It has been just over 8 weeks since I had the left upper lobe of my lung removed and recovery has been quite the journey. After I got home, I had an extensive pill regimen of pain killers (oxycodone, gabapentin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen) in addition to my usual doses of blood thinners (Eliquis) and cancer TKI medication (Alectinib) – I was up to over 30 pills a day! The pain was more intense than I expected it to be – after-all, I have been through a spinal fusion before. I think the difference is that when I had my spinal fusion 4 years ago, I was at a 9 out of 10 in pain due to the compression from the tumor and the surgery immediately removed the pain so even a 3 or 4 felt like nothing. This time, however, I went from no pain to a 10/10 in the hospital. Even though it was no longer at a 10 when I got home, I had a constant ache in the upper left abdomen (again – oddly not the chest) that remained perpetually around a 7. The worst pain was at night; the pain would wake me up after 2-3 hours of sleep and the pain medication would take a while to kick in so I had restless sleep for the rest of the night. Regardless, I was determined to quickly wean myself off the pills so I stopped cold turkey when my oxycodone ran out after 2 weeks. That was a mistake – trying to get a hold of the thoracic surgery team on the weekend was more difficult than I expected and I spent Father’s Day in a terrible pain. I was finally able to have the prescription refilled Sunday evening. I learned my lesson and this time around, I slowly tapered down my dosage when I started to reach the end. At my post operative follow up appointment 4 weeks later, my thoracic surgeon told me that it is not uncommon to have pain for even few months after surgery, which made me feel better. Fortunately, now I’m down to one last line of pain control, Gabapentin (a nerve pain medication), which that I’ll likely be on until the pain goes away for good.
I also learned at my post op appointment that I had a slight pneumothorax (an air pocket in the chest cavity) in the upper portion of the chest and hydropneumothorax (fluid in the chest cavity) in the lower portion of the chest lingering from the surgery. Typically, this could require intervention to drain the fluid, but since I am not feeling any negative symptoms (and quite frankly don’t want any more tubes coming out of me anytime soon) I declined. As long as I’m still feeling well, the doctor agreed that we can just continue to monitor things.
I also had a follow up upper endoscopy at the beginning of July to determine what might have caused the obstruction that I experienced in the hospital. I haven’t had any issues since I returned home, but I think the thoracic surgeon wanted to be sure there wasn’t an underlying cause. The results were unremarkable and everything appeared clear! My theory remains that the obstruction was caused by me eating too much food before the anesthesia medication wore off post operatively, but I hope to never have to test that theory again.
This past week, I had my routine scans with Dr. Hall (my oncologist) and things remained stable in the rest of the body, including the brain. The CT scan, however, was still showing a slight pneumothorax as well as fluid in the chest cavity. Over time, what’s remaining in my left lung should expand to fill the space and my body should naturally absorb the fluid so I will be going back in 6 weeks for a follow up to monitor the progress.
Since I’m not able to do much in during recover, in my spare time I’m getting reacquainted with my love for technology. I built a gaming computer and started playing video games with my friends and cousins (just like we did as teenagers). I have also been learning piano (something I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the time to) and spending quality time with Avery and Varisara. We’ve also had quite a few visitors who have come by to check on me during recovery and old friends who have reached out to make sure I’m doing ok,
Although the past couple of months have not been as straightforward as I hoped, I am thankful everyday to have made it through toughest part of the surgery and to have such a supportive network of friends and family.