OCTOBER 2020 - Update from Karina:
We hope you all are doing well and staying healthy during this time. We wanted to send a quick greeting and update regarding my Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) Journey.
January 2020 I had been experiencing bone pain in my arms, legs and spine. I had felt so good for the past year, I wasn’t sure if it was a side effect of the medications I was on. My medical staff didn’t have any answers either. It is common to have bone pain with the osteoporosis medication I am on. However, during the shelter in place I began to feel worse. Due to the COVID-19 my regular blood tests, doctor appointments and scans were all delayed.
Finally in May, correlating my latest scan with blood tests showed that the cancer was progressing. So, new terminology to add to my personal MBC handbook are “failed,” which is when the cancer finds a way to thrive/grow around the current medication, and “blood transfusion” which I have had to have twice since May, due to extremely low hemoglobin because the cancer is disrupting the bone marrow from properly producing blood cells. Lastly, “crisis” which is the state of health I am in when the cancer is in control and the current medicine regime is unable to manage the cancer’s growth.
So, my honeymoon phase with MBC was over. Since my diagnosis I had been on the #1 prescribed drug for MBC, Ibrance. I truly believed the commercials, that I could just continue life with my “New Normal.” But, with the failure of Ibrance, a reality set in that there is a time limit for each medication. The studies on Ibrance give the Progression Free Survival (PRS) 18 months before the cancer progresses. Eighteen months is just about what I got from Ibrance before things started to deteriorate.
I was quickly switched to the hot new drug, Piqray. The side effects for this drug were harsh. I barely left the house for 3 months. Let's just say I had never used “violent” as an adjective to “diarrhea” before. I lost 20 pounds. My scans at 3 months showed that 2 “shadows” in the liver turned into 6 tumors, with the largest 2 being over one inch each. Piqray “failed” in 3 months.
I am now one week into my third line of Chemo drugs, Xeloda which is an oral chemo that is used for both breast and colon cancer. It is so far much more tolerable than Piqray.
My faith tells me that God does not send you challenges that you cannot handle. So, obviously the big guy upstairs must think I’m Wonder Woman.
My kids are my prizes in life, they each are growing and thriving and I couldn’t be prouder of how they are developing into wonderful young adults.
The shelter in place has given Perry and me lots of time to talk and reconnect.
Wish me luck as I become a Medicare Recipient this December. I will have to navigate the Medicare Part D donut hole in order to cover my Chemo medications. I will let you know how that turns out.
Lastly, we want to send our well wishes to you during this very challenging and trying time. From my personal experience with the SIP and personal health and wellbeing, I encourage you to go and resume your normal medical care. Go and get that yearly physical even if you don't have any pain. Ladies, go see your OB/GYN and have the full exam. There are not definitive tests for lots of types of cancer, so just be diligent with working with your medical professionals.
We want to thank you for your ongoing support and wish you a smooth and healthy transition into the fall.
With much love and appreciation,
An Update from Karina:
Friends, Family, Friends of Friends and New Friends, I wanted to thank you all for your support and donations. Your generosity has been overwhelming and humbling. I am so grateful.
I had been waiting for good news, a measurable improvement in my scans, to share. However, what I am learning is that it may be quite some time before we achieve that measurable improvement. Your donations have allowed me to refocus my life. I was able to put running the Physical Therapy Practice on the back burner and let Perry worry about the kids and the household. I approach this Metastatic Breast Cancer the same way that I approach everything else in life, to learn everything I can and master it.
I just completed my 4th round of Oral Chemotherapy. I'm tolerating the dose well. My days are structured around my medications, supplements, rest and exercise. I am encouraged by the change in the breast mass. It has decreased from the size of half a softball, to half a baseball. My greatest struggle is redefining my expectations of life. I no longer imagine myself in my 70's or 80's. I hope for 5 or 10 more years so that I can teach my kids all the LIFE LESSONS that I can, to see them develop into loving, productive individuals for as long as I can, to share in their triumphs and hold them during their failures.
Having cancer is very lonely. Only others with cancer can know what that means. I am seeking out support groups and counseling. Maybe I know too much being in the healthcare field. With Stage 4 metastatic cancer, I am just one turn or failed course of treatment away from becoming terminal. When I was diagnosed in May, I was introduced to another woman in my neighborhood who had metastatic breast cancer for 2 years. She just took a turn for the worse and is now on hospice.
On to the joys of my life...my four kids. Hunter was lucky enough to be set up to shadow doctors in Houston this past summer thanks to my cousin Lillian. During his shadowing Hunter met OB/GYNs and Oncologists that weighed in on my cancer and made recommendations on my treatment. I had my ovaries removed due to insights Hunter brought to our attention. Hunter was just invited to join Phi Delta Epsilon, the international Pre-Med Fraternity. Perry and I say that Hunter is the combination of each of our best qualities.
Brett is my Mother's Day Baby. I am very proud of him. He has the privilege of winning the genetic roll of the dice and being blessed with the artistic gene. He has an infectious sense of humor. Brett is also brave. As a teenager he has to listen to his body and try to make sense of his feelings and emotions, then balance exercise, diet and sleep to maintain his body chemistry.
