Flash back to August 2010 – I left work with stomach pains that were increasing in severity and ended up having my doctor send me to Highland where my appendix was removed. Dr. Balaji, ever vigilant, examined the scans taken in the E.R. and noted a nodule in both my lung and my breast and being proactive, we had them examined by specialists. The breast nodule was more a calcium deposit and a non-issue. The pulmonary specialist, Dr. Larj, decided to have us follow the nodule in the left lobe with CT scans every six to twelve months for a few years.
In February, it was decided to have a PET scan done which indicated some “glow”. We then did a CT scan this fall at which time it was evident that the tumor had grown from 8 x 12 cm to 12 x 14 cm. This combined with the PET scan brought Dr. Larjto the decision that it was time we did a biopsy to allow us to gather more information on the nature of the nodule. I wasn’t too concerned as Dr. Larj had been of the mind that there was nothing to be concerned about as this was a slow growing nodule and we had discussed on multiple occasions “worst case” scenarios. So with that the biopsy got scheduled.
October 2nd at 8:15 am I arrive at Strong Hospital for the procedure having fasted as instructed. We were prepared to be there for approximately 2-3 hours. We got a late start due to an emergency need to use the procedure room which has to be totally sterilized after each use. I had by book so was ready to be patient despite some anxiety over the procedure which necessitates inserting a needle between my ribs along the side and into my lung to grab some tissue to be tested. They described it to me that I would be lightly sedated similar to having a colonoscopy as they needed me to be alert enough to respond if need be. Having found that state of limited awareness from my previous colonoscopies to be somewhat pleasant so felt prepared. Wrong! I am brought into the procedure room where I am rolled onto my right side and have my left arm draped across my chest and holding onto my right shoulder. The right arm hugs the right side of my body and a pillow between my knees. This is the position I need to remain in for the duration of the procedure. NO WAY I say to them can I hold that position as it is extremely uncomfortable, especially if I am to remain still. They apparently increased the sedation as I was soon able to feel extremely uncomfortable but not freaking out or crying. I was totally aware of the two shots of lidocaine I was given and counted some 3 or more insertions of a probe. Not so much painful as pressure. I could also see the time on the computer screen within my vision and hear people talking when near. I would say this is NOT what I was expecting. It seemed to take forever.
When the procedure was over and they brought me back to my cubicle, the nurse commented on the fact that I was in the room a lot longer than she expected. When she asked about pain, I informed her that I hurt from my next down to my waist on the left side and it hurt to breathe. She was able to get the OK to give me a high dose of Tylenol. It turns out I had a pneumothorax, where air has escaped the lungs and is putting pressure on the lung. This required being x-rayed every hour for several hours until they were confident the lung was not going to collapse. At about 4:00 I was able to get coffee and a scone to eat on our way home with instructions to call 911 and head get to ER if I started to have trouble breathing. YIKES.
I was able to walk on the treadmill the next day for a while at about ½ my normal speed but I was getting in some exercise. Back to work the following day despite still have pain in my left shoulder blade area and tension in the left side of my next. Easily out of breathe too. I slowly increased my cardio but was still in discomfort a week later. I ended up calling Dr. Balajiwho sent me for new x-rays….the pneumothorax slowly resolving but still there….sigh….
The biopsy results show up on My Chart through the U of R electronic records and all I can pick up on are the words “carcinoma” and “malignancy” and of course freak out. I immediately pick up the phone and eventually get a call back from Dr. Larj, Yes, the tumor is cancerous but because we caught it so early it should not require chemo or radiation but a section of the lung will need to be removed. I am referred to a thoracic surgeon, Dr. Peyre. A colleague of mine’s wife is a Nurse Practitioner at the Pluta cancer center and we touch base. Susan is reassuring and recommends I see Dr. Peyre if possible. Good fortune I would say that I will have him as my surgeon.
Emotions run all over the place as I process the news that I do have a cancerous tumor in my lung that will require surgery. After all, you need your lungs to breathe. After meeting with Dr. Peyre and finding his nurse practitioner is the granddaughter of a long-time friend from Avon and even know all her aunts and uncles, I feel I am in good hands. Dr. Peyre explains the procedure and says he doesn’t often see patients so early and would put me at Stage 1. He will take a wedge of the lung out and not need to take the full lobe out which is great news. He is also confident that after the surgery I will not need further treatment. He did schedule several tests to get done before the surgery on November 8th. Lung Function, PET scan (oh I hate them), x-rays and blood work.