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The Day My Life Changed Forever

Well, this isn’t a dip recipe post, but I wanted to share a personal post of what is happening in my life.

During a time when many people are struggling with what’s happening in the world around us, I’m struggling with the devastating news I received a couple of months ago.

On March 17, I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer just days before my 38th birthday. This was the 2nd cancer diagnosis I have had in 10 years, but this time things are much worse.

That was the day that changed my life forever. My cancer is inoperable, has spread to multiple places in my body and there is no cure.

This was a complete and utter shock. And as you can imagine, this has flipped my life upside down and sent me on an emotional and physical roller coaster ride. How could I have lung cancer? I’m too young! This can’t be happening!

And nope, I have never smoked a cigarette a day in my life. As I’ve learned, anyone can get lung cancer despite your age and even if you’ve never smoked. This type of cancer is actually rising in young, never smokers.

I had been sick for a while and had several missed diagnosis.

In September of last year, I developed a cough and noticed I coughed up a bit of blood, but I didn’t feel like I had a cold. That’s when I should have gone to a doctor, but I shrugged it off to a bug and kept on going. The blood stopped, but the cough didn’t.

Over the next few months, I came down with the normal fall crud (or so I thought). My husband got sick too so it seemed sensible. My cough never went away though. I was busy traveling and living life though.

Finally in December, I went to a walk-in drug store clinic. I was told my lungs sounded clear and that I had bronchitis.

By January, I still had a cough and started having a burning and heavy feeling in my chest. I was also coughing up blood again. I went to an urgent care where they did a chest Xray. I was then told I had pneumonia and was prescribed antibiotics.

I was getting worried by this point. 10 years ago, I had an early stage Melanoma which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. I was always a bit worried that cancer would come back. I asked the urgent care doctor if it could be cancer. He told me not to worry and that if I was 70, he may be concerned, but people my age don’t get lung cancer.

4 weeks later, I went back for a re-peat chest Xray. I felt some better, but I was still sick. Sure enough, the Xray showed my lung had actually gotten worse. I was given another antibiotic and told to come back in 3 weeks. A couple weeks later, I started coughing up blood again and knew by this point that something was very wrong.

Another Xray showed no improvement and I was immediately sent to the ER. I spent a week in the hospital in isolation because of what’s going on. A CT scan revealed what looked like a mass in my left lung. I also had fluid around my lung and around my heart.

The fluid around my heart was drained (not a fun procedure and I was in a lot of pain as a result) and sent to test for an infection or cancer. Days later, 2 doctors walked into my hospital room with very serious and somber looks on their faces. I immediately knew it was cancer and it was bad.

I thought the melanoma had come back. But the fluid tested positive for adenocarcinoma. I had a different type of cancer! I already knew that if cancer cells were found in the fluid, it meant an automatic stage 4 diagnosis. Because of my past history with cancer, I also knew that stage 4 was advanced disease with generally a poor prognosis.

I laid in the hospital bed and burst into tears with my husband by my side.

Lung cancer was assumed to be the primary cancer source, but I’d have to have more tests to confirm.

Since then, I’ve had fluid drained from my lung twice, full body scans, genetic testing and multiple biopsies that confirmed lung cancer. The cancer has also spread to numerous bones and to my liver.

Looking back, a year prior, I had what I believe now was my first subtle, noticeable sign of lung cancer. I had a dull ache in my chest that would come and go. I chalked it up to a muscle ache and ignored it. I also noticed more frequent heart palpitations (I’ve had them now and then for as long as I can remember).

I regret not listening to my body earlier, but not sure it would have ultimately changed anything. But I urge everyone to listen to your body and if anything, no matter how small, seems off, please go get it checked out and be persistent!

My left lower lung was pretty much collapsed from the cancer. I have developed shortness of breath and struggle to walk up our flight of stairs right now although that has gotten a bit better recently. For weeks, even taking a shower has been a draining chore.

Genetic testing revealed that my cancer as a rare genetic mutation. How I got the mutation or what caused it is unknown.

I have entered a clinical trial for a pill that targets my mutation, but I will start treatment with chemo until my cancer progresses and then I will move onto the pill.

Advanced lung cancer has historically had one of the worse prognosis of any cancer. There have been a lot of advancements in treatment though.

I have hope for options that will help treat my cancer more as a chronic illness. When one treatment stops working, I will hopefully be able to move onto another one to extend my life and keep the cancer stable for a long time.

I’ll be honest- this is the toughest thing I’ve ever faced and it’s so hard to write these words. I have so many dreams that I feel are shattered.

I’m trying to stay positive and I will fight this! I’m a Christian and will rely on my faith to carry me through. I’m working to focus on faith over fear. It’s not easy though.

It’s also extremely difficult having to be physically distanced from my family and friends and not be able to go out and do things I enjoy because of what’s going on in the world. Thank God for my husband who is taking care of me.

If you’re a believer, I’d appreciate your prayers for healing and for peace as I go through this incredibly difficult journey.

I have taken short term disability from my day job until I can re-gain some strength and better deal emotionally with my situation. I love my career though and do want to go back. I also want to continue this blog, but I don’t have the motivation or passion right now to create new recipes.

I’m hopeful I’ll be able to adjust to my new normal soon and get back to blogging one day in the near future.

On a positive note, I’ve had so many people reach out to us with prayers, well wishes, cards, gifts, and food. I’ve been blown away by the amount of support we’ve had and I’m so thankful for all the love and everyone pulling for me.

Comments

  1. Vicki Collins

    Hi Darlene, I am so very sorry to hear about all that you are going through. I missed working with you at Owens & Minor. Know you are in my thoughts and prayers. Take care and good luck with the clinical trials.

  2. Darlene Kratz

    Thank you so much Vicki! I miss you all too and I hope you’re doing well! So far my chemo is doing what it’s supposed to.

  3. Oh my… dear Darlene, so sorry to hear of your struggle and current path you are having to walk. I will indeed pray and remember you daily.

    1. Darlene Kratz

      Thank you Rick! Your thoughts and prayers are very much appreciated. Good to hear from you, just wish it was a better circumstance 🙂

  4. Therese Dodge

    Darlene, Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers. I just found this out today and am numb. I am sending positive energy to you for the clinical trials. With much love, Therese

    1. Darlene Kratz

      Thank you Therese! I’m responding well for now to the chemo and I’m feeling much, much better. I’ve gone back to work full time as well. Keep the positive energy and prayers coming…it will be a long road ahead. I hope you’re doing well!

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