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New Symptoms That Feel Like the Old Ones

Deb W

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Hi Everyone,

I am experiencing a pain in my mid-back exactly like the pain I had back in February which is when my PCP sent me for a chest x-ray which eventually led to a diagnosis of Stage 1B NSLC.  I had surgery on 3/22/19 with no chemo or radiation (after the surgery I had no pain in my mid-back).  There was no lymph node involvement.   I am scheduled for my first post surgery scan in October (turns out it's 7 months after surgery and originally the surgeon said 3 months). I am thankful that I've been able to resume my pre surgery activities.  The differences I would say is my level of fatigues and endurance and nausea once in a while. The pain in my mid back started about 2 weeks ago - this pain is on my right side as it has always been and my lung cancer was on the upper left lobe.   I recently self referred to an oncologist and will be seeing him on 7/25.  Does anyone struggle like this?  It's like if I'm not feeling energetic...it must be either due to cancer or due to the long recovery from lung surgery.  

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Hi Deb- 

We all struggle with this regardless of what stage we were diagnosed at.  Bottom line is vigilance always pays off.  I had some back pain in February, the medical oncologist was not concerned however the Integrative Oncologist was which resulted in an MRI.   It was a good outcome!  

Its smart to engage with an oncologist for monitoring purposes, give yourself permission to be very selective and do not settle if you get any bad vibes. Oncologists are typically not strong in the personality department, a coping mechanism of the trade if you will.  You want someone who will take your concerns seriously, answer your questions and be the ultimate science geek.  I email an agenda to my doc two days before my appointment so he has time to think about how to answer my never ending odd ball questions.  

Its easy at this point for start to worry about any new changes, try not to worry, in my opinion that’s the doctor’s job.  


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I had 3 very major thoracic surgeries in the course of a year.  The period between the first and second was not long and I didn't really recall any pain.  Between the second and the third however was a longer period and presented opportunities for pain.  I had the old fashioned banana shaped incision normally associated with a pneumonectomy and each subsequent surgery used the same path.

I had some very painful events and each time I returned to my surgeon for evaluation.  I was told they were associated with muscle and ligament stretching due to the nature and extent of the required incisions.  I liberally used lidocaine patches on the advice of my surgeon and the pain resolved over time.  Might this be what you are experiencing.

Stay the course.


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Thank you.  I'll see what the oncologist says.  My thoracic surgeon doesn't have the best personality, but very skilled.  So, I am hoping to find an oncologist with some level of compassion and warmth.  

I do think this mid back muscle pain is probably caused by exercise or over use.  I think I'm so sensitive to it because that back pain is what prompted my PCP to order a x-ray and then came the cancer diagnosis.  The fact that the pain went away after surgery made me think that the mid back pain on the right was somehow related to  cancer.  So, when the pain came back I immediately thought of a possible recurrence.  By the way, I used to be a regular user of lidocaine patches prior to surgery and I'm back on them again!

I've gone from a person who used to be very unconcerned about aches or pains and now I seem to be noticing every little thing.   I really hope I like the oncologist and feel comfortable with him.



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Deb, I think most of us can understand your thinking that every little pain is a red flag for cancer.  This is how my mom and I were (her name is also Deb!) with her diagnoses.  She had pain around her right shoulder blade for about 6 months after her right, upper lobectomy.  Although she had no pain prior to surgery, the continuing pain afterward was a worry for us (and I was sure it was cancer!).  It was not until my mom's new pulmonologist explained that there are nerve endings related to our lungs around our shoulder blades.  While that was a sigh of relief for us, we continued to worry about every little change in health and automatically contributed it to progression.  After 4 years, we are no longer assume everything has to do with cancer or cancer treatment.  While your pain very well could be related to nerve issues or muscle pain, I think it's a good idea to get it checked out - you can never be too careful! 

It sounds like you and my mom have the same surgeon! lol  My mom's surgeon has the worst bedside manner, but is very highly skilled.  There were 2 times that his lack of human compassion pushed me to believe my mom was dying tomorrow.  We've come to accept it and would rather have someone who is highly skilled versus someone who understands humans!  My mom's oncologist is not the most uplifting person either, but we've known her for years and know that is her personality.  She is a good doctor though, which is what we want.  

I look forward to hearing what your oncologist says and hope that it is a false alarm for recurrence.

Take Care,


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