At 9 PM on Tuesday, September 20th, I entered St. Mary's ER (by way of Dar's ambulance ride). I was having left chest pain, left arm pain and severe shortness of breath. My ECG was negative, but my chest X-Ray showed I had a lot of fluid around my left lung. First they treated me with antibiotics for possible pneumonia, then at 3 AM after a few more tests, I was admitted to the hospital. My reaction to this was "OH NOOOOO" because my sister was home alone after one week of hip replacement surgery. Who do you call at 3 AM? Fortunately the next day her church group came to the rescue.
The next day my breathing improved tremendously after a thoracentesis was done in which they removed 1000cc's of fluid. Dr.Kern, who did the thoracentesis told me that from his experience in these aspirations clear fluid usually means heart disease, bloody fluid means infection and amber colored fluid means cancer. So, I knew immediately that it was cancer.........not only because the fluid was Amber color, but my ECG was normal, I had no edema and they had already ruled out pneumonia. My first thought now was "hopefully it's a treatable cancer." Miraculously, the cytology report came back as Non-Hodgkins diffuse large B cell lymphoma. At this time both the pulmonary and hematology services expressed a positive outlook for a "cure".
Neither service would discharge me from the hospital, saying they wanted all test results back before they would dismiss me. No amount of pleading, nor the fact that I live in town and my sister needed me to help her, made any influence on their decision.
I do have to say that I had fantastic nurses. On Friday I had a staff nurse, a trainee nurse and a student nurse assigned to me at the same time. All three were very young , upbeat and full of contagious energy and it just so happened that I was feeling pretty good, so we did a lot of laughing about what we could do to activate the discharge. We also had some serious talk as the student nurse chose me to be interviewed as part of her student assignment. It was very uplifting and satisfying to be a part of her decision to continue with her nursing degree. Yahoo.....after 3 days I was finally discharged. At 6 PM on Friday...... I was free!!!!
The next week was filled with tests....echocardiogram, pet scan, bone marrow biopsy and thoracic consult. Then I spent most of Saturday in the ER having another thoracentesis.....1100cc's.
Monday I was in the hospital again for a biopsy and placement of a PleurX catheter (so that I can aspirate the fluid myself). The first day the catheter was extremely painful (8+). After three nights of sleeping in my recliner and taking pain meds I was finally able to tolerate the catheter with Tylenol. After a week of the PleurX placement I was able to efficiently aspirate and am now pain free.
Kathy, my sister-in-law, dear friend and an RN, flew here from Nevada to help with anything she could. What a godsend! She was my chauffeur, nurse advocate, confidant and my go-to when trying on wigs!!!!!! So it was a great relief and comfort to have Kathy with us.