helsi Podratz Terwey 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. Luckily, 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 recommended 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.
Treatment began almost immediately, however, the chemotherapy to treat her cancer caused her kidneys to fail. This is a rare side effect. When the chemo was successful in shrinking the tumors, she was given a six-month break to recover from the harsh side effects.
Chelsi became involved with A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation and shared her story at events to help educate others about who and how this cancer strikes. As a never-smoker, she is passionate about changing the smoking stigma tied to this disease and believes the inaccurate assumption that ‘only smokers get lung cancer’ delays diagnoses and holds progress back.
“I hate that everyone’s first question is always ‘did you smoke?’ Why? Would I then deserve this?”
Unfortunately, Chelsi progressed into stage 4 very quickly, with the cancer spreading to neighboring lymph nodes and eventually her brain. Chelsi underwent 3 rounds of GAMA knife radiation to her brain which were successful in treating those specific spots, however, swelling of her brain in August of 2019 forced her to stop working. Over the following 8 months, Chelsi’s health has continued to decline with vision changes, balance difficulties and memory/concentration issues.
In March 2020, Chelsi’s care team advised her family that they suspend treatment and Chelsi was moved into hospice.
We ask our community to join us in sending love, thoughts and prayers to Chelsi, her husband Eric, and their children, Alexis (9) and Cooper (6), as well as the friends and family who love her.
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