|Me and Malea, 2004|
On April 15, 2009, my best friend, Malea Kanoho, was diagnosed with stage two invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. At the time of her diagnosis, she was 35 years old. Six days after her diagnosis, she had a bilateral mastectomy, followed by five months of intensive chemotherapy that ended in October, 2009. She then began taking Tamoxifen (a cancer blocker), which she was told she would have to take for five years. After being declared in remission November 2009, Malea’s husband, Jason, was transferred from Hawaii to Northern Virginia where they moved with their two children, Dallas and Breauna. Malea also has two other children, Justyn (20) and Marc (22). She is expecting her first grandchild in July.
In January 2010, Malea followed up with a new Oncologist within the same insurance network, beginning her regular three month checkups.
On March 22, 2010, she had surgery to put in expanders to begin her resconstruction surgery. While she was recovering from this surgery, she was sent home with no aftercare instructions. The pain was so severe, she went to the emergency room. The emergency room doctors thought that she might have a blood clot from the surgery she had just had. They did a CT scan and the technician insisted that she raise her arm over her head, even though Malea had told her that she was unable to do so because of the fact that the muscles and tissue had been detached and removed from her rib cage during her last surgery. The technician forced her arms over her head, causing excruciating pain. When the medication was put through the IV to do the test, massive amounts of blood were pouring from the IV site. The technician ignored all of this and continued with the testing. No blood clot was found and she was sent home, traumatized again.
Even though she was given prescription painkillers, the pain was so intense that Malea decided to use a heating pad. Instead of using it on her back, she placed it directly on the incision site and accidentally received first and second degree burns because she could not feel how hot the heating pad was. She went in to see her surgeon and was given medication to put on the burns and told to keep the incision dry. For three months, the burned tissue leaked because it had split open along the incision site. On July 2, 2010, the surgeon removed both expanders and the burned tissue in yet another surgery. She was told she would have to wait six months to put the expanders back in so that she could heal.
On December 1, 2010, Malea admitted herself to the emergency room because of excruciating pain in her side. The initial diagnosis was that she had a ruptured appendix. Testing was done which determined that there was a 7.8 centimeter cyst that was going to rupture on her right ovary. Her gynecologist verified the diagnosis and scheduled her for surgery on December 21, 2010. During this surgery, in addition to the ovarian cyst, they found a cyst tied into the fallopian tube, dating back to her tubal ligation in 1999. They removed both the fallopian tube and her right ovary. The pathology report confirmed that there were breat cancer cells in the right ovary. No follow up treatment was recommended after this surgery, as the doctors believed they had gotten everything during the surgery.
On January 22, 2011, Malea had surgery to put the breast expanders back in and again began her reconstruction.
On February 18, 2011, she went in for a regular reconstruction follow up as well as an oncology appointment. The doctors had been following a nodule in her lung that had been there since the mastectomy surgery in Hawaii. She had routine bloodwork and a chest x-ray done and there was a suspicious spot on the x-ray. After having a PET scan, Malea’s remission ended when she was diagnosed with recurrent IDC breast cancer in the auxiliary nodes in her left armpit. The surgeon recommended that she not have surgery, due to the fact that she had already had recent lymph node removal in 2009 when she had her mastectomy. Because the surgery would have been extremely delicate and the cancer was located near a nerve, she would be at a very high risk of lymphadema, which would cause extreme chronic pain, and other multiple problems. It was also recommended that she not receive additional chemotherapy because of the high doses she had just received in 2009.
The doctors recommended five weeks of intense radiation beginning April 4, 2011. In May 2011, radiation ended and her oral chemotherapy drug was changed from Tamoxifen to Arimidex, since it has been shown to be more effective in treating more advanced cancers. She was then instructed to continue with three month checkups for blood work and CT scans. On May 30, 2011, she saw her oncologist for a regular consultation and the doctor said that there would probably be lesions that would appear in her lungs within three months and the blood work could come back as irregular because there would still be radiation working in her body.
By the end of May and as the radiation had continued and her skin began to shrink, her incision on her left breast reconstruction split open. Although she expressed her concerns several times to the surgeon, he indicated that he saw no reason to worry. When she finally insisted that the surgeon look at it, he told her to keep it dry and sent her home. Over the fourth of July weekend, the draining became intense and the incision had opened wider. She went back in for a follow up and the surgeon told her that he needed to remove the tissue around the incision. During the surgery on July 6, 2011, he discovered that he needed to remove a large portion of the breast expander.
