Jim Cartwright Jim’s Health Update

First post: Jun 8, 2020 Latest post: Jun 22, 2022
Jim’s medical journey has been a roller coaster ride, but leave out the fun part!

During Jim’s yearly maintenance check up in early October 2019, Jim’s thoracic team noticed a change in his CATSCAN. They said they thought it was fluid, but when they ordered the Petscan, Jim and I both knew differently. This is not our first rodeo for sure. Two days later, Jim’s Petscan confirmed what we had expected. The lung cancer had reappeared.

On October 31, Jim had a bronchoscopy where we learned that he had non-small cell adenocarcinoma which is different from his diagnosis 13 years ago. My husband managed to be unique and get a second primary cancer. It will be thirteen years ago this July that Jim was diagnosed with Stage 1a squamous non-small cell carcinoma. He was extremely fortunate with that diagnosis, and we are still so incredibly grateful for his full recovery from that first bout with cancer.

Because Jim wanted the cancer cut out of his body, (Jim: I want it out NOW! ) on November 18, Jim had a pneumonectomy of his right lung. He spent 11 days in the hospital - most of it in ICU. Jim experienced pulmonary edema and had a slow bleed which caused a hematoma where his incision was. Jim also experienced A-fib which is common with a pneumonectomy.

Jim was discharged the day before Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving, we learned that Jim’s lung cancer was a bit more complicated than we all had expected. His path report revealed that his cancer was in stage 3a with surprise N2 disease. (All along, the doctors thought he was stage 1b, but the path report revealed differently.) Of the 19 lymph nodes biopsied, one near the mediastinum tested positive for adenocarcinoma which changed everything.

On December 17, we made an emergency room visit to The University of Chicago. Jim was wheezing and his breathing was labored. We spent one evening in the ER, and the following day, Jim had a bronchoscopy. The pulmonary team said Jim’s left lung looked great, but we knew something was not right. Sure enough, by the time Jim returned to the room, he was in hypertension and his temperature was over 102. He was completely out of it. Jim was admitted, and we stayed two more days. They said he had an infection but we never did figure out where. He went home with antibiotics.

Due to the three days at UOC, Jim lost a good three weeks of strength that he had built up. This, of course, was discouraging.

On December 31, 2019, New Years Eve, Jim began round 1 of 4 rounds of chemo.
He really did handle it well, minus the not eating and severe weight loss.

Following the chemo treatments were 25 days of radiation. We did the radiation locally which was awesome. It is a 7 minute drive down the road and 20 minutes tops inside for radiation. We both were not used to quick appointments.

Throughout the radiation, Jim was experiencing high blood pressure, low blood pressure, dizziness, rapid heart beat, and still no eating and more weight loss. He had two transfusions due to low hemoglobin and 8 infusions due to dehydration.  We thought radiation would be a piece of cake.  Boy were we wrong. 

It wasn’t until May 1, 2020, when SB Clinic turned us away due to Covid scare, that we chose to get him to UOC ASAP! Thank God we did.

Jim’s right chest cavity was filled with infection which would have taken his life had it gone unattended much longer. The thoracic team performed another surgery and gave Jim an Eloesser Flap which continues to drain the infection.

That's not it!  While healing from the surgery, Jim was showing signs of yet another infection. After an MRI, 2 CT scans, daily x rays, and lab after lab after lab, the doctors never did find the type of infection present in his left lung or blood. Doctors would need to perform yet another bronchoscopy and go into the left lung  for a biopsy. At that time, it was just too risky. Jim’s poor body could not take any more. So they treated him for pneumonia and other illnesses. Jim was on four antibiotic drips and a steroid.

He was discharged from UOC on May 17th. Jim’s strength is slowly coming back. Baby Steps.

I have decided to keep everything in one spot; hence, this CaringBridge page.  Thank you for taking the time to read it.