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Info on having a lung removed??


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Today we saw a surgeon at Mt. Sinai in Manhattan. He said they need to do some pulminary tests and a biopsy thru Joe's throat to see if his lymph nodes are involved. If not it is possible he can have his Lung removed. The risk of complications are higher because of all the radiation he has had. Does anyone have any info on quality of life after having a lung removed? Thanks.

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With this disease, you are considered lucky if you are a candidate for a surgical cure.

I had my upper left lobe removed 3 years ago, and then the rest of my left lung was removed 2 years ago. My doctors say that I do better than most one lunged patients they treat. I can do every day stuff just fine. If I get active, I have to breathe harder than anyone else to keep going. I cut firewood, split firewood, tote it into the house, mow the lawn and work in the garden. All this stuff I can do, but I will have to take more rest breaks.

I had to retire early because I could not do the physical side of my job any more. Part of my job required walking up steep hillsides in the forest and I just can’t do that any more. I can’t walk up a steep trail without stopping at least every 300 feet to catch my breath. When I really exert myself, and I run out of air, it is like I come to a wall and I just cannot get enough breath in my lung, no matter how much or how fast I breathe. I usually recover in a minute or 2 when I stop to rest. I don’t let my not being able to walk on steep trails the way that others do, stop me from hiking. I just stop and let my one lung bellow itself until I get enough air. I miss my lung. I wish I could walk on steep trails and not struggle for breath. I won’t try to walk cross-country any more up steep hillsides. But, I can walk a mile on flat ground in 16 minutes without getting out of breath.

One lunged people are at a greater risk for getting pneumonia than others. I have a chest cold now, and am babying myself. I also have persistent chronic congestion in my bronchial area. My pulmonolgist theorizes that the congestion collects on my scar tissue in a little pocket and is not easily dislodged. It is annoying, but I live with it. I am constantly clearing my throat.

I push myself aerobically every day. I think that if I do this, I will get more stamina back. My pulmonologist says that by exercising my lung vigorously, I may wake up some alveoli to do more air sucking while they have not done much in the past. At one point after my last surgery, I was able to blow 2000 ml on the spirometer thingy. It has since gone down, but only because I had to have more treatment on my right lung. I have been out of treatment for 3 months now, and I think I am getting some lung capacity back. I was down to 1500 ml, but lately I have gotten 1750ml several times in a row.

I had a dry cough that would often lead to spasms shortly after my surgery. I eventually took codeine to suppress the cough. It went away by 2 months out of surgery. My pulmonologist thought that my lung was being irritated by stretching (mediastinal shift) causing the dry cough. after my lung got used to its new postion and increased size, the cough went away. Some people get acid reflux after a pneumonectomy. I did not have that problem.

I had to have oxygen for 2 weeks after my completion pneumonectomy.

Don M

Note: I wrote this last November. I think I may have deteriorated a bit in my lung capacity and what I can do, but that is only because I have a large tumor in the upper lobe of my remaining lung. I was cutting wood today for the first time in months, and although I will have to take even more breaks, I think I will be able to cut next year's wood. I hope to finally kill off the tumor with cyberknife.

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I my right lung removed in Aug. 05 and at first i would get short of breath just getting up to go to the bathroom but little by little it got better. I get around fairly well now and mow my own yard and stuff like that but i still cant do what i used to. Like Don I have to stop and catch my breath every so often. But I feel very fortunate to be alive and not on oxygen considering all things.Wish and pray the best for you. Mike

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Hi Mishpet9, Well you have terrific advice above. It depends on which lung too. Because of the heart, the left lung represents about 40% of lung capacity overall and the right lung is 60%.

It was interesting to read Don's note. I have many of the same symptoms but as usual Don has done an excellent job of summarizing the whole situation.

I lost right upper and right middle lobes. These are not the largest lobes, so that was not too bad. Then radiation melted most of my lower right lobe - a big lobe - and I lost much more lung function.

So I have to suck for air if I go up steep hills too fast like Don. And sometimes I have to double over and cry - more like a panic attack - when I can't catch my breath. :) Often this happens walking on the beach against a stiff wind too.

My tumor was very large and they probably nicked my phrenic nerve so my right diaphragm is permanently elevated and non-functional.

I had two heart stents last May and overnight my breathing improved tremendously. We went hiking up Mt Washburn in Yellowstone a week later (my onc thought I was nuts) and will probably try it again this summer too.

But I still wish I could take one big breath like I used to. I've tried to rehabilitate myself with lots of exercise and 6 years of Yoga, but it just isn't working....yet.

Best of luck to you and your hubby,


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As you can see from the responses here, everybody recovers differently. I think it depends a lot on age, previous fitness levels, the surgeon, smoking history, etc.

In my case, I was used to a lot of physical activity, did well on my pulmonary function tests prior to surgery, and did well after surgery.

I work out at the gym all the time, do all kinds of work around the house, and walk the golf course, even in the heat and humidity that comes to the midwest in the summertime.

But, I could never run a marathon or anything close, like our own Ernie just did.

I also lost the upper left lobe, not the whole lung, and I'm sure that makes a difference as well.

I also was a smoker, and did develop some emphysema, but I can now do a lot more than I did before the surgery when I was a smoker, so even with some lung missing, I'm feeling better than before when I smoked.

I think your best bet is to do absolutely everything the surgeon tells you to do in respect to your recovery--activity, using the spirometer faithfully, etc. It makes a big difference.

They also won't do surgery if they feel lung function would be too compromised to lead a comfortable life. I remember the surgeon said mine was 90% as compared to someone who never smoked going into surgery, and I'd be really surprised if I lost any of that based on the way I feel.

Good luck to you.


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I had my left lung removed in 2003. The doctors tell me I am doing great so far. I think Don pretty well explained my situation also. I will add that my doctor told me that my remaing lung capicity would increase with time. Walking a lot tires me out and I have to rest.

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