In 2020, Darlene Roth-Chaloner, then 46, was enjoying an annual camping trip in Whiteshell Provincial Park. During her trip, Roth-Chaloner’s camping partner and cousin Angie Jordan was bitten by a bug, which led to a swollen red lump on Jordan’s leg. When Roth-Chaloner later found a similar looking bump on her thigh, she suspected it was also a bug bite.
Roth-Chaloner knew a trip to a walk-in clinic to treat the bite wouldn’t be simple. Since 2015 when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), Roth Chaloner had been on a disease-modifying therapy drug which limited what medications it could be paired with.
The medication Roth-Chaloner was given at the walk-in clinic didn’t work, and the wound on her leg worsened. Hoping for a different result, she visited an urgent care facility where they took a sample of the wound and gave Roth-Chaloner two different IV antibiotics.
Unfortunately, one or both antibiotics caused an allergic reaction.
“It was the most pain I had ever felt, I couldn’t move. I had a full body rash from head to toe—it was even inside my mouth,” says Roth-Chaloner.
Before the rash took hold, Roth-Chaloner went for another round of IV antibiotic treatments to treat what she still thought was a bug bite. When she arrived, Roth-Chaloner was told that the wound wasn’t a bug bite, it was blastomycosis, a fungal infection that can lead to skin lesions in people with weakened immune systems.
Roth-Chaloner was told to see Dr. John Embil, an internationally recognized infectious disease specialist at HSC Winnipeg and a leading authority on blastomycosis.
“After giving me a chest x-ray, Dr. Embil was surprised. He said my blastomycosis was presenting as atypical. I had the skin lesions, which usually came second to the difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, which I didn’t have,” says Roth-Chaloner.
“I was starting a new MS disease-modifying therapy soon. The one I was on wasn’t working as well as my doctors hoped, so they wanted me to try a different treatment, which was also more accepting of other medicines,” says Roth-Chaloner.
When Roth-Chaloner made the transition to the new disease-modifying therapy drug, she also began treatments every three months to treat her blastomycosis, which has since been fully treated. Regular appointments with Dr. Embil have ensured the blastomycosis doesn’t return.
The new disease-modifying therapy treatments have also been going well and Roth-Chaloner’s doctors are happy with her progress. But living with MS has changed her view on life.
“I see the trivial things in life now from a different perspective. Things can be much worse, and other people are living harder lives and fighting tougher battles. I can’t change my MS. I have zero control over it, so I make the best of it,” says Roth-Chaloner.
Through her entire medical journey, Roth-Chaloner has been surrounded by an incredible support system. She’d like to thank her son and angel Hayden, brother Corey, cousins Angie Jordan, Lori Lachance, and Bernadette Scudder, as well as her friends Julye Carvalho and Tamara Domenco, and the one who continues to steer the ship of her support team, her mother Mary Roth. Without them at her side, Roth-Chaloner knows her battles would be much more difficult.
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