple weeks later, I went in, what we ended up calling it my Hail Mary surgery. And he removed 70% of my liver, a fourth of my right lung, completely reconstructed my IVC, it was a 12-hour surgery and they nearly lost me several times. At one point Dr. Z said he just threw his hands up in the air and walked out of the room because he had worked on me for 11 hours and he couldn't get me to stop bleeding. And they were just pumping blood into me and it was coming out faster than they could pump it in. And he later told me that he left, went and got some food, went to the bathroom and when he came back in, he didn't even know how but the anesthesiologist managed to keep me alive. And he was like, if you would have had any other anesthesiologist, you wouldn't have survived that surgery. And so since then, that was March of 2017, I've just been recovering. I've had a lot of other surgeries. A few months later, he opened me up again to get another tumor that was back by my spine. And I've had tumors ablated, which just means frozen, basically, in my lungs several times. And all in all, I've had five major surgeries. And we think it's like 40 plus smaller procedures and surgeries. Going to the hospitals normal to me, it's just part of my life.
MJ: Well, I've noticed in your story, every time it's like a few weeks later, a few weeks later, and it's constant.
KW: Yeah. And that's still how it is today. Like right now I'm currently doing a clinical trial. I have two tumors in my lungs right now and I just started the clinical trial up at the Huntsman Cancer Center. And yeah, it's just, it's a lot, but it's just normal to me now. And that's, you know, and I'm just grateful that I'm about to hit my five-year mark, that I wasn't predicted to get anywhere near. And so that is kind of the gist of my crazy story.
MJ: Yeah. Which is amazing. I'm curious, Kim, the Dr. Z part of the story is fascinating to me. How did you know, like, what was it about him when he came into that room that made your tune kind of change immediately?
KW: Um, I honestly believe, he's not a member of our church, but he is a man of God. And he, anytime I praise him for what he did for me, he always gives credit to God. He prays before his surgeries. He told my dad the morning of my surgery, that this would be the third time performing the surgery on me. And my dad looked at him and said, what, what are you, what are you talking about? And he said that he dreamt it, in detail, Step-by-step twice before the morning of my surgery. He was like I go to bed thinking about her, I wake up thinking about her. And the incredible part about it, I can't talk about him without crying, He lived in Florida and practice in Florida for 15 years, and had no plans on moving. And he hadn't even been there for a full year when I met him. A colleague had reached out to him and said, "Hey, there's an opening up at IMC, I really think you should apply for it. This is perfect for you." And it was the head of liver transplant surgeries and he was like no, not interested. We just built a house here in Florida like our families. And a few weeks later, his colleague called him again and said, "No, you need to come check this place out." So he came, and to his surprise, he loved it. And he went home and told his wife that he felt like he needed to come to Utah. And I just, I believe that the second he walked into that door, God was just telling me like, this is it. This is him. And I think that has a huge part to do with the fact that he has a strong relationship with God. And, and I'm just so grateful for that.
MJ: Yeah. Kim, you have shared a lot of this journey on Instagram with a lot of people that have never met you, like myself, who had never met you before today. But I've followed you for a long time. What made you originally start sharing updates on your health on Instagram? And why do you keep sharing updates on Instagram?
KW: So at first, it was just so exhausting to contact everyone. I have five siblings and my husband's family has a big family too. And so at the beginning, I was literally calling every single one of my siblings every time something happened, and my parents and my close friends.
MJ: Just like reliving it over and over?
KW: Over and over. And then I started group texting and then it was still just like, I don't want to do this over and over again. And so it got to the point that I would group text people and say, if you want to know what's going on, check Instagram and Facebook. And my siblings now get mad at me because I'll be in like surgery, and my brother will text me like, "What the heck, you have surgery today?" And I'm like, sorry, it's just so normal to me that I just like, I don't know, it's not a big deal anymore because it's just normal. But that's how it all started, it was just a way for me to stop having to call every single person. And if something huge happens again, then I call my siblings, but if not, I usually just text them or they just see it on Instagram with the rest of the world, which is kind of horrible. But it's just exhausting.
