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Thankful for Gallbladder Problem

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For many years I have been very self-conscious about my enlarged tummy. My daughter and son-in-law moved in with us before heading off to teach in Costa Rica for two years. One morning, Megan said to me "Mom. You look skinny." Sure enough, my stomach was flat. A few days later, I looked 5 months pregnant again. A few days later, my stomach was flat. I think you get the picture. I was surprised that I had not noticed this before. Bloating. Wow.

I was scheduled to see my internist for my 6 month checkup. I asked him if he could recommend anything for bloating and explained what was going on. He ordered some blood work and said that if nothing showed up he would want me to have an abdominal ultrasound.

My gynecologist is in the same building as my internist so I make my appointments for the same day. So down to my gynecologist appointment. On the form that I fill out at my appointments one of the questions is "When was your last period?" I am going through my change and am on hormone replacement therapy for very severe hot flashes. After not having a period for at least a year, in June I had some bleeding. So I put that down on the form. When the doctor came in, the first words out of his mouth were, tell me about this period. He was very concerned and decided to order an endometrial biopsy and pelvic ultrasound. I mentioned my bloating to him and told him that my internist was considering an abdominal ultrasound. So my gynecologist ordered the abdominal ultrasound to be done along with the pelvic ultrasound and biopsy. My endometrial biopsy came out negative but the abdominal ultrasound showed gallstones. He referred me to a general surgeon.

A week later I met with the general surgeon. Having no symptoms of gallstones other than the bloating, the surgeon explained to me that I did not have to have my gallbladder removed but if I didn't it may cause problems down the road. My husband and I were scheduled to go to Costa Rica for Christmas. Rather than take the chance of having my gallbladder act up while in a foreign country, I decided to have the surgery done right away. This way, barring any complications, I should be recovered in time for our trip.

Gallbladder surgery was scheduled for the first week in November and I began to have my pre-op testing done. One of the tests was a chest xray that showed a very small tumor in the upper left lobe of my lung. The surgeon referred me to a thoracic surgeon.

The thoracic surgeon basically gave me a few choices. She said that I could do nothing. She said that some people just don't want to know. Another option would be a needle biopsy, but because my tumor was so small, it could come back false negative. Another option was a PET scan, but again she said because the tumor was so small, it may not show positive. The last option was surgery. After much thought, and my nature to worry excessively, I decided to go the surgery route. I just wanted whatever it was out.

Surgery was scheduled for November 17th. While completing some paperwork in the surgical waiting area, I spotted my general surgeon at the counter. I walked over to him crying and said "I am so scared." He is such a wonderful, caring doctor. He put his arms around me and gave me a big hug and said "Don't worry. Everything will be fine. I'll stop in and check on you during the surgery. You're in good hands." He then told me how lucky I am that they found it. He said that many surgeons do not order chest xrays for pre-op. He just happens to be one that does. Thank goodness for great doctors like him.

While waiting to be taken to surgery, the thoracic surgeon came in to see me. My husband asked her how long she thought surgery would take. She said that if the tumor was benign a few hours, if it was malignant maybe 5 or 6 hours. Soon I was given my "I don't give a darn shot." and taken to surgery.

The next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room. I looked at the clock and it was 4:30 pm. Since my surgery was scheduled for 10:00 am. I knew right away that it was cancer. Diagnosis is Stage 1a, Primary Lung with no Lymph node involvement. The thoracic surgeon said that it was the smallest tumor that could be detected on an xray.

My recovery from the lobectomy was going along very well, except for the fact that I tested positive for MERSA and had to be isolated. The doctors were getting ready to send me home on day 5. On day 4, I began to have excruciating pain. The only way I could describe it was like cramps in my chest or spasms. They were horrible and totally debilitated me overnight. Needless to say, I couldn't go home as planned.

On day 5, the day I should have been at home, I was laying in my hospital bed watching television. I wasn't moving, as any sort of movement would produce one of those painful spasms. All of a sudden alarms sounded and my nurse appeared at my bedside. He told me not to get scared, but my bed would soon be surrounded by a lot of people. My heart rate had gone up over 200. With that I heard them announce a rapid response alert to my room. They were amazed that I didn't have any symptoms other than being able to feel my heart beat a little bit.

I was rushed off to the cardiac unit and was put on medication to stabilize my heart rhythm. It wasn't long after, they informed me that they had to take me down for a bronchoscopy. Turns out that a mucus plug had formed in my left lung. Not quite sure on the actual timing of these, but over the next couple of days, fluid developed around both of my lungs and my left lung collapsed. I also developed pneumonia.

The fluid around my lungs came back as having "A typical cells" for which I was referred to an oncologist.

On Day 9, I was released late in the evening and made it home in time to spend Thanksgiving with my family the next day.

A week later I saw both the pulmonologist and the thoracic surgeon who were very pleased with how I was doing. My 1 week chest xray also showed no new fluid around my lungs and just a small amount of fluid that was not previously extracted.

My visit to the oncologist went well. He said that he felt, as did the thoracic surgeon, that the "A typical cells" are not cancerous and a normal reaction to all the lung trauma I had just had.

The oncologist has setup a series of follow-up xrays to make sure that there is no additional fluid around the lungs. If more fluid develops, then I would need additional testing and could changes things. Tomorrow is my first in the series of xrays.

Thank goodness for bloating and an ugly gallbladder!!!!! It may have saved my life!!!!

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