Hmmmm…. Where do I begin with this update? I received the expected CT scan early last week. They handed me a copy of the CD with the pictures of my lungs. I was excited to get home and analyze the data on my laptop. Having spent lots of time investigating previous PET scans and learning a lot about reading the information, particularly after viewing it along with the doctor… I was fairly confident that the CT info would be a piece of cake to understand. I was wrong. I looked at the pics over and over again and although I was able to determine some areas that didn’t appear normal, I was completely lost in my self-diagnosis. I had to wait anxiously for the call from the doctor after she received a copy of the report.
I received a call from my Radiology Oncologist’s office the following day… not the doctor herself by the way… but from the nurse. I admit, the nurse is very knowledgeable in this field of study and I appreciated her conversation and responding to the questions that I had the mind set to ask in that moment, although some remained unanswered. I have since developed a number of questions… okay… several pages of questions… that I’m not certain that ‘anyone’ can answer with any degree of accuracy.
The nurse said that I had Pulmonary Pneumonitis/Fibrosis with scarring. Not reversible. Symptoms could possibly be lessened somewhat with steroids, but no cure and symptoms may worsen with time.
As all of you know who have followed my recovery process of radiotherapy for lung cancer, I will indeed tell it like it is. So… directly from the report… this is the good the bad and the ugly of it all.
Focal area of consolidation posteromedial right lower lobe at the base of the hemithorax measuring approximately 9 cm in size consistent with radiation pneumonitis. Adjacent pleural effusion. The consolidation obscures the site of the previously noted pulmonary nodule.
As you already know from previous updates… I did my research. I’m still very much confused as to where I stand exactly.
Pulmonary Consolidation is a region of normally compressible lung tissue that has filled with liquid marked by induration (swelling or hardening of normally soft tissue) of a normally aerated lung. It is… Alveolar space that contains liquid instead of gas. The liquid can be pulmonary edema, inflammatory exudate, pus, inhaled water, or blood.
Pulmonary edema can be a number of things and caused by a number of things, mostly due to the heart. Since radiation therapy can also cause edema, well… I’m going with that… even though… well… you are all familiar with my various heart conditions.
Inflammatory exudate is well… like pus… Sorry… I know you didn’t want to read that word in any form.
Inhaled water? I don’t think that I have drowned yet… so I’ll rule that one out….
And then there is blood. Since the mucous associated with the cough has a pink tinge to it… I’ll assume that at least a portion of that liquid is blood. From what?… I have no idea.
Radiation Pneumonitis… Inflammation of the lung. Symptoms… Shortness of breath, dry cough (mine’s not so dry), low-grade fever, chest tightness, chest pain, and general malaise including fatigue and weakness. I can say ‘yes’ to all of the above, with the addition of pink in the not so dry cough.
Pulmonary Fibrosis… a respiratory disease in which scars are formed in the lung tissue leading to serious breathing problems. Scar formation, the accumulation of excess fibrous connective tissue (fibrosis) leads to thickening of the walls and causes reduced oxygen supply in the blood. As a consequence patients suffer with perpetual shortness of breath and a list of other factors.
I know that I must be boring most of you with all this information, but a journal being written in order to demonstrate a true study of a patient’s journey through cancer and associated treatments must include some technical and detailed information. Sometimes I bore myself with this stuff and often it becomes such a heavy prey on my mind that I have to stop and read one of my more humorous poems… like “Poultry Poetry” or “The Finger”. After reading them and realizing how un-normal my mind works at certain times, I realize that there are still plenty of things in this world that are not so serious after all and laughter can be so very healing… even if it is just temporary. If you have tired of the technical crap… or just don’t want to delve into the details… please scroll down to the green line and enjoy what my dearest friends have had to say about it all…
Pleural effusion: the build-up of excess fluid between the layers of the pleura outside the lungs. The pleura are thin membranes that line the lungs and the inside of the chest cavity and act to lubricate and facilitate breathing. Symptoms include… Chest pain, dry, nonproductive cough, shortness of breath, labored breathing, the inability to breathe easily unless the person is sitting up straight or standing erect. Again… all symptoms fit… with the exception of the not so dry cough and the fact that the inability to breath easily is present in ‘all’ positions.
It seems that all of these things associated with the diagnosis, all have virtually the same symptoms. What symptoms come from what? Nobody knows… not even Wikipedia.
So… where do I go from here? What’s the next step? The area of the lung which contained the malignancy most recently is hidden by the scar tissue. How do we know if it raises its ugly head once again in the same area? The nodule was still there on the last PET scan. Hmmm…
No cure for Pulmonary Fibrosis… Corticosteroids have side effects that can cause atrial fibrillation which I already have… irregular heartbeat, which I already have… it can affect the firing mechanism of the heart which in my case is located in a remote area quite un-normal… the lower center portion of the heart instead of in the atrium… which often causes the chambers of my heart to beat out of synchronicity with one another. Hmmm…. maybe I should just deal with the symptoms instead of the odds that the medicine carries with it. The medical professionals have offered ‘no’ alternatives.
I’m really confused… finding myself in a dilemma that no one seems to have any kind of a solution to resolve. The good news is (well… I guess the ‘good’ part depends on your point of view)… but the ‘good’ news is that I’ve had cancer in three areas including the lymph nodes of the neck and the lung and in spite
of the fact that my heart was too diseased to tolerate chemotherapy or surgical removal of the cancerous areas… I have survived. The bad news is… (and there seems to be only one point of view for this one)… after having cancer in three different locations over a period of the last three years, the odds of it appearing in some new remote location are quite high… which would mean more radiation… which would just perpetuate the vicious cycle.
So… to my wonderful and enlightening readers and followers…. Any suggestions?
I have discussed the matter with a couple of my dearest friends and taken to heart their sincerest ideas and solutions… I’ll share a few of them with you.
Oliver (Ollie) has suggested a number of ideas to deal with my dilemma. His first suggestion was that I just put my paws over my ears and don’t listen to all the negative things the doctors are telling me…
He then told me that if that wasn’t successful that I could just cover my eyes so that I couldn’t read all those terrible things about my illnesses that I research online…
His last idea was that if both of those ideas failed… that I could just play dead.
Miracle had this to say….
If you find yourself in the uncomfortable and embarrassing position of having a monkey on your back…
there is just one thing that you can do…
He told me that if you really want to solve a dilemma, there was truly only one way to take care of it for certain… Crawl into a cardboard box… close yourself off from all the stress and commotion of the world around you… sink deeply into the tranquility, solitude and silence… and the answers to all your questions will appear before you… or at least… all your problems will seem to fade… and you will begin to have wonderful thoughts about wallowing like an idiot in some catnip… I think Miracle just might be a very wise little creature.
I’ll be looking very forward to your comments… open to your suggestions… or perhaps you might choose to share some of your own dilemmas… or maybe you could just send me the pics of you wallowing in the catnip…
Hope your day is most beautiful….