One of the best treatments for lung cancer is a lobectomy of the lung, or the surgical removal of a lobe. Today, I’m posting Part 7 of my Cancer Journal, which chronicles what I went through from March to July of 2017, with hopes that my experience will encourage someone.
On March 17, 2017, I had a wedge resection of the lung to remove a suspicious nodule. On the March 23, the surgeon called me at home at 3 p.m. I took notes on the phone call:
The surgeon said the pathology report showed it’s not thyroid cancer as expected but primary lung cancer – adenosquamous non-small cell carcinoma. He said the prognosis is good because it was caught early, and he recommends having the top lobe and lymph nodes removed (lobectomy of right lung) as soon as I recover from the wedge resection and as soon as it’s convenient. I told him about our planned trip to Israel in May.”
The diagnosis of lung cancer was hard news for us to accept because all my doctors had said the spot on my lung was most likely thyroid cancer. On top of that, the pathologists who reviewed my lung tissue slides were not in agreement. So my case went to the tumor board for further review.
On April 11, 2017, my oncologist called to tell me the hospital sent the wrong pathology slides – thyroid instead of lung tissue – to the tumor board meeting. The resident pathologist said it’s virtually impossible to distinguish between the two cancers. The oncologist said that someone would ship the slides to a world-renowned expert at Sloan-Kettering. In the meantime, he advised me to make an oncology appointment for late May (after our trip) and wait to set a surgery date.
Trip to the Mid-East
So my husband and I committed the future to the Lord and went to the Mid-East with a group of fifty-nine people for a twelve-day tour. The majority of our group were from our church, and while we were in the airport, I discovered that one of the men in our Sunday school class and I had the same thoracic surgeon, which was a pleasant surprise.
We flew from Seattle to Frankfurt to Tel Aviv, toured in two buses through Israel from south to north to east, and “walked where Jesus walked.” We also went to Jordan, where we headed south along the Jordan River to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, and Petra, where Moses hit the rock and water gushed out. Seeing the geography and ruins of notable places was a blessing then and a blessing now every time I read the Bible!
After we returned from our tour, I saw the oncologist again, but he didn’t have any news, said he would check on the status of the pathology report, and would get back to me. While in limbo, I got called for Jury Duty. I’d been called several times, but this time I was selected, which delighted me as the case to be tried sounded interesting. And it was. The trial ended in a hung jury.
On June 13, the oncologist called with news: the pathologist expert in R.I. could not be one hundred percent sure but his experience told him the cancerous tissue from my lung was non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC.) So I called my surgeon’s office and set a date for my lobectomy.
About two weeks before my surgery date, our family had a reunion with the son of missionaries we knew in Africa. We learned he had a job that involved traveling around the States to work for a few months in various hospitals, wherever needed, sterilizing surgical instruments. He was due to work at “my” hospital during the week I was having surgery. Another nice connection.
Early on 7/6/17, I sent an email to close family and friends.
I’d like to ask for your prayers for my surgery today. The doctors concluded the tiny tumor they removed in March is indeed lung cancer, so although my scans are clear and they’ve declared me cancer-free, they want to remove the top lobe of my right lung to prevent the cancer from recurring and to make sure my lymph nodes are clear. I’m feeling fine and have been going to the gym to give my lungs a workout so they’re as strong as possible. The doctor says I may be in the hospital for 4-5 days. Thank God for peace of mind and heart that only He can give! Please pray for Lee, too. Thank you very much.”
Lobectomy of the Lung
At 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 6, 2017, my surgeon removed the top lobe of my right lung, plus lymph nodes, inserted drainage tubes, and put in a drip to relieve the pain caused by the tubes. When I woke up in ICU (routine for this type of surgery), I was on oxygen, hooked up to heart and lung monitors, and had three IV lines that included a back-up line and an arterial line. With the monitors beeping all night and the staff bothering me every hour, I got very little sleep. Fortunately, they moved me to a regular room the next day where I napped like a cat night and day, although I tried to stay awake while family visited. I remember trying to play Scrabble with my husband on his Kindle and falling asleep during his turns. When I left the hospital to go home on Monday, I was delighted. A big thanks to all who prayed for me that week!
From an email to my cousin on 7/27/17:
Thanks for checking on me. Yes, my surgery went well, I stayed in the hospital with 2 chest tubes as big as garden hoses for several nights, and the surgeon says my recovery is on track. One of my lymph nodes (of sixteen removed) was cancerous, so I’ll probably have chemo. I have an appt on Monday to learn what’s what and need wisdom. So many options these days. Thanks for your prayers! Seems so long ago, maybe the 1990’s, that you were diagnosed with cancer. Was it cured? Or, do you have periodic check ups to make sure it hasn’t recurred? What was chemo like for you? The good thing is I’m beginning to feel normal again and went back to the gym (treadmill) this week, although I get short of breath. How are you doing?”
My cousin responded with several emails about his cancer, chemo, and subsequent remission. Around that same time, I met a woman at church who showed me her scars from her lobectomy of the lung, and she had just celebrated five years of being cancer-free. I love the way God brings people into our lives when we need encouragement the most.
From my sermon notes, dated 7/23/17, on Matthew 6:25-34 :
Don’t worry because…
– life consists of more than temporal things
– worry doesn’t do any good (made me laugh)
– the lilies don’t worry
– why act like the pagans?
– God knows all our needs
– verse 33 says God will give us what we need from day to day if we live for him and make his kingdom primary.”
Thank you very much for reading my post.