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LyndaT

Surgery March 12

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I am having Robotic Surgery March 12 (not VATS) to remove the 1.4cm nodule and the entire right lower lobe.  As it turns out there is another small nodule in that lobe, which he thinks is probably nothing, but not sure.  They will also remove the lymph nodes, which base on the PET scan they assume will be clear.   I am pretty much a basket case at this point.  Very depressed, cry at the drop of a hat, not sleeping great, etc.

I just got back from my trip, that was planned before all of this began.  It was ok.  I thought it would take my mind off thing but that did not happen.  One morning I went for a massage, and filled out the forms honestly where they asked for medical conditions, and they would not take me :( I was in France, and their medical knowledge there is a bit behind the times.  It was a very emotional moment when they said we cannot give you a massage, other than a scalp massage.  I was devastated, not so much about the massage itself, but the fact that they wouldn't touch me, like I was contagious.  It really was awful.

I have a few questions and concerns about the surgery itself.

How much is this going to hurt, and for how long?  The doctor said I will be on pain meds for about 2 weeks, then Tylenol.

Is this going to affect my energy level, in the short time, like for a few months?  Will I be tired all the time?

I live by myself.  My sister lives in my apartment building but she is at work all day.  She will check on me in the evening, but she can't during the day.  There is no neighbor to check on me either.  All of my friends work and really can't be around during the day.  Do you think I should get a nurse to come in a few hours a day in the beginning?

Did you find it more comfortable to sleep in a bed or a recliner?

Any tips to make life easier after surgery would be greatly appreciated.

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Hi LyndaT ... I can't believe you couldn't get a massage in France, that's unbelievable! My wife has been sleeping in a recliner for a while now. She says it is great for getting her in a good position to sleep. I don't know how this will be for surgery. I just bought my wife a new electric recliner ... she loves it. Just push a button to move it.

I hope all goes well with your surgery.

Steve

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Lynda,

Take a deep breath.  I just had that surgery 4 weeks ago.  I was discharged the next day. It is a safe and effective surgery and it is the very best treatment that you can possibly get for Lung Cancer.  Thank the spirits that you have this option.

To answer a few of your questions (and a bit of advice)

Surgery prep is a breeze.  Should be relaxing and before  you know it you will be awake again and it will all be done.

When you come out of sedation you won't be feeling any pain. In fact, if they do the job right you should not feel any pain for quite awhile.

Once they wean you off the more powerful pain killers you will have some pain where they made the incisions and even more so where the drain is inserted.  But they will provide you with good medication and you should not feel much pain at all.  in fact, zero pain except for when you make a move or cough, and even that is not bad.

Do not fall behind on the pain.  If you are in pain, ask for medication.  Zero reason to be in pain. Don't be shy.

Talk to them about taking laxatives before surgery and right after surgery.  I did  not follow up good enough on that and it is my only real complain right now - digestion has been my only minor issue, and it may have more to do with the tumor they took out than anything.  If you don't urinate for hours after the surgery just let the nurse know.  They were a bit behind on asking me that so my bladder got pretty full! 

Since you are not set up really well at home try to stay in the hospital as long as you can.  Within a day or two (depending how good your lungs are now) you will be up and walking and should be able to take short stair climbs etc.  I was pretty mobile right away.  In fact, my wife blew out her right knee three days before my surgery and couldn't walk - so I was taking care of her!

You really could use help, but assuming no complications you can take care of the basics.  Bathroom, feeding, shower, dressing - but you will want help with shopping and cooking and any heavy stuff at all.

You will be hearing from others who have had this surgery not that long ago who I am sure will add and improve on what I have suggested.

By the way - rule number one when traveling in Europe, always lie when you are in France......

Get ready to get the vile thing out you.  You can handle it!

Tom  

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@LyndaT apparently the French are overly cautious.  What a terrible thing to have happen before your surgery.  I can tell you that is not the norm here in the state’s.  You should plan for as many massages as you want after you recover from surgery.  I had a lot of the same questions you had before surgery.  I was also terrified.  Don’t be.  You have already gotten some good insight and advice. 
 

I had a VATS surgery exactly (Yes exactly To the date) one year ago today. Robotic surgery has a lot of the same benefits as VATS in terms of it being minimally invasive, having a shorter recovery time and being an affective treatment.  It is preferred for surgery where lymph nodes are involved.   The biggest difference is VATS uses instruments to assist a surgeon where robotic is done more by the robot and assisted by the surgeon.  The biggest reason it’s not done more often is because it is more expensive than VATS (so less hospitals can do it) and less surgeons are trained on it.  It is worth knowing how many of these types of surgeries your surgeon has performed.   If it’s quite a few you should feel pretty good about being able to get it.  I know this in no way feels like you are lucky, but when it comes to how to treat lung cancer you are considered lucky if you can get surgery.    
 

