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Darcie Pena

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5/19/20 Update: Darc just had her Zoom appointment with her new Pulmonary Interventionist doctor and due to her age he wants to try to do a surgery to remove foreign tissue in her airway that is blocking airflow and could be causing her to keep getting sick. This would be instead of a stent. They will still be able to get biopsies done while they are in there. After the surgery I will then begin treatment of either Chemo or double Immunotherapy.


5/13/20 Update: Hello everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve updated and has been very uncertain times for me so here it is. About a month and a half ago, I was hospitalized and diagnosed with rhinovirus (common cold) which turned into pneumonia again just a few short months after recovering from pneumonia 🙁. I was treated with IV antibiotics and a few days later released with a prescription for oral antibiotics. For me, any “common cold “ or new illness causes my side effects and chronic pain to become exacerbated. Since that last admission, I have been experiencing chronic pain, my joint pain has worsened, headaches turned into migraines, sensitivities have increased, a nagging cough, and extreme fatigue. I’m immunocompromised and with COVID-19 around, I have been self quarantined to my house to protect myself as well as others. I have had regular Zoom (online) appointments with my Oncologist, Symptom/Pain management doctor, my Therapist, and consulting with a Rheumatologist. Since my last scans were pretty stable and since San Francisco was originally one of the epicenters of COVID-19, my doctor and I made the decision to hold off on scans and treatment for a bit. After a few months without scans we finally made the trip back to San Francisco and got my scans and tests done yesterday.


Yesterday was a long and tiring day filled with anxiety for me. I first had early morning labwork, followed by multiple scans, an Echo of my heart, and then drive by COVID-19 testing (which was a requirement prior to being able to have my Sleep Study done). This morning, after a rough night of sleep, I got an early morning phone call explaining that my COVID testing came back negative, which was a huge relief! Just after this, I had a zoom appointment with my Oncologist to go over my scans and was told he wanted to present my case at his Tumor Board meeting (which consists of various physicians and specialties) to discuss and collaborate on some of the inconsistent results on my scans. Of course my case is never simple and continues to baffle the medical community. My Oncologist explained that although there was one small area that looked improved, there were a few other areas that showed growth in my Cancer and a new possible area of concern by my heart. Luckily, he had ordered the Echo for other reasons which showed that at least my heart function does not seem to be affected at this time. While discussing my case at Tumor Board, where he was able to consult with other Radiologists and Pulmonary Interventionists, he mentioned some of my persistent symptoms and the idea of a stent placement for my airway was mentioned and all were in agreement that this may really help me. Since my Cancer has progressed in a few areas, I do still need treatment (we are thinking likely Chemo again or double immunotherapy) but we are shooting for trying to do the Stent surgery soon first. I am also scheduled to have my long awaited sleep study tonight. Although this is a lot of information, at least it seems like we are going in the right direction to help decrease my symptoms.


12/3 Update: The calm before the storm/A Day in the life:


Thanksgiving was so much fun (as it always is) with lots of family, food, and of course music. The next day I joined my brother, sister-in-law & two of my nephews to Universal Studios/Harry Potter World! I was so excited because I grew up loving the books and later on the movie series. One thing about life with chronic illness(es) means there are often more hurdles to jump through in order to participate (at least for me). We ended up renting an electric scooter so I could conserve energy and not hold the kids back from having to wait for me. I was happy that I seemed to be able to have fun with my family while at the same time knowing I had limits. After spending a solid 3-4 hours there, I was exhausted and my body was screaming at me to rest. As soon as we got back to my Aunt & Uncle’s House, I immediately laid down and ended up napping for 2 hours! When I woke up , I wasn’t feeling good and my whole body was in pain and I just felt off. I decided to take a bath thinking that maybe I would feel better afterwards. I couldn’t have been more wrong! After getting out of the bath, my uncle noticed I seemed off and talked to my Aunt. She immediately came to check on me and I broke down in tears and cried because of all the pain/ symptoms I was feeling, while my Aunt just held and soothed me while getting me my meds/ water all set up for me. As soon as my meds kicked in and my symptoms improved, I quickly fell asleep. I then woke up around 6 in the morning unable to get a good breath due to all the coughing and congestion in my chest . My Aunt started up the shower and I let the steam open up my airways and help me get some relief. About 2 hours later I was traveling for 4 hours to come home in a car with my other Aunt and Uncle. As I was still feeling terrible, we decided that I should get checked out at an urgent care on the way home. After getting my vitals at urgent care they found that my temp was 102.3 and after they gave me a breathing treatment, they advised me that I should go to the E.R. since they were concerned I may be Septic(an infection in the bloodstream that can turn fatal quickly).