MJ: Yeah. So I would imagine that you've probably heard from people that your story is inspiring or helping them in some way. Have you experienced that?
KW: Yeah, a lot. Which is kind of why, well it's a major reason I keep doing it. I just believe that this is what God is saving me for. And I have no idea who even said it, but one of them, the comments that has always stuck out in my mind is someone commented and told me that they were an atheist and that said, "but when I read your story, I can't help but believe in miracles." And I just think what power is in that and what power is in my story, because you can't hear it and know all the details and know all the things that happen and not believe in a higher power. Whatever your belief is in a higher power, you have to know that hearing my story that there is one. And so I always tell my husband that I'm not trying to convert anyone to our church but I'm trying to keep people's belief in a higher power alive. Because I believe that nowadays it's getting worse and worse and more wicked and the farther you get away from God, the more wicked you get. And I'm like if I can keep God alive in the people that follow me, that that's an amazing gift to be able to help them see God in their lives as well.
MJ: Absolutely. And that's something that I wanted to talk to you about because you've posted a lot about seeing God in the details of this experience. And I know, for a lot of people, in retrospect, or in hindsight, we can see God's hand it's like, oh, like, now I can see it. But in the middle of it can be really hard. And you've talked about trying to see God in the middle of your cancer. Can you share some examples of how you've seen that?
KW: Yeah, and in the beginning, I definitely didn't, first of all. I think that's hard when people are new to my story, they just think that I've always been this upbeat, positive person and just deal with this situation so beautifully. And I'm like, sister, this has not been the case, if you ask my husband what the first two years were like, he's got some really scary stories to tell you. And anyone that was close to me knows that it was not like this, right? You know, it took me those two years really just being angry, being upset and depressed. And, you know, and that was all real and I needed to deal with all that and eventually got to the point that I was just like enough, you know, enough of this. But I remember when Keytruda started working, and I started looking back and seeing God in the details in hindsight. I started realizing that I could do that in the moment, you know, and just trying to do that more often. And I think what really helped with that is a gratitude journal, of starting with a gratitude journal every day so that I can see His hand that I still have so much to be grateful for. So now that's what I constantly do, especially when things go wrong, I immediately go to okay, what is the meaning of this and how, like, how is this going to play out?
So for instance, when I had my tumor ablated, we went in to have two tumors ablated, I don't even know, like four or five weeks ago now. And so she was going to do one on the right side and one on the left side of my lungs, and the one on the right side was in a more dangerous area so she was like, I'm going to start with the hard one first, and if there's no complications, we'll move on to the left one. So she goes in, does it and I was bleeding too much. And so the blood was bleeding into the left side so she had to like just be done and wasn't able to ablate the left side. And immediately after the procedure, I said to my dad, "I bet you there's a reason that that happened and it's going to play a bigger role in it all." And he's like, I believe you, it happens every time. And then a few weeks later, when I was prepping for this clinical trial, they're like, we need to do a scan and see if you have something large enough to biopsy. And I was so mad because there's another tumor still in my right lung, but it's way too small to biopsy. And I knew, I was like, dang it, the left lung tumor that wasn't ablated is going to be big enough to biopsy. And so at first, I was mad because I was like this is supposed to play out in my favor and I don't want to go in for another procedure. Especially because with this trial, I have to do everything at the Huntsman and because I didn't have a good experience there the first time, I just don't enjoy being up there. It's getting better. But I have an IR team at McKay Dee, and they are my team, they're my people. And my IR doctor there is amazing and so she was doing the biopsy I would have been like fine, whatever. But having to go with a whole new team again, I was like, I don't want to do it, I'm just another patient to them. I'm not like their team that I know cares about me, you know. So I go in, I do the biopsy and I was just like, "Well, I guess I was wrong about that one." And then that day as I'm sitting there because you have to wait, I had to wait four hours, I think after the biopsy before they would let me leave because they had to