• Desiree Chan developed back pain, cough, fatigue, night sweats and weight loss in late 2020.
  • Doctors tested the 33-year-old for several infectious diseases, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis.
  • About a month later, she was diagnosed with valley fever, a deadly fungal disease.

In the year In 2020, as Desiree Chan stepped out of the bathtub, a shooting pain tore through her neck and spine. She got into bed and stayed there for two days.

The next week, Chan, 33, went to the doctor. She tested negative for covid, so the doctor gave her painkillers for what he thought was a run of the mill illness.

Six days later, Chan, who lives in Los Angeles, developed whooping cough. At this time, the doctor prescribed cough medicine.

But Chan remained in pain and was becoming so weak that her doctor ordered an X-ray. The scan infiltrated Chan’s lungs — or dense particles that could be a sign of disease. So far, her doctor has prescribed her medication for what is suspected to be pneumonia.

Still, Chan said her breath was so “weak” that she struggled to talk to friends on the phone. And even when she was silent, she says, “I felt like an elephant had kicked me in the chest.” She quickly lost weight, and grew like this Violent night sweats She has to change her pajamas all night.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Chan, who runs a travel company. “I didn’t know what happened.”

There were no doctors. It took countless tests, several specialists and several weeks until Chan was diagnosed Valley fever, a deadly fungal infection It has been increasing in recent years. Chan and her fiance, Lucas Marten, 34, spoke with Insider about the experience of raising awareness about the strange disease — and the possibility of recovery.

Most people who breathe in the fungus that causes valley fever do not get sick.

Valley fever or coccidioidomycosis is an infection caused by inhaling spores of the Coccidioides fungus found in the soil. It is named after the San Joaquin Valley in California, but it is. Also found in ArizonaNevada, Utah, New Mexico, California, Texas and Washington.

In recent years, infections have been increasing in unexpected places, which may be due to climate change, says Insider Gaby Landswerk. It has already been reported.

Not everyone who inhales the spores will get sick, but about 40% of those who inhale the spores will develop flu-like symptoms. About 1 in 10 patients may have serious side effects, such as permanent lung damage. Rarely, people with Valley fever die if the infection spreads to the skin, joints, or spinal cord.

Because Chan is young and otherwise healthy, doctors don’t know why she was exposed. Typically, people with weakened immune systems — such as the pregnant, the elderly, or those with diabetes — They are in great danger.

Still, Chan feels lucky that her team stopped at nothing to find the cause of her pain. “I had doctors who knew what tests to run right away to prevent it from spreading in my body,” she said. “I’m grateful for that.”

Doctors ran tests for all kinds of infectious diseases before concluding that it was valley fever

Doctors usually come to Chan diagnosis through a process of elimination.

Pneumonia After Chan’s drug course was over, it was removed, but the intruders remained. He was the next suspect Tuberculosis After a CAT scan found a mass in Chan’s lung.

“Pack a bag and you’re going to live for a while,” Chan’s doctor said as he led her to the ER.

Desiree Chan gives a thumbs up from her hospital bed.

Most of Desiree Chan’s tests were done in a tent outside the hospital to isolate Covid-19 patients.

Desire Chan


He was right. Within 10 days, Chan’s medical records show that she was tested for all kinds of infectious diseases, including HIV, Legionnaires’ disease, Covid, tuberculosis, and fungal infections including histoplasmosis and aspergillosis. Everything came back negative.

At one point, Chan even said that the pulmonologist wanted to take it Lung biopsy for cancer diagnosis.

Finally, an antibody test for the Coccidioides fungus results in valley fever. Then the recovery began.

Chan went away for a few months with her family, who made sure she got the right diet and rest.

She spent most of 2021 on doses of the antifungal fluconazole, which sapped her appetite, threw off her hormones and left her with severe brain fog that forced her to take a few months off work. She had frequent tests on her liver, which fluconazole could damage.

In the year Even after stopping the drug in November 2021, Chan said it took about 6 months for the results to leave her system.

“It wasn’t until mid-May this year that I regained my strength and felt clear in my head,” she said.

Desiree Chan and Lucas Marton on the beach

Desiree Chan and Lucas Marten in 2022.

Courtesy of Desiree Chan


Around that point, Marten proposed. “You go through something like this, and it’s like, what can’t we get through?” he said. ”

Lack of awareness made recovery difficult.

One of the hardest parts of the experience for Chan and Marten has been not knowing when or if life will return to normal. “The answer to every question we had was, ‘Each case is different, so we can’t answer that,'” Chan said.

Valley fever’s lack of awareness made the pain worse.

“People didn’t really know what was going on because she didn’t really know what was going on,” said Marten, the nonprofit’s director. “People were asking her to do things she wasn’t ready to do yet,” like completing assignments or going on trips with friends.

Marten added: “That made it worse because the frustration kicked in from there. “She really felt invisible and unheard.”

That’s why the couple is sharing their story. “How long is this going to take, how bad is this going to be, is this going to debilitate me for the rest of my life?” We would like to see more testimonials. ” Marten said. “For us, the answer is no. It seems we have come back to a normal lifestyle.”

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