Wednesday, May 8, 2013


... but I did have a chest tube for about 6 days and a 4 day hospital stay!

Now sit back, because it's a pretty long story. Back in February, I was having some pain whenever I took a deep breath and it eventually got bad enough that I went to a doctor, well actually the Urgent Care. I RARELY go to the doctor unless I am pregnant so this was a big deal. I was diagnosed with pleurisy (which basically means that my lungs were swollen and inflamed) and given steroids to fix the problem. I started the magic medicine and felt better within 24 hours and didn't give my lungs a second thought .

Until a month later when I began to have a similar pain in my back again. This time I went to my regular doctor and he ordered a chest x-ray, and there began my real problems. On my chest x-ray were some nodules that my doctor decided needed further testing. He then ordered blood tests and a CT scan and referred me to a lung specialist and sent me home that afternoon saying "I'm not sure what it is on your lung, it could be nothing or it could be cancer, we just don't know." Needless to say I was more than a little anxious over this and totally began freaking out.

The next day I dropped my kids with my sister and went to the hospital for all my lab work (seriously I gave like 8 vials of blood) and my CT scan. I was naively hoping that this would be the end of this saga, that the CT scan would reveal that it was scar tissue and we would't need to do anything else. Well, I was wrong. The CT confirmed that 2 of my 3 nodules were indeed scar tissue but the third one wasn't quite calcified enough to be classified as scar tissue. It wasn't presenting as a cancerous mass, but it wasn't scar tissue, so what was it? On to the pulmonologist, lung doctor, to see what he thought.

The lung doctor told me that he was leaning towards a diagnosis of scar tissue from an old infection but ordered a PET scan just to be sure. Later I found out that PET scans leave you radioactive for 4 hours afterwards and you can't be around kids under 5 (a problem for a stay at home mom who has just had the scan done and has to go home and take care of a 2 and 1 year old - yes that happened to me) and that the test rarely comes back definitive. Had he told me those things to begin with I may have decided on a different plan. It took days for me to finally get the results of the scan, after much calling and arguing with receptionists who said I needed to make another appointment ($100 co-pay) to get my results, I finally received a call from the doctor. He said that the test was inconclusive and I needed a biopsy to be 100% certain about what was going on. I was highly disappointed with this doctor and will NOT be using him again. You don't send someone for a test that could tell them whether or not they have cancer and then not call them with the results!

So now it's the second to last week of April (remember I said this was long) and I am meeting with a surgeon to talk about biopsying this tiny mass in my lungs. Ryan came with me and within minutes of talking, I find out that no it's not a biopsy it's going to be surgery. Lung doctor failed to inform me of yet another thing. (Seriously don't like that guy.) Apparently I had some golf ball sized lymph nodes that needed to be looked at as well and it was a pretty basic surgery with a robot! The surgeon reassured us a bunch of times that it was a pretty routine surgery and that he didn't think it was cancer but it was probably best to get things out of there just in case.

So surgery came on the last day of April.

  • Problem 1 I have a narrow rib cage, so the ports for the robot arms to enter in were bigger than the space between my ribs which meant that my nerves and ribs were going to be more bruised than originally thought. 
  • Problem 2 The upper portion of my lung had adhered to the chest wall. Weird right? Apparently not unheard of but uncommon in someone my age. Basically what the think happened, was that somewhere along the line I had an infection that caused things to get super swollen and then my lung just kinda stuck to the chest wall. It didn't affect my lung's function but it made it difficult for the surgeon to reach the lymph nodes. So he had to spend 1/2 an hour in surgery peeling my lung off so he could access the lymph nodes. So then there's a bunch of tiny surface scratches in the lung and now I have a possible air leak meaning my lung could collapse without a chest tube. Which meant that my 1 day stay in the hospital then turned into 4 days!
  • Problem 3 They pulled my chest tube too soon, my lung began to collapse, they put in a second smaller tube and then I had to live with that for two days after I left the hospital! NOT FUN AT ALL! So 6 days on the chest tube and then I finally had it pulled.
The surgery revealed that I do NOT have cancer and it was in fact infectious in nature and we are just waiting on cultures to see if it's an old or new infection. Between all the IV's, medications, physical therapy (yep they made me practice walking with a walker), chest tube drama, and occupational therapy (apparently lung surgery means you forget how to do basic things) I did have some quiet time to myself. Something I had been craving and talking about with a friend. Next time I'll be a bit more specific in HOW I would like to spend that quiet time.

So between all this medical drama and everyday life, I just haven't had the energy to blog. But now that this big hurdle and worry is gone I'm really hoping to get back to a more regular blogging schedule.

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