keep scanning me and make sure that there wasn't bleeding in my lung or fluid in there. So I get a message from someone saying that this mom that had grown up down the street from me, I'm closer with her sister, but she knew of my story and she's been following me on Instagram and we've been talking back and forth on Instagram. And I got a message from one of her friends saying she's at the Huntsman, she's not doing well and she would really like to see you. And it happened to be that day that they messaged me, and they had no idea that I was there that morning. And so after my biopsy, my dad and I walked up to her room and went and saw her. And, you know, I just sat there and talked with her and I just felt really connected to her because she has a single child and it's a daughter who's, I think she's 17. And so I just immediately felt so much love for her daughter, knowing that that's how my little girl is. And I just felt so connected to them. And I spent about an hour talking to them. And when I left, I got a message later from her ex-husband, he was the father of their daughter. And he just said, "Thank you so much for going and talking to them." He said, "Yesterday, I couldn't get a single smile out of either one of their faces." And he's like, "but today when I went there, they were beaming, they were full of life." And I just feel like that's the reason that my tumor needed to not be ablated so that I had to go have that biopsy so that I could be there for them. Because otherwise I wouldn't have been there, and yeah, I could have gotten that message and drove to the Huntsman, but life gets in the way. And I feel like I choose to believe that God put me there so that I could be there for them because he sends, I believe, and answers prayers through others more often than not, and that we get to be his hands more often than not. And I believe that he used me that day to give them a little bit of hope and happiness.
MJ: Yeah. I love that example because it's almost like not even just in the middle of it, but ahead of time believing that there's going to be a reason for something. And I want to touch on something that you just said where you said, you know, some people may say that this was a coincidence but you choose to believe that it's God. How do you do that? How do you choose to believe that these things are God and not simply coincidence?
KW: I talked about this with my husband the other night on date night. And we came to the conclusion that when it's a coincidence, it's just that. It's just a coincidence, it kind of doesn't have meaning to it. And we were talking about how when we know that God has played a role, it's because of a feeling. And that we feel like when you look back at something, there's a stronger pull and a stronger feeling than if it was just a coincidence, you wouldn't feel like that was for a purpose or that was, you know, meant to be that way. There's so many things in life that happen that you're just like, oh, maybe that was just a coincidence, and you move on. But when you feel like drawn to something, that's how I and I guess it happens way more often to me, but I think that's because I choose to look at it that way.
MJ: Right. It's funny, my mom got me this book, when I was in high school. My mom just bought it because it had butterflies on the cover. But in reality, the book has nothing to do with butterflies and it's all about synchronicities, which is the scientific term for meaningful coincidences. And so my mom and I have always called those "butterfly moments" because of the butterfly book. And because she was just like, I'm going to get this book because as a butterfly on it. But I think it's funny because that was like long before the whole tender mercy thing that everybody is like that's a tender mercy, and to us, it's always been butterfly moments. But I think that those are real, I think that if we look for them more, the more we're going to see them. So I love that. How has your faith, Kim, blessed you in the midst of this experience? And are there truths that you've kind of clung to, to give you the will to fight?
KW: Yes. The knowledge of having the atonement has been the greatest blessing that I could ever have. Because I can't imagine going through something that I've gone through without knowing what our Savior did for us. There were times, even in those first, a lot of times in those first two years, when I, I do this thing where I get in the shower or the bathtub, and that's where I let it all out. I just really cry and I talk out loud. And I just remember so many times after those moments of being like, He knows. He's the only one that knows exactly how you feel right now. And that gave me peace more times than I can even count of just knowing that my savior went through all of this, so that He could be there and so that He could give me that piece of saying, "I get it. I totally get what you're going through. And, you're right, it sucks. And it's really hard." And so I've thought about that so many times, is that I'm so grateful that I was brought up with that knowledge.
