Three lung surgeries in one year, that fact is a little tough to swallow – and breathe. When your bad lung is relying on your other lung for support, but that lung was just bothered a month ago, it’s a struggle. Thankfully I am through the thick of it now. My hospital stay this time was shorter than usual. In on a Tuesday and out on the Saturday. Other than the usual chest tube annoyances, it was a pretty regular hospital stay for me. What I was not expecting since I was feeling like a pro now when it came to lung surgeries, was just how different this one was. My first two were wedge resections, this one was a partial lobectomy. What is the difference? Well the simplest way to put it is that my first two tumours were on the surface of my lung. My surgeon just has to go in and cut it off the top. My last tumour was in the tissue of the lung, so this time he had to take an actual portion of it. So that on top of everything else, made it hard for me to even walk up the stairs. One day I was so winded when I got to the top, I sat down on the bed to catch my breath. I was so exhausted from just those few steps, that I did not want to have to deal with it all over again just to get back downstairs. So I just sat there. This was my life now. Would I rather starve on the couch or get up and deal with not being about to breathe? I’ll starve.
Every little ache or pain I have, my mind begins to wonder – Is this THAT bad? Should I go see a doctor? I’m always nervous to go to a walk-in or the hospital because when new doctors find out about me, they run every test known to man. Here is a breakdown of my train of thought:
So a little bit of pain in my back is probably just a pulled muscle right? Hold on let me google it…. Ok the organ located in that area is the right kidney…. So is the pain from a muscle or is it my kidneys? Well I’m having no problems in the bathroom so it must just be my muscle….. But it is so close to my liver – maybe it’s just my body healing from the surgery….. Or it is the cancer that jumped from my liver to my kidney….. Ok I will just wait one more day and see if it gets worse.
Here’s another one that also happened this week:
Hmm, my seatbelt is rubbing on my incision site – that’s not comfortable…. Ok where it is has been rubbing for the past few days seems to be irritated – I’ll just hold the belt away from it…. So it’s been a week and the irritation has become larger and now even if my shirt floats by it, I feel like someone is sticking their finger in an open wound – I’ll leave it a few more days…. Hmm my shirt feels wet, oh that’s because it wasn’t swollen it was infected and filled with puss that has seemed to have popped open in the night…. Guess I’ll call the doctor – maybe I should have gone earlier?
I can’t run off to the doctor everytime I have an ache in my body – I would live at the hospital (even though I already feel like I do). However if I leave things and they are something serious, then I am just hurting myself and making things worse. I’m sure I am not the only crazy person out there.
I love my surgeon. The man saved my life – how could I not love him? The only thing I would change however – but I think this goes for all surgeons – they need to give WAY more information on how to proceed post operation. Of course it is awesome that you helped to save lives, but then a lot of us are left with a big nasty scar, and not a whole lot of information. Recently I was informed that the reason my stomach now looks so funny, has a lot to do with the amount of scar tissue I have. I knew this (kind of), but what I did not know is that there is actually something I can do about it. There are registered massage therapists out there who specialize in helping to break down the scar tissue underneath the skin. Over time this helps to flatten it out and allow the tissue to begin laying back to normal. Who knew!? Not I. Could I have started this process sooner? Probably not, because my entire body was so tender during chemo that I would not have been able to handle the massage. Enough time has passed now from my last surgery that I am finally able to get some help. It is not the most comfortable procedure – a stranger running their hands up and down my scar – however I do believe it will help. I will take a picture today and then one again after six sessions and let you all know what the deal is. Stay tuned.
My focus for a long time now has been to build back up my physical strength. I go on long walks, try a few sit ups here and there, and swim in my parents pool whenever I can. Physically I am beginning to feel stronger. Just when I start to pat myself on the back, I remember that I am leaving a major part of my recovery out – my mental and emotional strength. It is like I have been doing all upper body exercises, but my legs look like chickens. Driving alone in the car seems to be the worst time for me. It is when my mind runs all over the place, and I always end up crying. Good thing for sunglasses. I need to start shifting some of my energy into helping to heal this crucial side to my recovery. But how? Group therapy sessions help, and I do attend them, but I beginning to realize I need more than this. I have to find an outlet that allows me to be able to be alone and one with my thoughts – and still be ok. This is a harder task than it seems. As soon as it is quiet, the little voice in my head starts to say, “You have stage 4 cancer. How many years do you have left? That sharp pain in my side, is it cancer? So what if you don’t make it to forty, who needs to be forty? Why do I have to go through this? Fuck you Taylor Swift, you don’t even know my struggle.” (She’s always on the radio.)
May 2014 is when I first cut my hair. Since then, everytime I have had to show my ID, or received a compliment from a stranger, I have always said something along the lines of, “Oh yes, short hair not by choice.” Even though shaving my head was my version of “control”, or so I thought at the time, I never truly felt empowered. I have been saying for months now that I wanted to dye my hair blonde. I thought it would be fun to experiment and do things with my hair that I never would have done before. The day I went blonde is the day I got a piece of myself back. Doing this finally gave me my first sense of being back in control of my own life. I am slowly becoming myself again and not this poor and sick cancer patient. Just recently at dinner I ran into an old coworker who said, “oh wow I almost didn’t recognize you because of your hair. Short hair and blonde looks good on ya.” I simply replied, “Thank you”. No mention of anything referencing my sickness. I owned that compliment and that moment. I am not sure yet if blondes have more fun, but this one is definately going to try.