Taylor is the caregiver. Perry and I both miss her immediately when she leaves to travel. She takes care of everyone in the house. Taylor embodies the Sports Philosophy that all our kids were raised with: DO YOUR JOB! and THE TEAM COMES FIRST! I envision Taylor playing Lacrosse in High School and College and eventually Coaching. Taylor is like my mom, JoAnn, teacher, organizer, socialite.
Kate is the baby and the boss of the house. She takes a little longer to do everything, because she easily convinces others in the family to do things for her. Before we knew it Kate just grew up and is a very observant, humorous, chatty teenager who is actually pretty good at lacrosse. Kate is like my mother in law, Rosie, the consummate Princess.
With my deepest appreciation,
Karina Lee Howe
This page was created by close family of KARINA LEE HOWE.
KARINA LEE HOWE, 49, is a physical therapist, graduate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, leader, problem solver, mother of four (Hunter 19, Brett 16, Taylor 13, and Kate 10), and wife of Perry Howe. She is the daughter of Alson & JoAnn Lee, sister of Lenora Lee, and daughter-in-law of Rosie Lo. She is an amazing human being and we are raising funds on behalf of Karina and her immediate family.
In November 2017 Karina became debilitatingly ill and doctors were not able to determine the cause. It was not until May 2018 that Karina was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer (Metastatic Lobular Carcinoma). Though missed on routine mammograms, further tests showed that the cancer had metastasized and spread to both breasts, lymph nodes, liver, and throughout her bones (spine, hips and legs). The doctors are treating it as a chronic condition with no cure.
In June she began a combination of chemotherapy, hormone blockers, and bone strengthening injections in hopes to shrink the tumors and starve the cancer cells. The median life expectancy for patients with metastatic breast cancer is 26 months, and fewer than 1 in 4 survive for more than five years.
KARINA AND HER FAMILY NEED YOUR SUPPORT
Her out-of-pocket medical costs (chemotherapy, hormone suppressants, injections, infusions, tests, CT and bone scans, supplements, potential surgeries and radiation) are high and mounting. The Chemotherapy decreases Karina’s white blood cell count so low that she is immunocompromised and exhausted. The bone-strengthening infusion drugs leave her bedridden. With the challenges of time and susceptibility to infection, she and her husband have had to cut down the workload in their physical therapy / chiropractic practice. Perry has taken on the role as primary caregiver, as Karina is dedicating her energy to healing.
Their most immediate need is ongoing financial support during this critical time of rearranging Karina’s daily responsibilities, nutritional intake, and life focus.
PLEASE JOIN KARINA’S URGENT FIGHT FOR HER LIFE
We are currently seeking to raise $180,000 for this first phase of battling cancer. This will help cover the $18,000 per month needed to compensate for the medical treatment, lost income, and to help meet the outstanding bills they may be facing.
What we seek is simple:
- 4 people who can make a contribution of $45,000
- 8 people who can make a contribution of $22,500
- 18 people who can make a contribution of $10,000
- 24 people who can make a contribution of $7,500 (or $625/month for this 1st year)
- 36 people who can make a contribution of $5,000 (or $417/month for this 1st year)
- 60 people who can make a contribution of $3,000 (or $250/month for this 1st year)
Some may be able to give more and others less but please, if you are reading this, consider making a contribution. If you are unable to give monthly, a one time contribution in any amount would be greatly appreciated. The challenge to all of us, is not to give what you can "afford", but to give how you would want others to give to your closest loved ones and family.
We should also note the possibility of this being an ongoing battle with cancer and the ongoing need for support to help cover Karina’s medical bills and lost income.
Here are the steps to give.
1) Click the "Donate Now" button on this page.
2) Enter the desired donation amount.
3) Enter your billing information.
This online platform GoFundMe charges 2.9% in fees. If you prefer to donate directly by check, or wish to make recurring monthly contributions, please email Lenora at [email redacted] for processing. For recurring contributions, indicate your desired monthly amount, as well as how many months you would like to contribute.
Those who know Karina know she is a fighter, a compassionate, dedicated, and loving human being. Her gifts and service have touched the lives of so many. She has spent years in the combined practice of physical therapy and chiropractic, with her husband Perry, through thorough and detailed work in the healing processes for her countless patients and family. It is urgent that she take this much needed time now to battle the cancer and heal.
Karina has taken great steps to understand treatment and healing options, and is fighting the cancer every step of the way, through the days of stability and the days of uncertainty and fatigue, she is planning for her and her family’s future. Her goal is full remission.
Thank you for standing with us during this challenging period. Please help spread the word about this campaign by sharing it within your networks. We are ever so grateful for your support.
With much appreciation,
The Lees and Howes
P.S. Please direct any inquiries or suggested resources to Lenora at [email redacted].
- Darren Leung
- Lumpy Quan
- Arlene Biala
- Elaine Low
Organizer and beneficiary
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