Monday, July 18, 2011

To Surgery & Beyond

(To my readers: This entry is about an event that took place in 2002. It is not happening now. I am currently cancer free per my latest PET Scan. My blog entries chronicle my cancer journey that started in 2000. I appreciate the emails, calls and notes I have received supporting my journal and also praying for my good health. Thanks so much for your kind words of encouragement.) 
A date I will never forget -- May 9, 2002. I walked into Florida Hospital Orlando (Go to:   that morning with Edward and Brian. Before the end of the day, I had surgery. Dr. Nayer Khouzam, M.D. removed the upper lobe of my left lung. By late afternoon, I was in the Intensive Care Unit. 
Fortunately, I have no idea what actually occurred during surgery. I was sound asleep. But, my surgeon would later tell me he had to do this radical procedure. Turns out, during surgery, the results of my biopsy  (Go to:        were inconclusive. The pathologist could not determine exactly what type of cancer I had. Although the tumor specimen was malignant, the physician could not differentiate the cells to determine if I had lung or breast cancer. Since the protocol for lung cancer is to remove as much of the tumor as possible, Dr. Khouzam had to go with this potential scenario. Just my luck... or lack of luck. Five days later, a conclusive final biopsy report would show that I had metastasized breast cancer. 
Meanwhile, I was now in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and under the skilled care of an amazing team of nurses. I still cannot get over the fact that they were able to do so much for me -- like give me a bath in bed and even change my linens -- all while I was still in the bed and not at all ambulatory. 
I also had visitors. And, they kept telling me about the beautiful view outside my window. What window? What view? They told me I had a lovely view of a lake. What lake? All I could see from my vantage point was sliding glass doors. I would later learn that the entrance to my room was via a sliding glass door. That’s all I could see and all I can remember of the room itself. The doors opened; the doors closed. I never saw the lake.
When I left ICU, I was placed into the Cardio Progressive Care Unit. (CPC) At the time, I was the only lung patient in the cardio unit. I had constant reminders that I was in a cardio unit -- tiny little hearts placed throughout the hallway and the heart monitor I was required to wear at all times. (Except when I was finally able to take a shower.) Here too, I had excellent nursing care. Dr. Khouzam continued to do daily checks plus I now had a pulmonary specialist and a cardiologist. Wow! My list of specialists was increasing. (Not exactly my game plan.) 
During my stay in CPC, I continued to grow “stronger and better” with each passing day. I must admit, the process was slow ... turtle like slow. I was attached to so many machines that every where I looked there were tubes and wires coming out of me. I had a catheter. I was hooked up to a spinal block. (This I did not know until the very end, and it’s the reason I did not feel any pain .. thank goodness.) I had two tubes coming out from my waist area -- these were taking fluids from my lungs. Plus, of course, I had an IV line. If I did get out of bed, it took a great deal of time to move me and my encourage of machinery from place to place. Just getting out of bed and to the sink to brush my teeth was a project. Getting me out of bed and to the recliner to spend the day, another major event. And, when the physical therapist came to visit for my daily walk, it took the PT plus a nurse to move me and all my “stuff” out of the room and into the hallway and back again. By the time this was all accomplished, I was physically and mentally exhausted.  I’m sure you get the picture. 
Due to the spinal, my visitors had no idea why I appeared so happy and pain-free. This, of course, was a good thing. I could laugh at everyone’s jokes and have a good time when my coworkers or friends stopped by to say hello. However, once the spinal block was removed (the day before I left) I learned the meaning of “chronic pain.”   (Go to:     While in the hospital, the surgeon had skillfully arranged for me to heal with a minimum of discomfort. I would soon realize why he had told me that this procedure was even more painful than open heart surgery. 
Before leaving the hospital, I also had to have a port inserted in order for me to begin chemotherapy. Dr. Khouzam did that surgery exactly one week following my lung procedure. By the time I left, I was just beginning to understand the meaning of “pain” and my life, as I knew it, had changed forever. 

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