Karin Martenson

First post: Sep 2, 2020 Latest post: Feb 20, 2021
Hello, thank you for visiting Karin's page. For many of you, this may be the first time that you are informed of her current situation. With her help, I have tried to lay out her journey chronologically, to give a better idea of her experience; it is just so hard to believe that I am actually talking about my little sister.

After 25 years in LA, on February 1, 2019 Karin made the life-altering move back east. It was time for a clean slate: new life, new job, new city...the Big Apple was her goal. She moved to Greenwich, Connecticut in January of 2020, feeling good that her life was on the right track, and that things were moving along.

Unfortunately, in mid-March she started having mild pains under and around her right arm, but didn't think much of it until it worsened. After a mammogram and ultrasound, masses were found in both breasts. A biopsy of 3 samples in 4 different areas from both breasts and under her right arm was ordered. Diagnosis: cancer in both breasts. Inflammatory HER2positive, the right and regular HER2negative, the left. Both were considered Stage 3 at this time.

After receiving the shocking diagnosis, Karin had hoped to be treated by Dr. Larry Norton, head of breast oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City. Unfortunately, it happened to be when NYC was at the height of Covid19, so she opted for Greenwich Hospital, which was affiliated with Yale Medical School. An impressive hospital and very close to where she was living at the time, it seemed like the perfect combination. 

In early April Karin tested negative for the coronavirus, so she was able to proceed with a bone scan and echocardiogram, then chemo. Before her chemo appointment, Karin’s oncologist explained that “spots” had been found on her ribcage, upper spine and lungs, as well as the lower spine. Although she couldn't say for sure, the doctor suspected cancer in these areas due to the aggressive nature of the inflammatory cancer in her right breast. This was just too much for Karin. She asked, “what will happen to me?” and without blinking an eye, her doctor said that they would get rid of it with chemo. The cancer cannot be cured, but she can still live a long life although she’ll need the chemo forever.

The first chemo session on April 3 lasted all day, then once every 3 weeks for a total of 6 sessions. Her doctor prescribed 4 different types of chemo, one after another. She was violently sick the whole time: dehydrated, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, unable to eat or sleep, constant headaches and pains, fainting, and canker sores.

A biopsy was ordered for the spot on her lower spine, revealing that the cancer had spread to her bones as well. Although her previous diagnosis of Inflammatory Breast Cancer in her right breast put her at Stage 3, this new discovery of cancer in her lower spine put her at Stage 4.

After the insertion of a port for her chemo treatments, Karin began having horrible pains. In mid-April she was back in the hospital to remove the port due to a non-MRSA staph infection, resulting in a week of IV antibiotic treatments.

After being horribly sick for almost 3 months and barely able to function as a human being, Karin knew that it was time for something to change. She was able to get a telehealth (online conference call) with Dr. Norton who told her that her port had been inserted incorrectly and that there should have been no reason for her to have been as sick as she was during her chemo treatments at Greenwich Hospital. And little did she know that Memorial Sloan Kettering had a brand new state of the art facility only 15 minutes from her apartment! 

On July 6, Karin had her first official appointment at Sloan Kettering’s facility in Harrison, New York. They ordered blood work and a CT scan, then chemo the following Monday. Since the beginning she has been happy with her treatment facility and Sheryl, her assigned nurse practitioner. She started chemo treatments once a week for 2 weeks, and besides fatigue and weakness, she felt pretty good.

A couple of weeks prior to this, Karin had had her gynecological check-up. Pap tests resulted abnormal, so on July 14 she had a colposcopic and endometrial biopsy. Unfortunately the results were devastating: uterine cancer. She was scheduled for a hysterectomy and hiatal hernia on September 9, at MSK in NYC, but the surgery has been postponed until October or early November, to give her system a chance to detox from the chemo.

Regarding Karin’s chemo treatments, which she has 3 weeks out of the month along with bloodwork, she feels like a new person-MSK is truly a cutting edge hospital. Her headache has practically disappeared as well as the bitter taste in her mouth which had made eating so difficult. Her new doctors were perplexed as to why she had been so unnecessarily sick after her previous treatments at Greenwich Hospital. They now know it’s because her former medical team started her out with a combination of 4 different super strong chemos, then eliminated 1 at a time, causing havoc in her body while trying to alleviate how sick she was. 

On a positive note, Karin’s doctors have told her that the tumors in her breasts are responding to the chemo; they are getting smaller!  Besides the fatigue and lightheadedness, I am relieved to say that Karin is generally feeling pretty good. In fact, she is able to make the 7-8 hour drive home to stay with our mother in Jamestown, NY for a couple of weeks before returning to Connecticut for her chemo treatments.

The latest appointment to report is her 7-hour red blood cell transfusion on August 19th. Her red blood cell count was 7.8 and should be 12-15. This will hopefully alleviate some of her weakness and fatigue.

From now on, for any information and updates on Karin’s health, you can check here. Please feel free to share your loving thoughts, prayers or just a note to say hello. 

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