Chelsi Terwey Podratz began having chest pain and shortness of breath Spring of 2015. As a normally healthy, 37-year-old wife and mother, she knew something was wrong. Chelsi went to urgent care and was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was prescribed antibiotics and asked to come back for a follow-up visit. Chelsi began feeling better and debated whether to go in for the re-check, but decided to be safe and returned to her doctor. Chelsi was told that since she was feeling better, it was not necessary to do a second x-ray. Chelsi was not comfortable with this decision and insisted that she be rechecked.
The follow-up x-ray showed something cloudy in her chest, so she returned the next day for a low dose CT scan of her lungs. The scan showed questionable spots and she was moved on for a PET scan. This test finally showed the mass on her right lung and a smaller mass on the left. The cancer had also spread to her lymph nodes. A biopsy of the mass determined that she had non-small cell adenocarcinoma. Much to her surprise as a healthy nonsmoker, Chelsi was diagnosed with stage 3B lung cancer.
Chelsi describes her journey as challenging. The chemotherapy to treat her cancer caused her kidneys to fail. This is a rare side-effect. The chemo was successful in shrinking the tumors and she was given a six month break to recover from the harsh side effects. After six months with no treatment, the tumors grew. A new scan showed that the cancer had now metastasized to her brain. Immunotherapy was used with no success. Thankfully, the gamma knife radiation to her brain was successful. Chelsi is now on a new chemotherapy drug and she prays that this will be successful and lasting.
Chelsi refuses to let lung cancer stop her from enjoying life. Her two children bring her immense joy, and she knows that every moment spent with her family is special. She finds that her work brings a welcome normalcy to the chaotic world of cancer. Chelsi wants everyone to know about lung cancer, be aware of the symptoms and advocate for themselves in the doctor’s office. She is also working to change the myth that only smokers get lung cancer and this choice makes their life somehow less valuable.
“I hate that everyone’s first question is always ‘did you smoke’. Why? Would I then deserve it?“
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