The diagnosis is heavy and often heartbreaking. The treatment is intense. But, what happens after the chemotherapy and the radiation? There's a special program that makes sure what happens next for cancer survivors doesn't mean an end to the kind of care many need.
"In my day, they had this game Pac-Man so when I received my infusions I would picture the Pac-Man eating the cancer cells," said cancer survivor Elaine Kimura.
Bright, warm, and full of compassion. It's hard to imagine the intense journey for Kimura. Already dedicated to her annual mammogram, she found out less than two years ago she had rare form of cancer and it was moving fast.
"In the lymph nodes in my arm there was a tumor the size of an egg and the one in breast was pretty large too," said Kimura. "So, learned a new word: metastatic cancer. There is no cure for it, but there is treatment for it."
A trooper and staying in control cutting her locks, then shaving her hair before it all fell out. She went through several rounds of chemo and radiation before her heart nearly gave out.
"I had a real strong fighting spirit," said Kimura.
The cancer's at bay for now but Kimura says physically and mentally she needed help.
And it turns out, so do many others.
"I look good enough that people may not know what's going on," said Kimura.
"Perhaps their co-workers or colleagues may view them as why are you being slow, but not understanding about the lingering side-effects from these treatments," said Dr. Francisco Conde of the Cancer Survivorship Program.
Fatigue, dental problems, gastro-intestinal, sexual and psychological. Dr. Francisco Conde with The Queen's Medical Center realized more needed to be done and started the Cancer Survivorship Program. Knowing cancer can mean a lifetime of challenges -- big and small.
"In the past, when patients were done with cancer treatments, doctors would say okay, go home. Okay, and we wanted to address some of the unique health care needs," said Dr. Conde.
This year, there will be an estimated 15 million cancer survivors in the U.S. alone. By 2020, 20 million survivors. Dr. Conde recommends a Survivorship Care Plan.
Getting treatment information combined in one document, so everyone's on the same page. And there's those like Kimura sharing her journey, her story and giving others strength. Both giving hope, survivors can also thrive.
"For me, it gives me personal satisfaction that we're making a difference in the lives of cancer patients today," said Dr. Cone.
"You know it goes full circle. And it's part of your journey and you don't have to be alone," said Kimura.
Queen's has just partnered with the MD Anderson Cancer Network that will expand expertise and resources for Hawaii cancer survivors. Queen's is also in the process of expanding the Survivorship Program to North Hawaii Community Hospital on the Big Island and the Queen's West Oahu location.