Wow! It is exactly three months since my last post and I am still unwell. Since then I continued to cough endlessly and therefore have had a variety of tests. Most valuable seemed to be the CT scan which identified a 7x8cm mass in my left lung. This explains the chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. In summary I have now had 5 chest x-rays, multiple blood tests, 2 ECG’s, been tested for TB (the result was negative), 2 CT scans and the latest a fine needle lung biopsy while in a CT scanning machine.
There is one thing I have consistently commented about since I began to feel unwell in January and that was the spot of pain in my chest. This pain was stronger in the beginning and over the Easter weekend it had released its grip, a little. When the mass was identified it explained why I have this spot of pain as it is pressing on the chest wall.
Flying home was a little nerve-racking, especially since there is no direct way to get to Saskatoon. I have to say the staff at Air Canada were kind and attentive to make sure I was okay while flying. I returned home with all my Italian medical documents and scans on disk ready to see my doctor. More x-rays and blood tests, it feels strange not taking a friend along to interpret/translate.
Last week I had an appointment with a respiratory specialist. She reviewed the CT scan with contrast and the various x-rays and consulted with another specialist. Then we sat down to chat. The usual questions, family history, work history, and previous health issues, then onto describing the current health issue. I found it interesting that she asked me three times in this line of questioning if my family lived nearby. Nearly 2 hours had passed when we arrived at the time to discuss what she believes is the issue. I knew I was present in the room as words such as biopsy, lymphoma, lung cancer and treatment plan hung in the air and didn’t seem to penetrate my mind. This was so surreal. I felt like a character in a book or movie being in this room hearing this news, thinking is this really happening? it’s just a cough. The doctor could tell that I was a little too calm for just having had this particular conversation. She asked if there was someone I could spend the rest of the day with, I looked at her quizzically. She continued to say that this was a lot of information we discussed and it would be good for me to be with someone. Then reality hit. I became a puddle. After I left the doctor’s office I stopped for the blood tests she requested and then slowly walked to my car in a zombie like state.
Once I reached the car, I sent a few text messages then drove to the pharmacy. The pharmacist said something about the prescription, I remember looking at him and saying I don’t have a cold, call the doctor if you have questions. I arrived at my house still stunned, did my best to collect myself and called my parents, my mom took the news well as she was expecting something since I had been coughing for so long. A few friends came to my house that day. It was a day of shock and emotion.
As I continued to share this news with friends and family, the response has been wonderful, kind words and offers of help. When people see me they are surprised and often comment that I look good. I laugh and say what did you expect? They expect me to be frail and thin. Nope, I am my usually smiley and jolly self. It is interesting that people seem to believe that you have to look poorly to be unwell. Not so at all. I move a little slower and speak a little softer since I struggle to get enough air to talk as much as I would really like to, but that’s about all that is different. haha
I have made a promise to myself, and I ask my friends and family to do the same…No internet searches for any information regarding my illness and treatment. Promise! I have doctors to ask questions of and I will ask as things progress. Currently I don’t really know what lymphoma is and that is ok. When a diagnosis is confirmed I will ask questions. For now my energy is better focused on eating well and resting.
Friends are great. A group did the spring yard cleaning and planted flowers, shrubs and my vegetable garden last Saturday. It was nice to see everyone. An afternoon of activity like that wears me out, even though I was just walking around and talking. I fell asleep that evening at 6pm and stayed in bed all day Sunday. This is my pattern, one day of activity will mean two days of rest to recover. This is something that is difficult for others to understand.
Being unwell is strange. Every day people ask the question, How are you feeling?… I feel good, with the exception of pressure/pain in my chest and the challenges I have with breathing. This is how I have felt for months. I have learned to respect my physical limits. I am happy and do what I can within my physical limits. If I feel tired, I rest. Thankfully I now have medicine to quell the cough. This is a blessing. My body has been so tired from coughing daily for months. This helps me sleep and being rested helps me to maintain a positive attitude.
Two days ago I had a biopsy. The doctor chose the least invasive method, a fine needle lung biopsy performed by an interventional radiologist while the patient is in a CT scan machine. This procedure is pretty cool. I was not sedated which I was a little unsure about. The worst part was the needle for the freezing into basically the centre of my chest. Ouch!!!! I asked if I could swear because it was wildly painful. After the freezing set in no problem. The doctor asked how squeamish I was and I said don’t tell me anything you are doing, talk to me about something else. So we talked about my time in Italy. Before I knew it the procedure was done and I had 4 hours to relax, since I was not allowed to move for that period of time. Nurses were checking on me regularly as I read a book and had a few naps.
Recovery has been a little painful after this biopsy. Every way I move I can feel a pull in my chest. I think this mass did not appreciate being disturbed. It will heal.
Now the waiting for results, apparently these take 5-10 business days. So two weeks. After being ill for months now, two weeks will pass quickly. Hopefully then we know what we are dealing with and can make a treatment plan.
My new physical limitations are a little frustrating, it is the little things around the house that I can’t do that irritate me. Such as taking out the garbage and recycling, the bins are too heavy for me to take to the curb. At 4:30 this morning I remembered it is garbage collection day, so as I sit here typing I am listening for my neighbour to take his bin out so I can ask him to take mine out as well. Mowing the lawn, making a bed, even laundry is more physical than I had realized before. I have taken up ironing, the linens in the guest bedroom look fantastic. haha This is where I cannot get stuck on being proud or stubborn and must ask for help.
Food is another interesting aspect. One of the first things people offer is to make food. Interesting since food is associated with comfort. While wanting to eat healthy I realize there is no single plan that appeals to me, so I am going to take the parts I believe are beneficial and create a hybrid eating plan for myself. I’ll share my eating plan as things progress as well.
The challenges of communication. I am very fortunate to have so many people who care about me and send me well wishes. I want to keep friends and family informed yet I do not want to be sending and responding to messages all day long. While talking in general tires me. Please have patience since I may not respond quickly or forget to respond at all.
I sparkle on…one day at a time. 🙂