MJ: Yeah, I think that is something that I know for myself, like, I take for granted that there are people that don't even know that the atonement exists and that they can draw strength from that. When you're going through so many medical treatments, we've talked about Dr. Z and obviously, the spirit, you know, led you to know that he was someone that you could trust. But you're making so many big decisions that are, you know, altering your future. How do you know who to trust and what guides you in making those big medical decisions?
KW: Definitely listening to the Spirit. And I have gotten so good at being in tune with how it kind of works with me. But prayer is huge, because even after we met Dr. Z, we spent the next few weeks praying about it diligently, going to the temple, me and my husband, because I was too sick to even do a session or anything so we just went and sat in the celestial room one day for a few hours. And just sat there and we just, you know, talked and prayed. And so that's always, especially with the really big decisions. Like with clinical trial recently, my initial response was like, nope, not doing it. And then I just kept feeling like that was maybe just me not wanting to go to the Huntsman. And so then I was like, well, let's figure out all the details and figure out all the stuff and pray about it and see and then see if you know what kind of answer I get. And as I took the steps to move forward with it and prayed about it, I knew that this is the next thing that God had planned for me and that he wanted me to do. And a few of my followers actually, I love this, they do this all the time, they point out things that I don't even recognize. And a few of them had sent me messages and said, "Maybe Keytruda wasn't the only drug President Uchtdorf was talking about." And I just loved that, I was like, you're right. Maybe because this drug is not on the market, they don't even have names yet, it's like NS0073 something. And so I'm like, maybe you're right. Maybe that has something to do with it. But that's how. We just pray about things. And I just I really trust my instinct because I feel like God is always, always guiding that as well.
MJ: Yeah. We've talked about that several times in this podcast. It's interesting, in so many different situations, regardless of who it is we're interviewing, this topic of personal revelation keeps coming up. And I think that that is something that's so important right now is, especially with the changes that are being made in the church and things, being able to recognize how the Lord communicates to you is so huge.
Okay, how would you say, Kim, and you touched on this earlier, that you were not always super optimistic or upbeat about this experience. But now we see you right now in this room, I wish everyone could see you, that you've smiled throughout this entire interview. How do you-- or maybe the best question to ask is what shifted or what changed and allowed you to be more upbeat and positive about this experience? And how do you maintain that?
KW: I often ask myself that same question. Because people ask me that all the time and I feel like I don't know how to answer or I feel like they're looking for like, just the cure-all that's like, do this and all of the sudden, you'll be happy. And that's not how it works, it's such a process. And it's a really long process, but especially when things are not getting better for a really long time. And so as I've looked back and really thought about this, and trying to figure out how did it all change, I realized that you know, it changes very, very slowly, first of all. But it's the experiences that you survive, they give you proof that you can survive the next one. And, so I, you know, as things just kept getting worse, it was like, well, I already survived this, and this, and this, and this, I can get through this too. And at some point, I just got sick of being grouchy all the time, and just being unhappy to be around. And I was a lot more happy on the surface to people outside but I was so unhappy on the inside. And I think that's hugely what it is, is a conscious decision to change and to want to be happy and want to see the good. And when you start looking for the good, it's easier to see it, which we kind of talked about earlier. So that's where it starts, in your head when you decide to make that change. And then it's not like it's going to happen overnight. I always tell people, I'm like it is not going to happen. It's probably not gonna happen in a month, it's going to take a long time and you're going to take baby steps to get to that point.
MJ: I think you do such a good job of balancing this upbeat positivity with being genuine and real. You don't try to sugarcoat your experience. And there's this video that you've recently posted with your little girl and your lip-synching, "In My Blood," by Sean Mendez. And I'm not kidding you, I cried watching that. I think my mom cried too because I made her watch it. But I think that that's a gift, to be able to balance what you're experiencing and portray it in a way that is both real but also inspiring.
