Meet Vickie, a PatientsLikeMe member who has survived cancer not once, but twice. She’s sharing her story, from diagnosis to survivorship, during Lung Cancer Awareness Month. She spoke about her reaction to getting diagnosed, the anxiety filled months leading up to surgery and what recovery was like post-operation. Learn about her journey below.
Occasionally I received cards in the mail offering discount lung or heart screenings. I think most people do now and then. I always throw them in the trash. In May 2012, I received one. For some reason I didn’t throw that one away. I called and scheduled an appointment for the heart and lung scan. Was told I’d get a letter in two weeks letting me know the results.
Imagine my surprise when 4 days later I received a voice mail asking me to call the hospital back as soon as possible. With feelings of dread and fear, I returned the call. Was told they were concerned about 2 places in my left lung. Was cautioned to not jump to any conclusions. They could be any number of things. I needed to have testing done. Was scheduled for MRI and PET Scan. Those results were enough to call for a biopsy.
Had the needle biopsy. My lung collapsed immediately. Very scary. Spent 1 night in the hospital. Sent home with instructions. Two days later began having problems breathing. Drove myself back to hospital and found out lung had collapsed again. This time was hospitalized 4 days.
While I was on a gurney in the ER, a pulmonologist from the hospital cancer center (didn’t know he came from cancer center at the time) came to see me. He asked me if I had been told the results of the biopsy. I told him no. He told me it was positive for cancer. Told me not to worry about it, they were going to take care of me. I remember lying there and I just nodded my head. I thought about it for about a minute then blocked it out.
The hope was to do surgery while I was in the hospital for the second lung collapse. The surgery, a lobectomy and wedge resection, would remove my upper left lobe and a portion of my lower lobe. Unfortunately the original scans showed calcium build up in an area of my heart. It was decided I needed to have the heart issue taken care of before the cancer surgery.
Had a heart stent put in. Had to be on a blood thinner for at least two months to make sure blood clots didn’t form on the stent. I then had to be off the blood thinner for a period of time. I have been seeing my oncologist every three months. Get CT scans every six months. Also see pulmonologist every three months.
It was three months between time of diagnosis and my surgery. Seemed much longer. I was very worried the cancer would spread. When the time came for me to stop the blood thinner and no call came from doctor I was on edge. I felt they were forgetting about me. I made a call now and then to the lung cancer nurse navigator to remind them about me. I wasn’t that way all the time but I did have extreme anxiety at times. Earlier my family doctor had offered me something to help with my anxiety. I turned it down. Eventually my anxiety did reach a point where I did tell my PCP I needed some help.
Finally, the day of my surgery arrived. September 24, 2012. My parents had driven in from Colorado. Took me to the hospital. Other family would be joining them. At about 0730, the preparation began. I had no idea what kind of a journey was coming my way. I woke up October 8, 2012.
Nothing had gone as planned. What I know of that time is what I have been told by family and what I have read from my medical records. I was on a vent. I was combative and had to be restrained. I tried to pull vent out several times. I had lost enough blood I became anemic. Three days after the surgery I suffered respiratory failure. I developed an infection.
After waking up, I was very confused. I had and still have memory problems. I had to work on my penmanship. Didn’t have enough hand control to write. That has since returned. Couldn’t speak above a whisper due to a paralyzed right vocal cord from the vent. ENT told me there was a good possibility it would never come back. Ended up spending 6 months in a nursing home undergoing speech, physical and respiratory therapy.
Surviving and sharing
I find PatientsLikeMe to be a source of comfort. It is nice to know I can share my feelings and thoughts with those who have been or are going through similar experiences. It makes me stop and think about how I am doing. It is helpful to look at where I have been and see where I am and think about where I am headed.
Diagnosed June 2012 with lung cancer. Diagnosed April 2013 with uterine cancer. At last week’s checkup with pulmonologist, was shown something on my most recent scan. November 19, 2014 will be having bronchoscopy.
It has not been an easy journey. But when all is said and done, I am still alive.
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