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SANDY: HOW SHE IS NOW AND HOW WE CAN HELP Sandy's Story, related by her friends Kristi & Julie
As many of you know, in November 2015 Sandy was told that she had breast cancer. Her diagnosis was triple poisitive: HER-2, which only occurs in 20% of cases, in addition to ER and PR. Sandy elected to receive care through the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu.
During November and December, she experienced a number of difficult diagnostic procedures including at least eight mammograms, ultrasound biopsy, two MRI’s and MRI biopsies. On December 18, 2015, she underwent surgery to remove some lymph nodes in her right armpit because the cancer had spread. Her surgeon is Dr. Kathleen Mah, at Queen’s. Queen’s has joined its affiliation with the MD Anderson program, with the hospital on Big Island in Waimea, North Hawaii Community Hospital; and Sandy’s oncologist there is Dr. Elliot Epner. Under the direction of Dr. Epner, Sandy received six infusions of chemotherapy. Including drive time, doctor appointments and the actual infusions, some of these days started at 7:30, lasting until 5:30 with side effects of mouth sores, exhaustion, nausea, difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite.
On June 15, 2016, accompanied by Kristi, Sandy flew to Queen’s to have Dr. Mah perform a mastectomy. During the next three weeks, she returned to Oahu on her own for follow up visits with Dr. Mah. Pathology analysis showed that the tumor was cancer free!!
But treatment for Sandy was not over at this point. She is currently following the plan of care as designed by her team of doctors, which now includes Dr. Scott Moon, radiation oncologist at Kona Community Hospital in Kealakekua.This plan includes five weeks of radiation therapy, daily Monday through Friday at Kona Community Hospital, and twelve sessions of chemotherapy at North Hawaii Community Hospital. Treatment will essentially be continuing through the end of May 2017.
As a result of the removal of the lymph nodes Sandy has developed Lymphedema. This is a condition in which the lymph fluid cannot move freely; it builds up and causes swelling in the the affected area, stressing the immune system. This requires physical therapy and ongoing maintenance on Sandy’s part. Her physical therapist is Marilyn Nishi-Gormely in Kona, who has required Sandy to wear a compression sleeve on her right arm, and—for six months—to do no housework or lifting with the right arm. Sandy sometimes needs to see Marilyn twice a week.
These are the facts of Sandy’s diagnosis and treatment so far. But how is Sandy doing?
In keeping with the parameters of the Caring Bridge site—we update you on that in our first Journal, of August 15. Please continue to read there.