KW: I think, thankfully, I'm not a person that can sugarcoat how they feel. So when I'm sad and mad about something, I'm not gonna like, just try and happy face and be like, "do do do! It's all good." And I know how important it is to fill the raw and to fill the crappy because then it makes the sweet, so much sweeter. So when I have those days, and I still have those days, and I'll just be like, babe, I just need you to lay with me and just let me cry. And my husband will just hold me and let me cry and just let me complain about all the things and then I'll be like, okay, now I'm good. Now let's move on and let's attack this next thing. So I still, I just, I think that's important to still feel those things.
MJ: Yeah. And I think that's one thing too, you've said on your Instagram, that you and your husband's relationship is better today than it's ever been. Why do you think that is?
KW: Oh, man, because we've chosen to make it that way. That's a whole other podcast, which we're actually are getting interviewed on a marriage podcast soon, so that would be good. But we just-- cancer's really hard on a marriage. And we are very thankful that we have a little girl because she kept us together in the darkest times. And now that I've changed so much. And people always ask me, well, how did you fix your marriage? And I'm like, I chose to change, I stopped trying to change him. I chose to change and I became a happier person and he became a happier person because he saw me being a happier person. So we're just at such a good place. And I just keep telling him, I'm like, it's just going to get better. We're just gonna get happier and better together. So it's good.
MJ: That's awesome. I imagine, Kim, that there have probably been multiple times, and I know based on reading your experience, that there has been at least one time where you thought that you had reached the end of your experience on this earth. What is that like to come to that point? And how does that change the way that you've lived in the days since?
KW: It's surreal, for sure. And the worst was definitely that day that we sat at the park after meeting with our very first oncologist. Because that felt really real to me. Like I felt like he was telling us the truth and I felt like he was right, and that my life was just over. And that moment, I was just like, you're right, my daughter is going to grow up without her mom and All the horrible things you can imagine to think, that was what was going through my head at that time. And when we kind of got past that and realized that there's still hope that was when I was like, okay, now let's live life because we don't know if I am going to get a full year, you know how much time I'm going to get. And I think that's such a blessing when you're diagnosed with any kind of disease or illness or something that you think might take your life away because you get woken up and you realize how precious life is and you wish that you didn't need something like that to really wake you up. But it definitely woke me up and I'm so thankful for that. Because when they gave us two to three months to live, two other times, I just felt like, in those moments, I felt like they were wrong. I was like, nope, we're going to keep fighting, we're gonna keep going. And, you know, who knows the day, I think I'll know when the doctors are actually right about my diagnosis. I just feel like I've been guided so well that I'll be like, okay, this time, it's true. And, and this time they right. We do make jokes, though, that I'm gonna die randomly, like, from a car accident or something. Like, you survived cancer all these years and then something random, you know, like, get poisoned or something and die. And I'm like probably, that would be my luck.
MJ: I feel bad even laughing about that but that's funny. What gives you, and that's an interesting point that you feel like you'll know when to stop fighting, I guess. But what gives you the motivation right now to keep fighting?
KW: My sweet little girl and my husband. In the beginning, it was definitely purely for Hensley. Not that I didn't love my husband, but it was like, he'll be okay. That's what I always thought like, he'll be fine, he'll be sad, of course, but he'll be fine. Growing up without your mom, that is a whole other ballgame, you know, that is tearing away just something that every child deserves, is to have a mom. And so I was just willing to do whatever it took so that she didn't have to live without her mom, and I still am. And as crazy as she is, and as hard as a kid she is, I just think about that I don't want anyone else to raise her. I will stay here as long as I can to be here as long as I can for her.
MJ: What do you think, Kim, that you have learned from cancer? And why do you think-- I was actually, I was just listening to something this morning and this person was sharing a conversation that he had had with a woman that had had cancer. And I thought it was interesting because I knew that this was coming up later today. But he said that he asked this woman, she had like five kids, and he said, "Do you ever ask why this is happening to you?" And she said that she has learned to ask why not me? And I thought that was such a powerful thought. But why do you think that God allows us to go through these difficult things, whether it be illness or losing a loved one or a traumatic event? Why do you think he allows that to happen and how do you think he feels about us during those times?
