On March 22, 2021 we spoke with Val R. Val is currently 28 years old. In May of 2019, at age 26, she was diagnosed with invasive mucinous adenocarcinoma.
Val had recently graduated from her local community college where she studied medical laboratory technology. She was about to start her first job in this field when she began to have severe rib spasms and wheezing. She had a history of shortness of breath and lingering cough but did not take these symptoms seriously, attributing it to stress, work and allergies. The rib pain and wheezing were serious and Val went to the emergency room where she was admitted immediately. After an x-ray and CT scan, she was told she had a seven centimeters bronchogenic cyst in her right lung (this is a rare genetic mutation). The surgeon told Val she would need to have the lower two thirds of her lung removed via surgery. Val had no idea she had this cyst in her lung for so long. Unfortunately, the procedure could not be completed because the surgeon found several other masses in Val’s lungs that were not on the CT scan. Biopsies revealed the diagnosis in her right lung. This is a very rare subtype of lung cancer and Val’s doctor stated that she was the youngest patient he had treated for this.
At first, Val felt numb. Her parents and husband were informed of her diagnosis at the hospital. She decided to tell her friends through social media. Her husband also helped inform friends and family of her condition. Val feels her friends and family were more emotional than she was.
Val has been through several types of treatment with varying side effects. She began six rounds of chemotherapy which she tolerated well other than stomach pains. She then went on Tagrisso for three months, but had bad nausea. Val was on the immunotherapy drug Tecentriq for one year. However, she experienced severe GI issues, anxiety and depression. Although medication did alleviate some of these symptoms, she is now on a fourth line treatment, Taxotere.
Val is feeling pretty good now and is overall tolerating treatment well and is at a fairly normal activity level.
Val’s advice to others is when you first get diagnosed, not to freak out or look at google. Not everyone follows the statistics and patients are of different ages. A lot of people live long with lung cancer. Lots of new meds and more treatments are coming. Val does wish she had gotten a second opinion. She says not to freak yourself out with statistics. Half are inaccurate. Don’t be afraid to speak out about your symptoms or if you're in pain. Val got palliative care and that helped a lot. Tell your doctor your symptoms even if they are embarrassing. Meditation has helped Val with many side effects including anxiety. She says people are always cautious around her, like she’s glass, but she’s not. She’s a normal person and can do 80% of what a person her age can do. Val is proud of how she has battled her illness. She appreciates the advice from her mom and support from her husband and family. If Val feels down, she gets lifted by playing with her cat, talking to her husband, listening to music and learning new things by watching YouTube videos. Val advises others to keep busy and to try not to think too much about the illness. Have someone to talk to, someone to vent to especially if you’re feeling anxious.
Although Val has not been able to begin her career as planned, this time off has allowed her to focus on herself and spend time with family and friends. She is interested in the use of essential oils and has taken online classes to become a specialist in this area. She hopes to further her education and become an aromatherapist. She makes creams and essential oils with lavender and geranium that she sells on the website Etsy. She also has started a blog about living a Christian life with lung cancer. She feels her faith and relationship with God has helped her through her illness. Val is proud of the supportive comments she has received so far and is happy to have had a positive impact on her readers.
Val feels hopeful due to the amount of research going on now and new advances in medications. She is hopeful there will be a cure in the future.
“I feel like there can be joy in my trials because I can use my experiences to help others, and that is what really matters to me in the long run."
Read some of Val's writings. Click the link below. https://cclifelc.blogspot.com/
Connect with Val on Instagram. Click the link below.
Each month, KRAS Kickers is pleased to present a Survivor Story. These are the journeys of cancer survivors that have graciously offered to share this part of their lives with us to provide an awareness of community and hope to our readers. None of us are in this alone, and we all have a story to tell.