Kimberly Ann Kahmer, whose diagnosis with stomach cancer last year sparked an outpouring of support in the Fallston area, died of the disease Monday at her home in Baldwin, surrounded by her family and friends. She was 23.
Diagnosed several weeks after her college graduation with a form of cancer that is rare for a person her age, she faced the disease with the positive attitude, lively spirit and sense of humor that she exhibited throughout her life and made many friends in the process.
More than 1,200 people turned out for two benefits for Miss Kahmer at the Fallston Swim Club that raised $50,000. The events were organized through the Fallston Recreation Council.
"We were hoping for a cure, a miracle," said benefit organizer Mark Profili of Baldwin, whose daughter Katie was a classmate of Miss Kahmer. "In doing so we almost missed the real miracle of the whole thing -- the miracle of Kim. Truly she was the epitome of optimism and strength. She brought the community together."
Known as Kimmi or Kim to her family and close friends, Miss Kahmer was born in Baltimore and briefly attended Hickory Elementary School near Bel Air. In 1986, the family moved to the Baldwin area and she attended Youth's Benefit Elementary School in Fallston.
At Fallston High School, from which she graduated in 1997, Miss Kahmer was business editor of the school newspaper, The Print, and a member of the swim, track and field, and cross-country teams.
She was a member of Fallston Swim Club's team from 1987 to 1997 and worked at the club as a lifeguard in summer and swimming instructor during most of high school and college.
A natural leader, Miss Kahmer's stubbornness and desire to be in charge were evident even as a small child, said her mother, Brenda L. Kahmer of Baldwin. "She was one of those children to whom you'd say, 'The sky is blue' and she'd say, 'No, it's robin's egg green,'" said Mrs. Kahmer, an oncology nurse. "She always had to have the upper hand."
At York College, she joined the swim team and became an officer in the sorority Alpha Sigma Tau. Upon graduating in May of last year with a degree in business, Miss Kahmer planned to seek a job in marketing. She bought her first new car, a bright blue Hyundai Tiburon. It was a prized possession.
"She was on top of the world when she graduated from college," said Kate Taylor of Cockeysville, one of Miss Kahmer's closest friends. "She was ready to go."
The cancer diagnosis didn't stop her from living life as she saw fit, friends and family said. Given four to eight months to live by doctors in June of last year, Miss Kahmer continued to visit the beach and Disney World with her family. She also worked at a women's clothing store, took a painting class and spoke candidly to students at her former high school about what it was like to have cancer.
"She was too busy living to worry about dying," said James J. O'Toole, her high school English and journalism teacher and close friend of the family. Not only did she not feel sorry for herself, he said, "She would not allow you to feel sorry for her."
During chemotherapy treatments at her oncologist's office, Miss Kahmer drew other cancer patients into conversations about their illnesses and interests by sharing with them her sunny attitude, infectious laugh and voluminous canvas tote bag filled with candy and chips. "She brightened up the whole place," said Donna L. Tenly, her chemotherapy nurse.
At Miss Kahmer's request, the fund that was established through the Fallston Recreation Council to help cover the cost of her medical expenses will continue to help other young people with terminal illnesses. Donations may be made to: Kim Kahmer Cancer Fund, c/o Fallston Recreation Council, 2105 Hampton Court, Fallston 21047.
A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Calvary Baptist Church, 120 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Towson.
She is also survived by her father, Albert L. Kahmer of Baldwin; two sisters, Carrie M. Kahmer of Baldwin and Amanda L. Kahmer of Thomasville, Pa.; her maternal grandparents, Howard A. and Catherine C. Ebelein of Parkville; and her paternal grandfather, Louis V. Kahmer Jr. of Perry Hall.