Resilient family faces three types of cancer
Network - Summer 2012
By Mary Brolley
Terry Richter could be
forgiven for feeling that cancer has a bull's-eye on
The Houston marketing executive lost his beloved wife Kimberly to glioblastoma multiforme in 2010. She was 44, and the couple had three children.
Then, just seven months after Kimberly’s death, Richter’s teenage daughter Meredith was diagnosed with and treated for Hodgkin lymphoma.
And last fall, he learned he had colon cancer and had surgery to treat it.
But Richter is upbeat as he tells his family’s story. Warmth, good humor and generosity of spirit are evident.
All three Richters were treated at MD Anderson, and he has great respect for the physicians and staff.
He also has special empathy for the newly diagnosed and their families, especially those facing brain cancer.
“You can’t imagine what you’ll end up going through,” he says. “But at
MD Anderson, we always felt that the staff cared for us.
“Never did we feel rushed. We understood that everyone else in the waiting room needed care, too — and knew that when it was our turn, it was our turn.”
Genetic testing yields an answer
Because of all the cancer in his family, Richter decided to be tested for Lynch syndrome, an inherited genetic tendency to develop cancer of the digestive tract, particularly the colon and rectum.
Also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), Lynch syndrome may be inherited if just one parent is a carrier.
The results of the testing — Richter carries the gene — came both as a relief and a call to action. He’ll have frequent colonoscopies to watch for the development of polyps, but feels that knowledge is power.
Another key to his peace of mind is living a balanced life: making time for family, faith, philanthropic work and exercise.
“Running saved my life,” he says. “I eat healthy, and running was pushing me to my limit. So when I started to feel ‘off,’ I knew right away to get it checked.
“That’s why I caught the colon cancer early.”
‘Kickin’ with Kimberly’ helps family heal
Almost from the moment of Kim’s diagnosis with brain cancer, the family threw themselves into philanthropic efforts. They formed Kickin’ with Kimberly, an organization that supports brain cancer research and initiatives to help at-risk children.
The foundation has raised more than $73,000 for the Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation, which supports brain cancer research at MD Anderson. Kickin' for Kimberly also funds soccer camps for kids in underserved neighborhoods.
Richter is also a member of Anderson Network, a patient-to-patient telephone support line. He’s been counseling people affected by cancer informally for years.
“I enjoy people. I like telling my story and listening to others,” he says.
Richter also stays busy with his demanding but rewarding work at Unified Resources, the 25-year-old marketing firm he co-owns.
”Yes,” he laughs. “There’s always the work.”