A month ago, my life changed forever at an 8:45 AM doctor visit.
I had been “doctoring” for several weeks, trying to solve persistent constipation that was accompanied by a slight difficulty in breathing. After a variety of interventions had failed to solve the problem, my doctor ordered a CT scan of my abdomen and a blood test that flags lung problems. When the blood test results came back with very high markers, I received an urgent call from my doctor’s office, telling me to go back to the hospital stat for a CT scan of my chest. This scan confirmed that I had a large pleural effusion, or build-up of liquid in the pleural cavity of my left lung. A lung specialist drained my lung in the emergency room and sent a sample off for analysis. There were cancer cells in that fluid.
So what do you do when you learn on a Monday morning that you have lung cancer?
You say ungraceful things. You cry. You discuss the best options for care with your doctor, and follow his recommendations. And in my case, you go to work, where at least there was something I could do. I don’t think my husband and I could have done each other much good had I gone home, our feelings were too raw.
It’s been a busy month, filled with appointments with new doctors, financial planning, and communication with friends and family. My heart has grown at least a size from the love I am receiving from every direction.
I am still working, but I will retire at the end of August. My job is too demanding to balance with treatment and rest.
I am getting consistent messages from the medical specialists who are helping me that this cancer probably isn’t curable with the treatments they can offer, but that I am healthy and that they think the cancer can be managed as a chronic illness. The first step is to get a sample of the cancer for genetic analysis. I am going to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester on Friday to do just that. The surgeon will also seal the pleural cavity of my left lung, so that I don’t have to have it drained regularly. I have had a surge of courage these past few days, and I can do this.
I want to write more frequently here. I keep making notes of thoughts I notice and want to puzzle through as I talk out loud with my keyboard in this personal space. It’s hard to find time right now - I began this blog post days ago, and had intended to write in much more detail. I like this shorter version. Soon I’ll be living at a slower pace, and will have more time to write.
I don’t intend for this to become a cancer blog, however. I’m still knitting, and I’m still living a life that is bigger than the cancer within me.