One of the many contradictions of cancer is the way time seems to speed up, yet also slow down. At the same time we feel like we can’t catch our breath, we are often also impatient to get to the next milestone, eager to fight this fight and get on with life. This timeline helps us chart our journey so far, and the path ahead.
- December 2011: Jen, who has periodically complained of a itch inside her breast that she can’t scratch, says that it’s sometimes more of a burning sensation. This coincided with her starting to run, so we chalked it up to inadequate support.
- Mid-February 2012: Jen asks me if I can feel anything unusual in her breast. I feel something, but it reminds me of how a clogged duct felt during breastfeeding. We decide she should make an appointment with the doctor.
- February 23, 2012: Jen goes in for a manual exam with her primary care physician, Dr. Tracie F. Hata.
- March 2, 2012: Jen goes in for a mammogram and ultrasound. The technician is unable to say anything definitive, but it’s clear there’s something abnormal, and she’s told to follow-up with her physician.
- March 6, 2012: Jen goes in for a biopsy. Three samples are taken: two breast cores and an axillary lymph node.
- March 8, 2012: The results of the biopsy come in. Both sampled nodules show invasive ductal carcinoma (1.1-1.8cm in length, 0.1cm in diameter, and 0.4-1.5cm in length, 0.1cm in diameter), and metastatic ductal carcinoma is also found in her left axillary lymph node (0.9cm in length, 0.1cm in diameter), consistent with lymph node metastasis. Additional tests will need to be performed (estrogen/progesterone receptors and Her2 Neu studies), but we’re referred to a surgeon, Dr. Betty Yee.
- March 9, 2012: We meet with Dr. Yee and her staff. Because of the likely multifocality, and small calcium deposits also observed in the mammogram/ultrasound, a mastectomy is recommended over a lumpectomy. Tests and the operation are scheduled. We will also have to meet with oncology to determine if there are chemotherapy and radiation requirements.
- March 13, 2012: A CT scan and bone scan are conducted, needed before the operation and before the oncology consult. Upon first read, everything looks normal.
- March 22, 2012: A modified mastectomy is performed, along with the removal of several lymph nodes. The surgeon says many seemed abnormal, but will require further analysis. Jen stays overnight in the hospital.
- March 29, 2012: After analysis of removed nodes found several with cancer and abnormal cells, Jen’s cancer was recategorized as Stage III. The oncology consultation determined that chemotherapy, radiation, and drug therapy was required.
- March 30, 2012: Jen’s post-op appointment with the surgeon and her team. Jen was healing nicely, and the drains were removed.
- April 3-5, 2012: Our middle child, Zac, went on his 4th grade Big Island study trip. Jen was scheduled to be a chaperone, but Ryan filled in.
- April 15, 2012: The 5th annual Hawaii Geek Meet at Magic Island. Jen was in attendance!
- April 22, 2012: Our youngest son, Alex, has his First Communion at Sacred Heart Parish in Manoa.
- April 16, 2012: Second oncology consultation. Clinical trial enrollment begins. EKG, blood tests, chemotherapy class scheduled.
- April 26, 2012: Chemotherapy commences, with treatments every two weeks for four treatments, then every week for another twelve treatments.
- June 2012: The second and ostensibly milder phase of chemotherapy, involving twelve weekly doses of taxol, begins.
- October 2012: Daily radiation treatment begins.
- September 2013: Reconstructive surgery.
- Intermission: Five years of anti-hormone drug therapy begins, along with annual cancer screening.
This timeline is terribly incomplete and out of date, following surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, reconstruction and recovery… and unfortunately continues after more than three peaceful and productive years (and a return to the workforce):
- August 2016: Metastatic cancer was found in Jen’s bones. Tests are conducted to determine the extent and treatment path.
- September 2016: Scans confirm that the cancer is the same and limited to her bones. They also find kidney stones, for which she experienced no symptoms. Jen resumes Tamoxifen to limit estrogen, and undergoes both an oophorectomy and kidney stone removal in the same operation.
- October 2016: Following the combined operation, Jen switches from Tamoxifen to Anastrazole and will begin quarterly IV treatments to boost bone health.
- June 2018: Losing parents and lifestyle changes.