Cumberland Times-News

November 25, 2013

25-year-old breathes new life after lung cancer diagnosis

Romney native determined to do ‘good things’ to help other patients

MARLA PISCIOTTA
Cumberland Times-News

— ROMNEY, W.Va. — Katharynn “Katie” Forrest, a 25-year-old native of Romney, was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma cancer Sept. 10.

Although the news was devastating to the Boonsboro, Md., resident and her family, she is determined to do “good things to help other cancer patients” when she is cured.

Adenocarcinoma, the most common type of lung cancer, is usually located on the outer surface of the lungs.

A couple of months prior to Sept. 10, Forrest said she had “kind of a weird feeling” with her breathing. “I thought it was allergies.”

Forrest said when the feeling didn’t go away she thought she had pneumonia and went for an X-ray. After three X-rays, her doctor sent her to a pulmonologist, a medical specialist dealing with disease involving the respiratory tract.

Other tests followed, including a CT Scan.  

A surgical procedure called a bronchotomy, which is inserting a tube down the nose into the lung in order to take samples to be tested, revealed Forrest had adenocarcinoma

Until that time, Forrest had been a healthy person.

She attended Hampshire High School, where she played varsity soccer, was a member of the yearbook staff and took journalism classes.

Forrest married her husband, Sean, in September 2012. “Sean and I met the first year in college the end of 2007,” she said.

Together they are facing their situation head-on.

“She’s fantastic,” Sean said.

 “We’ve got to take it head-on and that is what she’s doing. She’s pretty tough.”

Forrest began her chemotherapy late in September.

“The first round didn’t show improvement. They believed it was getting worse,” she said.

A sack had formed outside of Forrest’s lungs and was filling with fluid.

On Nov. 13, Forrest went through surgery to have a tube inserted into the sack.

The volume of the first fluid drained from the sack was comparable to a bottle of water.

“I had to drain the fluid every day,” Forrest said.

Forrest said she now drains the fluid every couple of days since the volume has decreased.

“Every couple of days I have to drain the fluid. It inhibits my breathing,” she said.

Forrest’s first tests were done at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

“My doctors also talked with Johns Hopkins University because they may involve me in some trials in the future,” Forrest said.

Forrest is going through a different type of chemo treatment now, since the first round didn’t work.

“We’ll be doing this one until the end of the year to find out if it’s working. If not, we’ll be talking again to Johns Hopkins to see if there is anything out there that can help me,” Forrest said.

Forrest is a not a smoker. She said her doctors aren’t sure what caused her lung cancer.

“They are looking into genetic mutation and also the possibility of radon exposure. It could be as simple as a lung infection that evolved into cancer,” Forrest said.

Regardless the cause, Forrest said being diagnosed with cancer has changed her life.

“Of course things like this are going to change your life. While going through this I think a lot more that I want to help the world. I told myself that God has a plan, whatever it is,” Forrest said.

Forrest said she started attending online church.

“That led me to want to make the world a better place. I can’t get out and pick up trash on the highway. I can’t do a lot of things, but I can do some donations and something good,” Forrest said.

Staying positive about her cancer is first and foremost on Forrest’s mind.

“One of the main things my doctor told me is stay positive and control my attitude. That is important to healing,” she said.

Forrest said her plan for the future is to get rid of the cancer.

“That is my No. 1 goal, and we’d like to eventually have a family,” Forrest said.

For now, she said, “We have two cats, a boy and a girl. Anyone telling me that they aren’t family is wrong. Little brother picks on little sister,” she said.

Family and friends have been very supportive of Forrest.

“My mom comes down and stays with me. That’s a big help,” Forrest said.

Her mother, Becky Arnold, is a retired nurse and also a cancer survivor.

Currently Forrest is taking it easy. Her breathing tests are showing her oxygen levels at 100 percent.

“I’m a bit slow just because I’m not moving around a lot,” Forrest said.

The doctors have encouraged Forrest to take acupuncture, which she says has been helping her.

When she can, she goes to the Boonsboro Wellness Center for the treatment.

“It’s not like they generally show on television with needles all over the body. I get two in my feet and one in my hands and shoulder. There is some kind of line that goes from my neck to my hands (and so forth),” Forrest said.

“I can see the difference in pain when I have the acupuncture. It releases toxins, that gives me more energy and helps relax my muscles.”

Early in November, Forrest said the First United Methodist Church of Romney held a baked steak dinner to raise money for medical expenses.

“It was a donation dinner and they also held a silent auction. I was able to attend and got to see everyone,” she said.

She said she is thankful for the help and the outpouring of love from the church family.

Forrest’s father is longtime Romney resident William “Bill” Arnold, who is also a retired teacher.

Arnold said, “Katie has never smoked. We don’t have a clue where this came from.

“I will do anything I can to spread the word for a praying field for her.”

Arnold is also a cancer survivor.

This is a special month for Forrest.

“I want everyone to know that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It’s when you wear a white ribbon,” Forrest said.

As she continues her battle, Forrest said, “In my head I want to do so much and give back so much.

“We have to watch and not get ahead of ourselves. When this is over we want to do good things to help make strides in helping to cure this type of cancer.”

Contact Marla Pisciotta at marlapisciotta@frontier.com.