Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My life in Tiger Country, (Longer version)

I have been unable to blog for almost 2 weeks, the reasons being either,
A) hospitalization/inability to move, or
B) feeling unwilling to spend my precious free time thinking more about all this.

Had I blogged, the posts would have either emerged as pissy, expletive-filled rants, or something from the Beatles during the Sgt. Pepper era. (Don't tell my neighbors, but this BlockWatch captain has been hitting the hea-vy ju-nk.)

So here are some highlights. I also wrote them out in a shorter form (see previous post) since this story has epic potential, and who's got the patience for that.

-Last Tuesday, I had a minor outpatient procedure to implant several "fiducial markers" (small gold seeds) in my lung. (I had this same procedure done to my liver, and it went off without a hitch.) The purpose of the gold seeds is to act as guides for the Cyberknife radiation beam, which I'm scheduled to get in two weeks. I am getting radiation because, as some of you know, I have a teeny tiny remnant of old cancer growing back at my former lung tumor site, and they are going to blast it. Then I'll once again be cancer-free.

Anyway, this tiny cancer "lesion" is located directly next to my aorta, in a particularly tricky and dangerous vascular spot for placing pointy foreign objects. Or as my surgeon put it, "This is 'tiger country'". They implanted just two markers, and even getting that many in was difficult.

In order to implant a gold marker, the doctor must puncture the lung with a small needle, then inject the gold piece. But complications can arise! You know how every time you undergo any medical procedure, even getting a simple shot, they tell you there's a small possibility you could develop a complication, like say, an infection at the injection site? Well, this procedure has potential complications, too, and I developed one. I developed what's called a "pneumothorax", (NEW-moe-THOR-ax) or a pocket of air in the pleural space around the lung. In other words, the puncture caused air to seep out of my lung and into the space around it. The more common term for this is "collapsed lung". It wasn't terribly bad, as collapsed lungs go, but i had to stay in the hospital all day for monitoring so they could determine the leak was in fact going down and healing. I went home Tuesday night. I felt like i'd been shot in the back, but I figured this was normal.

Last Wed morning, I was scheduled to work as "snack mom" in Rhodes' classroom. En route to preschool, I left my sister a perky voice mail, enthusiastically asking her how the new restaurant was going. While speaking, i guess I talked too fast or forcefully, because i suddenly started having this stabbing pain in my chest. I went to the ER for the day.

X-rays/CT scans showed two things.

1- One of my gold seeds had slipped out of place and fallen away. So I only had ONE seed left, and I would need TWO in order to have CyberKnife in two weeks.

2- My lung had developed more air around it. A "delayed pneumothorax", which is very rare. LUCKY ME. It was bigger than the one I'd had the day before.

By the day's end, the leak hadn't shrunk, but it hadn't grown, either. So, they sent me home with the explicit directions that i had to be very still and try to help the hole in my sac close. I rested on our couch, barely speaking, because apparently when I do, it's with lung-bursting enthusiasm. Neil ran what he called "Neil's hospital", where he was EXCRUCIATINGLY bossy about not letting me take calls, move too much, or even blow my nose, because we couldn't risk collapsing my lung further.

Ok, I have suddenly run out of steam to continue this play-by-play of my time in the hospital, of reliving that hell in detail. So I'm going to end this post here, and start a new one on a different topic. I would just delete this whole thing, but it took some time to write out, and maybe someone out there will find it interesting.

If you have any questions about my time in the hospital, I'll take those calls offline. Let's all move forward!

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