When I woke up from my VATS surgery I felt great.  No pain at all.  I had the surgery at 7 pm, woke up around 10 pm, went to sleep that night, woke up the next morning, ate some breakfast and went for a walk around the hospital wing.  The walk was a slow gingerly walk but it was a walk.  I was very scared to get too out of breath but was really supposed at how little my breathing had changed.  I felt so good that I let my pain medication laps later that day.   It turns out the pain meds were the reason I was feeling so good.  When I went longer than I should without taking the meds I was in pain.   They got it under control but I got a good talking to from the nurse about letting them know if I was feeling ANY discomfort.   They had to give me some pretty powerful narcotics to knock the pain back.   Once it was back under control I was ok and didn’t neglect to tell them after that.    
 

The most uncomfortable and painful part is the drain tube that you will have in.  That tube will drain fluid from your chest.  It can be removed as quickly as the following day,  I’ve heard of others going home with it in.  Your chest cavity being clear of air pockets will determine when that happens.  Mine was removed Friday morning, I had surgery Tuesday night at 7 pm.  I went home 6 hours after it was removed.  I was really afraid of getting it removed.  The nurses kept telling me it was nothing but I was still scared.  It turned out to be really minimal.  The sensation is weird, not painful.  I felt almost immediate relief when it was out.  
 

Coughing and sneezing will hurt.  I carried around a small firm pillow and squeezed it whenever I had to do either.   Coughing is good for your lung recovery.  You’ll need to do it.  I also slept with the pillow so it propped up my arm off my incisions.  
 

I was exhausted after surgery.  More tired than I’d ever felt before.  I went home on Friday and for Saturday and Sunday I would go from my bed to an arm chair next to my bed.  I’d walk up, have breakfast, walk, sit in the chair for a little bit then go back to bed.   I took a lot of naps the first ten days.  I normally don’t nap.  I was able to go back to work after about two weeks but I would get tired after a few hours and go home.  My energy level was back to normal within a month to six weeks.  Give yourself the time and rest you need to recover.  
 

I found it comfortable to sleep proppped up.  Either with a firm foam wedge pillow in bed or a recliner.  If you are going to be home alone being in a recliner may make it easier on you.  Getting in and out of bed was hard the first few days.  I’d say if you go home for the weekend have someone there with you the first day or so.   After that you’ll be ok to do normal things.  You won’t be able to lift heavy things for a few months so you’ll need help with laundry and heavy shopping bags.  
 

I know this is scary.  I was petrified.  I had visions of waking up with a tube down my throat on a ventilator and walking around the rest of my life wheezing and on oxygen.  None of that is even remotely the case.  My breathing is back to pre surgery levels.  I have some numbness around where the tube was.   I’m told that may or may not go away.  When I sneeze it still feels tight.  Overall I feel great and am cancer free one year later.  It was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be.  You’ll do fine.  
 

Any other questions...or fears just ask. 
 

  
 

 

 


 


 

 

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Lynda....Like I said. More and improved input from Curt 

You got this. If I wasn't going for Chemo I would be back at work next week...unfortunately, my job is not one that can be done part time.

Kick cancers arse!

Peace

Tom

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Lynda,

Welcome here!

How bad is post-op lung surgery pain? I had a complete pneumonectomy (large banana-shaped incision and complete lung removal). For the first 2 days, I had a morphine injector hooked up to my IV and was encouraged to push it when I felt the pain. Then I transitioned to injectable pain meds on request. I was out of bed and lapping the ward on day 3 and was discharged on day 5 after surgery. So, I didn't notice the pain while in the hospital, but it was bothersome at home. I found sleeping in a recliner more comfortable than a flat bed. Some purchase a wedge-shaped pillow to elevate in bed. Sleeping elevated helps. 

Also helpful for recovery is using the spirometer they will give you at the hospital. It is a device that you blow in and your respiratory technician will set daily goals for pushing the ball up the tube. To speed your recovery, keep using this device after discharge and get out of bed and walk around.

