Medical Timeline

Fall-Winter 2010

A lump is found in Rahima's right breast and she is diagnosed with "triple-negative" breast cancer.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) is an especially aggressive form of breast cancer that lacks three receptors known to fuel most breast cancers — estrogen receptors, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) and progesterone receptors — making it especially difficult to treat. It is susceptible to chemotherapy, but about 1/3 of the time the cancer will later metastasize, establishing sites elsewhere in the body.
Rahima undergoes two surgeries (to remove the lump and activated lymph nodes), radiation and chemotherapy. She has checkups every six months and mammograms once per year. The most recent mammogram on January 4, 2012 is negative.

January 2012

Rahima starts having strange headaches and visual field disturbances. She is diagnosed with classic migraine headaches, but because of her cancer history she is sent for MRI imaging of the brain.

January 20 — The brain MRI reveals a thickening of the right side of the meninges (the brain lining) and small nodules on the occipital and left temporal regions. Knowing that TNBC usually metastasizes to the body before the brain, Rahima's oncologist orders a PET scan of the rest of her body.

January 27 — The PET scan reveals that the cancer has spread throughout Rahima's system. In addition to the brain, sites are found on her lungs and liver. It is also in her bones: ribs, pelvis, femur and spine. When asked, the oncologist says that Rahima may have between one month and one year to live. We search and can find no accounts of women surviving metastatic triple-negative breast cancer.

February 2012

February 6 — After further testing, Rahima meets with the oncologist. The persistent cough, shortness of breath and loss of voice is due to cancer in the lymphatic system in the chest area.

February 17 — Rahima enrolls in hospice and begins using supplemental oxygen. She forgoes chemotherapy and other drastic medical interventions.

February 20 — Rahima uses morphine for the first time, one drop under the tongue. It eases her breathing and her head pain.

February 24 — Rahima dances at her "Save the Last Dance for Me" dinner/dance/fundraiser party at the Guiding Star Grange.

February 26 — Rahima travels to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida for the three-week Life Transformation Program. She is accompanied by Andy and Mira.

March 2012

March 17 — At home again in Greenfield.

March 19 — Rahima re-engages hospice. She goes on oxygen full-time and resumes palliative medicine.

March 27, Tuesday 10:54 P.M. — Rahima breathes her last.