Almost six months on from the last installment

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Well, I have lot to summarize, for 5+ months of healing!

The surgeon removed the top third or so of my lung in the thoracotomy, and the pain following that was pretty considerable. In pushing a rib up and out of the way to get at the lung, they’d injured the rib, and a lot of the pain stemmed from that. I went through a couple of rounds of pain meds, getting really tired of feeling confused and out-of-it all the time. I used them all, but never felt a craving for more, thank goodness! Scary stuff, but I’m thankful I had it when I needed it.

After I’d recovered some from the surgery, my oncologist started me on immunotherapy (Keytruda), an infusion every three weeks for (for starters) five treatments. I’d apparently tolerated it well during chemotherapy. Primary side effects were flu-like: fatigue, intestinal upset, aches and pains that were indistinguishable from surgical side effects.

Towards the end of the five treatments, a new CT scan showed new small spots on the remaining lung, though also a diminished lymph node. The radiologist who read the scan was concerned that the new spots might be a metastisis — a spreading of the original cancer — but the oncologist disagreed. I was still very short of breath, and he believed the spots indicated lung inflammation caused by the Keytruda. I’d read that it sometimes causes autoimmune problems by revving the immune system so high. So he stopped the Keytruda, and started me on a course of prednisone (a steroid). Bingo! It took a few days to take hold, but now I’m breathing well and feeling much better as I taper off the four-week steroid treatment. Up next is another CT scan (chest only, as the abdominal scan was all clear last scan), and a continuation of the Keytruda.

The pulmonologist has declared me “a success story,” and I’m feeling optimistic. Trying to move a little closer to normalcy by sleeping less, doing more. I’m also finding out how much anxiety and fear I’ve bottled up over the last year… as is Sweetie. Feeling a little out of control, emotionally, so it looks like it’s time I find a support group or therapist. It’s so unfair to pile it all on Sweetie when he’s having his own backlash problems. He’s been with me every step of the way, even when I acted less than grateful.

But I’m so much better. Such a relief to be able to breathe again, to start learning how to do housework again, to go shopping again, and even to make art again. I’m way out of shape, but now I can even fathom working on getting fitter. Wow.

Thanks so much for your support, and cards, phone calls, emails, FB messages, and all!

And always, always, thank you to my Sweetie.

Big day done, bigger day coming up

I was so dreading the chemical stress test! My late mother said she’d rather die than go through another one. And it was highly unpleasant… but only for about five minutes or so. I expect that Mother’s heart was in much worse shape than mine, when she went through it. I had no chest pain, no severe panic, or effects other than breathlessness and a very uncomfortable (full? hot? cold? Hard to describe) feeling in my muscles. There was an echocardiogram first, then another imaging involving a radioactive substance via IV and a camera that circled my upper abdomen. The tech had no name for the type of imaging when I asked. Then the chemical stressor was injected through the IV. I was already hooked up for an EKG, along with blood pressure monitor (BP very high, as usual for me in a medical setting) and then there was imaging again 20 minutes later. Before the last imaging, they gave me a cup of black coffee — my choice of caffeine source — which seemed counter-intuitive to me, but which they assured me would help my blood vessels readjust and make me feel better. True. Nice that they also brought Sweetie a cup of coffee in the waiting room. He’s always there with and for me.

The administering physician asked me about my cancer and the circumstances, and opined that I was very fortunate that my adenocarcinoma had been caught at stage 3 — that often they go to stage 4 before discovery: too late, really, for treatment. (Many thanks again to my pulmonologist!) She wished me well in the surgery, and from that I’d gather that the test results were good. I get the official results in a couple of days.

When we got home I immediately took a long nap, then had some lunch and called my dad (who is doing well at home), and took another long nap.

So: I’m scheduled for major lung surgery – a lobectomy, removal of the upper lobe of my right lung – on Thursday 1/17. My oncologist thinks that there is likely little or no malignancy left in the mass in that lobe: mostly dead tissue which shouldn’t be left there.

Surgery will be way too early in the morning, and I’ll be in the hospital for 3-4 days afterwards, then recovering at home for a month or two. If all goes well, I’ll then be cancer-free.

And my show with Chuck Haupt at Cooperative Gallery 213 is coming up in March!