Will you need help at home? Robotic surgery is the least invasive thoracic surgery and should cause the least amount of pain. Sometimes, some of us are discharged with a chest tube and a drain receptacle installed. If this happens, tell the hospital staff that you live alone and they will arrange home health care to assist with changing the tube bandage. Otherwise, you should be fine.

I can't stress enough Tom's advice about laxatives. The narcotic pain medication slowed my digestive tract to a craw and moving my bowels with a large chest incision was no picnic. If you are prone to constipation, make sure you tell your surgeon and see if he'll authorize a daily laxative dose while in the hospital. Every day that you take narcotic medication, take a laxative and you can avoid straining which amps up incision pain.

More questions? Ask away.

Stay the course.

Tom   

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Oh my you are all so wonderful, comforting and helpful.  I am still a wreck, in a very emotional state, but I realize now I will get past it.  All of your post surgical advice is much appreciated.  I would say my biggest fear at this point is waking up on a ventilator.  In my head I know this is unlikely, but I somehow can't get past this fear.  What if they think I am out of and feeling no pain, but it is just that I can't communicate with them.  Irrational and somewhat crazy, but a real fear at the same time.

 

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Lynda, if you want to be matched with a peer mentor you can speak with one on one, LUNGevity has the LifeLine program that will match you.  Just in case you would like a little extra support.  :)

https://lungevity.org/for-patients-caregivers/support-services/peer-to-peer-mentoring/lungevity-lifeline

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Wow thanks!  Is this someone that just might be able to calm me down, if I can stop crying long enough to speak to them?

I filled out the form!  Thank you so much.  I feel so needy, and that is so unlike me :( 

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@LyndaT the ventilator was also my biggest fear.   I read somewhere that there was the chance you could be on one post surgery and was so scared of waking up with a tube down my throat.  I went into surgery not knowing if I actually had cancer and was scared I’d wake up and not be able to communicate to find out.  I asked my surgeon and he looked at me funny.  He said it was incredibly unlikely that would happen.  He said a very low chance and only if my lung didn’t re-inflate.  He also said if I had to be I’d be sedated and wouldn’t know it was in.   I woke up after surgery feeling great.  When they told me it was cancer I was actually joking around with the doctors and my family about it.  The drugs were doing their job.  It hit me like a ton of bricks later that night, but the initial shock and emotion wasn’t what I was expecting.  That came after the drugs wore off.

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Hi Lynda:

I had VATS surgery on December 16th, 2019 and had my lower left lobe out, and 21 lymph nodes (all found to be clear; node was Stage1a).  Strange to say, but I wasn't afraid of the surgery--just wanted it out of me.  I was in the hospital from Monday to Thursday.  I took one pain med and two Motrin on Friday and again on Saturday and then that was it.  I was a bit uncomfortable, but not in pain.  I agree about taking laxatives....they didn't do that at the hospital for the first 2 days, and i ended up with a problem on Thursday.  As you'll be on your own for the most part, you may want to sleep in a recliner.  I needed help getting out of bed the first 3 or 4 days.  I was lucky that my husband took very good care of me.   I work in an office and was able to go back to work 3 weeks later. I know everyone's journey is different, but just wanted to let you know that 2 mos later, I don't feel any different than i did before, except for a tightness (not painful) when i sneeze.   I wish you all the best and hope you can relax a bit.  I wish I had known about this group before i had surgery!  It's great you'll have some insight prior to your surgery.

All the best, Terry

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You are all so helpful.  I am calming down a bit.  I have done all of the pre op testing and paperwork.  I ordered a wedge pillow, a bed tray, and bought some boost.  I will buy some easy to prepare foods closer to the surgery.  I think my insurance will give me some home health care which will be great.  If they don't, I will get home health care on my own.  I am just too nervous about being alone all day until my sister gets home from work.

 

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Another thing I havent seen mentioned.....but because of where the incisions were, it was too painful to wear a bra until just recently.    So I bought a post-op camisole (made for people who had breast cancer surgery) and it was much better.

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I am 64 y/o and had upper right lobectomy via VATS 3/2. I woke up with some upper right shoulder pain (due to the drain tube), but the medical staff immediate took care of that. The drain tube was removed the next day and I was discharged the following day 3/4.  I too live alone and understand your anxiety. I take only Tylenol and ibuprofen for pain. The incisions are annoying, but felt worse with  non cancer related issues. I do my breathing exercise often. I just took a quick walk outside this afternoon. I'm am taking it one day at a time. You'll be fine. Having prep your meals is good idea, but you'll be able to  do lots more. Keep that positive spirit.

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