When you meet David Kimber, you can’t help but notice the big grin on his face. And when you hear about all that he has been through in the last year, he definitely has every reason to smile.
“One day in July of 2015 a staff member noticed a lump on his neck,” said Sandy Breidegam, Program Coordinator for The Salvation Army’s Developmental Disabilities Program (DDP) in Montgomery County. “It got big really fast, within weeks,” she recalled.
They rushed David to urgent care and then to a local hospital, where tests revealed it was a cancerous tumor.
David lives in a group home for men with developmental disabilities in Royersford. The Salvation Army founded DDP more than 30 years ago to transition individuals with developmental disabilities from institutions into community settings. The Salvation Army offers community homes and services throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware that provide tailored support programs designed to promote the achievement of each individual’s goals. Sandy Breidegam offers support and assistance at the home where David lives with three other men. They had a special bond since day one.
“Sandy is a nice girl,” David said happily. “She is a good friend.”
Triumph over Cancer
Doctors prescribed three rounds of chemotherapy. When that was complete, David underwent rigorous radiation treatment for 17 days straight.
“It was very scary. He couldn’t even talk,” said Linda Rex, Program Director, The Salvation Army’s Development Disabilities Program in Montgomery County. “The treatments were so intense. We were worried what the outcome would be.”
Despite feeling rundown and nauseous from time to time, David maintained his upbeat attitude and even continued to go to work at the Pottstown Training Center where he and other DDP clients are employed part-time with contract jobs such as assembling nuts and bolts.
“He really had few side effects and never complained,” Sandy said. “He did such a good job.”
The DDP staff says they were extremely inspired by David’s strength, determination and positivity through the entire ordeal, especially since his father, with whom he was very close, passed away earlier that year at the age of 95.
“My father is an angel now,” said David.
He lived with his father until 2009, when his dad experienced a bad fall and he felt like David needed more support than he could provide. Still, David came home to Plymouth Meeting on the weekends, where he cared for his dad and loved to make him dinner. His mother had passed away in 2005 from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“David tells me his father is with him. He is such a strong person,” said Sandy. “He got sad only one day during the treatments and said ‘I wish my dad was here.’”
For four months Sandy rearranged appointments and other commitments so she could take him to his doctor’s visits and treatments.
“Sandy was always there for him. She felt it was important that he felt loved,” Linda explained.
“I was very upset until it was all gone,” Sandy said. “I just thought I needed to be there. He responds to me. We really get along. I consider him family.”
November 2015 marked two special milestones in David’s life. He officially ended his cancer treatment – given a clean bill of health from his doctors! He also turned 60.
Given all that he had been through that year – his DDP family decided it was time to celebrate. They threw David a surprise party at the church next to his house. The room was packed. David’s friends and family were all there. They even hired a DJ to liven things up.
“As soon as he walked through the door and realized what was going on, he looked at me and said, ‘You tricked me Sandy’ and laughed,” Sandy said.
Despite a year of struggles and loss, David continues to smile, brightening every room, every day.