Shelton cancer survivor pays it forward

Shelton resident Kim Adler has survived colon and liver cancer. Next she will take on Long Island Sound as she swims 15.5 miles from Port Jefferson, N.Y., across Long Island Sound to Captain’s Cove Seaport in Bridgeport. To celebrate five years as a survivor, Adler invited her surgeon, her oncologist, and three co-workers to join her marathon relay team.

They will join about 200 swimmers accompanied by a fleet of 100 boats during the 29th St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound Saturday, July 30, to raise money for cancer patients and their families.

“I want to tell my story whenever I can to pay it forward,” states Adler, a clinical nurse educator at St. Vincent’s Medical Center.

In May 2011, at age 47, Adler found herself in the St. Vincent’s emergency department with chest pains. While it turned out to be nothing, she recognized that she had fallen behind in her annual checkups and scheduled an appointment with her primary care physician. Her doctor recommended she have a colonoscopy, given that she was nearly 50 and anemic. That June, she was diagnosed with Stage 3B invasive colon cancer. She had surgery followed by six months of chemotherapy, during which time she was unable to work.

“The SWIM Across the Sound helped me to pay my mortgage during that time,” Adler said. “My family and I could have lost our home. I don’t know what we would have done without their support.”

Following her treatment, the doctors continued testing her to monitor her progress. One of these tests showed spots on her liver, which were cancerous. She underwent major liver surgery, followed by four months of chemotherapy. Additional testing indicated more activity in her liver, which the doctors treated with radiation. Tests in October 2013 showed the treatment was working and more tests in January 2014 showed no cancer. Her tests have remained clear ever since.

“I’m a nurse. I know better than to skip doctor appointments but life got busy and time got away from me,” she said. “Going to my PCP and getting that test saved my life. There’s no question about that. If my story can help one person, that’s the best gift of all.”

Her team’s name is “Sink or Swim.” Joining Adler to swim the marathon are her oncologist, Dr. Neal Fischbach of Fairfield; one of her surgeons Dr. Christine Van Cott of Trumbull; two nurses — Kristen Borgognone of Woodbridge, infection control manager; and Erin Fusco of Fairfield, nurse manager oncology; and Dave Malsheske of Plantsville, a cardiac physician’s assistant.

To donate to Kim’s team, visit relay-swimmers

In addition to cancer survivors swimming the marathon, swimmers often take on the challenge in support or memory of a friend or loved one. Others choose to help alleviate the suffering of someone they’ve never met. The money they raise from pledges goes to St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound, which helps cancer patients and their family deal with the plethora of non-medical challenges that cancer brings and that insurance does not cover.

More information on St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound Marathon can be found at

As the swimmers make their way across the Sound, hundreds of supporters will gather from 2-6 p.m. to cheer them on as they make their final approach to Captain’s Cove Seaport in Bridgeport. Children can partake in face painting, arts and craft, balloon sculpture and their choice of ice cream and toppings for a $1 donation at the children’s tent.

St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound is a charitable not-for-profit organization run by the St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation of Bridgeport. The SWIM serves approximately 30,000 people annually by providing more than 45 programs, including cancer education, screening, prevention and support programs at low- or no-cost for the uninsured and underinsured. In addition, the SWIM helps individual cancer patients on a case-by-case basis with specific financial assistance, funding of wigs and prostheses, medication assistance, free transportation to treatments and appointments, day-care scholarships, support groups and more. For more information, contact the St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation at 203-576-5451 or visit