After the surgery on the 6th, Malea developed a fever and was experiencing a lot of pain, so she went to the emergency room yet again, where the doctor diagnosed a serious bacterial infection caused by the surgery. She received a blood transfusion and, on July 9, 2010, a different surgeon went in and removed the entire left breast reconstruction, representing a devastating setback in her recovery.
At her September follow-up for the radiation treatment, the oncologist ordered the routine CT scan and blood work. Even though the oncologist told Malea everything looked “healthy,” the pathology results actually showed that the nodules in her lungs had grown and, additionally, there were three new nodules. Malea questioned the oncologist about the pathology report, but the doctor said that everything looked good and she wanted to continue with their treatment plan. At no time did the oncologist ever talk to Malea about what the outcome would be with her cancer or what the prognosis would be or even show any concerns.
On December 1, 2011 she had blood work in advance of her next follow up appointment in January. The blood work came back abnormal and with that there was a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer stage 4 in both lungs. Malea had scheduled her second reconstruction surgery for January 12, which was then canceled because of the new diagnosis. A CT scan was done and the original three nodules from September had tripled in size from September to December and additional new nodules were now showing up. There are now 12 nodules in Malea’s lungs which continue to grow.
On December 13, 2011, Malea underwent an extremely painful lung biopsy. The pathology report confirmed that the cancer has now progressed to malignant stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. The blood work came back on New Year’s Eve and she was told that they would maintain her on the oral chemotherapy drug Xeloda instead of the Arimidex. No further treatment has been offered by her oncologist and she was simply told to follow up in six weeks.
The doctors have indicated that there is no more that they can do but to try to suppress and slow the spread of the cancer to prolong her life. She has also been told that she has exhausted all of her options for further treatment. She is fighting to survive and prolong her life for both herself and her family and she decided that there has to be more that she can do to survive.
While the doctors and insurance companies have declined to move further, Malea and Jason are seeking alternative medicine and cancer institutions that will help them outside of their insurance network. She has found a treatment center who is willing to treat her, but the center does not take her insurance and is incredibly expensive. The new doctor is willing to try to get her insurance company to pay for some of the treatment, but believes that will be a very difficult fight.
In the meantime, Malea’s cancer continues to grow and threaten her life. It is my hope that her friends and family will be able to do enough fundraising to cover the costs of her treatment. You can help. On the left side of my home page, I will be putting up a post office box for you to mail a check to. You can enter to win an autographed copy of Stephen King’s latest book, 11/22/63 for $20. You can purchase six chances to win for $100. Please help my friend receive the treatment that will offer her the hope of a cure. All proceeds will go to pay for Malea's medical bills.
Metastatic breast cancer is currently thought not to be survivable. It is our hope that with the proper treatment, Malea will be the exception to this death sentence. Please help us.
For more information on the treatment Malea is receiving, please go to Insulin Potentiation Therapy. This therapy has been used successfully in over 70 countries on advanced cancers with success. The United States is lagging behind in our treatment of this horrific disease.
Update - September 19, 2012
Malea's treatment at the center did not improve her cancer situation. She has gone back to Kaiser and has been receiving intensive chemotherapy treatment over the last several months. She has been in extreme physical pain, especially after her chemotherapy sessions, but has continued nonetheless for her family. She wants and needs to beat this cancer. Her mediport became infected and had to be removed, an excruciating procedure.
Malea's 15 year old son, Dallas, has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor. They are almost positive it is benign, but he will have to have it removed. His surgery will be scheduled shortly. The surgery could affect his ability to speak and other important motor functions and he is sure to have a long recovery.
This afternoon, Malea will have a PET scan to see where she is with the cancer. Her doctor does not think she would be having this much pain if she was responding to the chemotherapy, so it is very possible that she may have a choice to make. If the disease is spreading despite the chemo, it might be time for a decision to stop treatment. That will be devastating, as there is no chance of beating the cancer without treatment.
Please say a prayer for Malea and her family if you pray. If not, please send positive thoughts her way. Thank you
Update - October 23, 2012
Malea Renee Kanoho lost her battle with breast cancer at noon on October 21, 2012. An educational fund has been set up for her children and donations can be made in lieu of flowers to:
The Malea Renee Kanoho Memorial Fund
c/o Matt Dolan
47037 Berwick Ct.
Sterling. VA 20165