Imagine you’re young, and totally healthy. For a few nights, you wake up in cold sweats, feel generally lousy, have some respiratory issues. No big deal, you might think, but you decide to get checked out.
Then – a nightmare begins.
Marc Kuchler was 28 years old when he went to the hospital to get his symptoms looked at. After six hours of tests, he was about to be sent home, when a radiologist from the University of Pennsylvania tracked him down. The radiologist had viewed one of the tests performed in the ER, a chest X-Ray, and strongly encouraged Marc to follow up with more tests because there was a spot on his lung that appeared abnormal. After a whole slew of tests, it was confirmed that Marc had Stage IV Lung Cancer. Doctors later discovered cancer in other parts of his body, as well.
Kuchler is 31 now, he’s back on chemo trying to keep the spread of cancer in his body at bay. He and his wife Rachael got married one year ago, in the midst of all this cancer chaos. They try to take things one day at a time, and don’t talk much about Marc’s prognosis.
“A lot of people will ask their doctor ‘how many years do I have? How long do I have to live?'” he said. “And I don’t want to ask that because nobody really knows. There are so many drugs out there, but you never know how that person’s body is going to react to it.”
His wife Rachael says they try to make the best of the days when Marc feels relatively well. “That could be something as cheesy as walking through Target and just being normal and shopping,” she explained. “For a few months there, he couldn’t even get up to get a glass of water without help. So, I take the fact that he wants to go to the food store as like date night.”
The couple says their support network of friends and family has been very helpful through Marc’s long illness. Marc’s energy levels have dropped over the last six months or so. He’s been getting around in an assisted wheelchair, occasionally using oxygen. “It’s not easy, but we try and do what we can with the good days and when he has his bad days I say ‘you know what, you can have a bad day today, but tomorrow you’re going to have a good day,'” said Rachael Kuchler.
Bad days for Marc don’t necessarily mean days when he feels bad physically. “When I have a bad day mentally, that’s when I have a really bad day. Just thinking about how tough it is. How much I have to put up with every day. How much she has to put up with,” he explained.
The couple has had to have a lot of difficult conversations over the past year – discussing what to do if only very little time remains for them.
“And it pains me because he’s like ‘I don’t want to go jump out of an airplane, I don’t want to go on some exotic vacation. He’s like, for me I just wanted to live a normal life with you,'” said Rachael. “We’re not the typical 30 year-old-couple, but I think the love that we have for each other is maybe greater than any other 30-year-old couple that you might see.”
Since 2012 Rachael and Marc Kuchler have raised over $100,000 for research by participating in the Philadelphia Free to Breathe Walk with their team “Miles for Marc.” They want to help fund research – but also raise awareness that lung cancer is not just a smoking-related disease.