KW: I think he allows it to happen because it is a blessing to be forced to change. I could never have learned all that I've learned, I could never have grown in the way that I've grown without being pushed like this. And I always think about, was it Hinckley that gave the analogy of the tree, and how it doesn't grow stronger by laying down in the wind? Or is that a CS Lewis quote, one of the two, I'm not sure. They're both good people.
MJ: I couldn't tell you.
KW: There's a quote about how a tree doesn't get stronger by laying down in the wind, it gets stronger by going against the wind.
MJ: Right. I know which quote you're talking about.
KW: And I just think about that all the time, of this experience is how strong I become, in my testimony of a heavenly father that loves me and a savior that died for me. And of just my ability to get through really hard things and to change. And I just think it's a beautiful thing that he allows us to do so. And I always, I said this to my husband the other day, I'm like, "If you imagine Hensley going through something horrible, and we think that we love her more than anything, you know, anyone can love someone, we would want to take that away from her." And I think about our Father in heaven, how badly he probably wants to just take it away from us when we're suffering. And when I'm sitting in the shower, crying out to him, please, please help me. And him, knowing the higher plan, the bigger plan, the bigger picture, knowing that he could, but he's not going to because it's going to be for our benefit. And I just think what a love that must be to be able to look at us in our misery and say, "I promise you, it's going to be okay. Just trust me."
MJ: I've thought about that lately, about how Heavenly Father like that must be so hard for him to watch us go through those things and to want to take it away. You once said, "There were times I told them, you've got the wrong girl, but they don't make mistakes," referring to Heavenly Father and the Savior. "We just have to be able to find the beauty in our darkest moments. And I promise you that when you find the beauty in those moments, it will be like nothing you've ever felt before." What has helped you be able to say that with confidence, and how do you find beauty in those moments?
KW: I think it just goes back to everything that we've talked about, is experience shows you that you survived something, and then you can look back, you know, in the beginning, that's what it was. It was me being able to look back and see the beauty, oh this happened and that's pretty amazing, God was still there. And I would be able to look back and be like, oh, look, he was still there, he's always been there. And so now, I'm so grateful that I now can see it in the midst of it to be able to see the beauty in the darkness. And we were saying the scriptures with our daughter just barely in the lesson about light, and how much brighter it is, when you are in a dark room. And then you turn on a flashlight, you turn on the flashlight in the light and you know, it makes it a little brighter. But when you're in the dark, how drastic the difference is. And I think that's part of trials is that you appreciate the light so much more because you've experienced the darkness.
MJ: That's beautiful. In conclusion, we ask this question at the end of each of these episodes. And it's a question that has been so interesting to hear people's responses because everyone is different. And the question is: what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
KW: I am all in to the gospel of Jesus Christ because I choose to continue to want to grow and to become like Christ, to know that I am imperfect and that this life is such a process. And it's not, it's not about perfection, it's about growing and learning and believing that we can and that we can with him. And I just love that our church teaches so many wonderful foundations that we can lean on when we have questions or when we have doubts, but knowing that I have a father in heaven and His son that love me, and they are always going to be there for me. I just know that I would never turn away from that. I've seen too much, I've experienced too many of their miracles and I just know that they're always going to be there for me. And I'm always going to keep trying to grow closer to them. And I think that's really what it is, is just trying, continuing to try and to try harder the next day and to be better the next day and to just build your relationship with them every single day.
MJ: Kim, you are an inspiration. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your experience and I think that it is so valuable, regardless of what people are going through, it puts things in perspective. And so thank you so much. Thank you for sharing that.
KW: Thanks so much for having me.
MJ: Thank you to Kim White for joining us on today's episode. For updates on Kim's fight against cancer follow her Instagram account, @kimcankickit. If you'd like to hear more episodes of All In, visit LDSliving.com/allin. And if you've enjoyed what you've heard thus far, please don't forget to subscribe and leave us a rating or review. Thanks for listening.