After arriving at the E.R., I had a chest CT, X-ray, blood work and blood cultures done. After hours of waiting for results, the on call Physician told me that the imaging revealed a blockage of my superior vena Cava (the main vessel providing blood flow back to my heart). He also explained that since I am a complex case and was having symptoms associated with this blockage as well as being sick, I would be better off being treated by my Oncologist and UCSF team since they know me and got to work on getting me transferred. By 1:30 am after many calls to my team at UCSF; it was arranged for me to be transferred by ambulance to UCSF. At 3:30 am I was all packed up and sent to San Francisco with hope for some answers.


Since arriving at UCSF they have been treating my virus that has been kicking my butt, as well as various complications have come up such as swelling, breathing difficulties, etc. It turns out the swelling of my eyes, face, neck that I have been experiencing over the past few months are all a result of this Superior Vena Cava blockage.


My current Doctors, Oncologist, and past radiation oncologists are now in talks to determine which treatment options are even viable for me and which combo of chemo, immunotherapy, or radiation is the best option for me. In the meantime their focus is getting rid of this virus 🦠.



Hi, if you don't already know me, my name is Darcie Peña and I am a 30 year old cancer warrior.


It all began in 2013 with a cough that would not go away. After many pulmonary tests and medications later, I was diagnosed at age 24 with Stage 3B Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. As a young, healthy woman and non-smoker, with no family history of lung cancer; it was shocking to say the least. I was quickly assigned an amazing Oncology team and started treatment with a high dose of Chemotherapy and Radiation. After this round of treatment, in January of 2014, I had surgery where they removed the middle and lower lobes of my right lung as well as multiple lymph nodes. Then after another round of Chemo, it seemed that I was in the clear until one of my scans showed I had a recurrence in my neck on the left side. I then underwent another round of Chemo and my scans were clear until a year later. At this point the doctors decided to try radiation alone.


Flash forward past two more recurrences and almost 5 years later, here I am facing yet another battle. My medical case has been a mystery to all of the doctors I see.


Update 2/11/19


I want to start this post by saying Thank You to my amazing family & friends for all the love, support, and checking in they have done❤️ love you all! Most of you don’t know, I have had a really rough and painful last 5 days. The pain was so unbearable, I kind of shut myself off from everything & everyone to try to get a handle on it all. This was not about not wanting or ignoring anyone, but was my way of coping with the pain I was having. The day after chemo, I received my second injection of Neulasta ( bone marrow stimulant) and awaited the full body bone pain to begin. While , at this point I don’t know if it was the Neulasta or the high doses of harsh chemos that caused my pain. It was unlike any other pain I had ever felt in my life and was unmanageable with at home medications/supplements. I was also unable to keep any food or water down. I contacted the on-call oncologist at UCSF ,who recommended I head to the ER. As always ER trips are dreaded because of the waiting in pain, overcrowding, and most of all risk of catching an infection.

So, onto the hospital we headed armed in my Vogmask and my fierce mama to advocate for me since I was unable to speak/walk/ move for myself. I was taken back to be examined,control the nausea ,vomiting and hopefully manage the pain. After over 10 hours in the ER, I was sent home and told to come back if necessary.


Since we live 40 minutes from the hospital and it was 6:30 in the morning, we decided to stay at a hotel in Visalia for the night just to be safe. I’m just about 3 hours , the pain was back with a vengeance, so back to the ER we headed. The nurses recognized me since I was just discharged 3 hours prior and immediately brought me to the back. After many hours and attempts at managing the pain, nausea and vomiting, I was admitted on Friday morning.

On Sunday afternoon , the pain was managed (not gone,but better) , my vomiting had subsided and I was discharged. I am now at home recovering and taking it easy. While I am not 100% , I am in contact with my UCSF physicians and working on getting to the bottom of my symptoms. Again, thank you to everyone who has reached out ❤️❤️

As always, Positive Vibes ✌🏽


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