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Cough Shortness of Breath


Bob P

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Hi,

I'm 3 months post surgery for a small NSCLC nodule. Surgeon removed a lobe and the nodule (of course) with no need for radiation or chemo.

The weird thing is that if I try to voluntarily take a deep breath, my diaphragm and stomach muscles contract and I cough.  It's like my body is trying to protect me from hurting myself by breathing deeply.  The funny thing is that I can take a deep breath to sneeze or yawn or exercise; it only kicks in when I'm talking on the phone or trying to have a conversation.

Most of the time I'm fine and the pulmonologist doesn't know what it is; he just says call him back if it's not better in 6 months or a year.

I really am not complaining;  many people in here have many more serious problems but I'm just wondering if anyone had a similar experience and how long it took to get over it.

Bob P

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I had lobectomy 9/6, and I wasn’t coughing the first week and a half. Now I can’t have a conversation. I can’t use my spirometer without coughing. It’s worse in the afternoon and evening, maybe because I still take gabapentin at night. This much coughing is a quality of life hit, so don’t worry about complaining! I’m glad to be alive, but I’m worried this will never go away. 

My doctor prescribed a med that numbs the lungs and makes them less likely to react. It helps some. They also recommended Claritin to help dry things out. The gabapentin might help, but I’m not sure if that means the coughing is a nerve thing or if it’s just sedating me. 
 

Did your doc do an X-ray to check? I have small pleural effusion, but from what I’m reading, I have to kind of wait for my body to reabsorb it. 

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Hi Julie,

Wow, I thought I was the only one with the problem. Your condition is worse than mine. It's so soon after surgery for you, I'm thinking it will get better soon.

Same thing with the spirometer with me; if I breath in, I get an automatic cough and my body says: "Stop that!".  I think mine is slowly getting better.  Doc gave me no meds.  I'm learning to live with it and follow the pulmonologist's advice about waiting 6 months to a year; not much choice.

Mine is worse in the evening also when, at times, I can't breath in so I can't talk.  Usually only lasts about 5 minutes. 

I think it's some kind of subconscious, psychological reflex with me; it kicks in when I try to talk to a certain person on the phone.  Weird, huh?  

They did do an x-ray right after the surgery and said everything looked fine.

Let me know, in a few weeks, if that pleural effusion gets reabsorbed and you are done with the coughing/breathing problems.  Fingers crossed.

Bob

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I got a nasty dry cough about 2 weeks after my lobectomy. It was worst when I spoke, which was so annoying. It took many weeks for it to improve. I occasionally cough now but not sure it is the same reasons but certainly nothing like previous cough intensity.

Hang in there, it gets better (but check with your doctor if it feels bad or does not improve; I had 2 X-rays to check on chest), and congrats your cancer was caught so early!

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Hi Lily,

Thanks for responding.  Mine started a week or two after surgery also. I think my body was afraid to cough or sneeze or yawn for a couple of weeks until it felt safe to do so.

Yes, I'm lucky they caught it early; they were actually looking for a shadow on my pancreatic duct they thought might be a problem after a routine lab test showed an elevated bilirubin. Nothing came of the pancreas or the bilirubin but the lung nodule did show up.  They took it out within a week after my biopsy showed an aggressive form of cancer.

I've still got the dry cough, four or five times a day, but it's not painful so I'm just learning to live with it.  

I'm hoping it gets better after a while, like you say.

Bob

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On 9/4/2022 at 11:28 AM, Bob P said:

Hi,

I'm 3 months post surgery for a small NSCLC nodule. Surgeon removed a lobe and the nodule (of course) with no need for radiation or chemo.

The weird thing is that if I try to voluntarily take a deep breath, my diaphragm and stomach muscles contract and I cough.  It's like my body is trying to protect me from hurting myself by breathing deeply.  The funny thing is that I can take a deep breath to sneeze or yawn or exercise; it only kicks in when I'm talking on the phone or trying to have a conversation.

Most of the time I'm fine and the pulmonologist doesn't know what it is; he just says call him back if it's not better in 6 months or a year.

I really am not complaining;  many people in here have many more serious problems but I'm just wondering if anyone had a similar experience and how long it took to get over it.

Bob P

 

 

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Hi Bob, 

I didn't have the same type of reactions to coughing as you have, but if it makes you feel better the cough does go away after a while.  I googled and di many different searches as to how to relieve the coughing as nothing seemed to help me and the pain that the coughing was causing was pretty bad. What really worked was reflexology of the hands. Do a google search of this and you will see the different pressure points on the hands.  Also make sure to continually to the breathing exercises with the spirometer.  I was faithful for a few months then went back to work f/t which slowed me down on my walks each day and I did not do the spirometer as often which is a big mistake.  I ended up feeling very ill and then coughed up a bund of stuff...  So again, a reminder It takes about 6 months for the lungs to heal.  You may feel great but thrust me when I say they are still healing.    Keep doing the multiple walks daily and the breathing exercises 4-5 times a day.  

 

 

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Forgot to say I had my upper left lobectomy and 13 lymph nodes removed on June 2, 2022.  All labs came back cancer free.  So the 8 hours of chemo and immune therapy treatments seemed to work well for me so far....  They treated me with a very aggressive treatment plan (as a stage 4 end of life even though I was only a stage 3b).  Feeling blessed and also guilty at the same time if that makes sense.  

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Hi Yvetteh,

Thanks for the suggestions.  I'm definitely going to try the pressure points you mentioned; I don't have much faith in cough medicines and I'm a pharmacist! (Unless you do the heavy-duty narcotic ones.)

I do walk 1.7 miles each day - FAST- and, strange, never get short of breath.  Every time I try the spirometer I can only get to 1500 and then start coughing; every time. My pulmo. Doc gave me permission to stop - he said my lungs were completely clear and open.

Wow, glad to hear you had a successful surgery!  The aggressiveness paid off..  As I said before, I was lucky they caught mine early so didn't need any chemo, etc.

2 medical people told me that whenever they operate in the chest and remove lymph nodes (like they did with me too), they do some damage to the nerves that are running around in there and that's what's causing the coughing. 

Edited by Bob P
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Yes Bob, please let us know about how your pleural effusion goes.  I am just past my 3-month mark and at my last ct scan showed that I have a little fluid in the left lower pleural.  It is scary when you research what this means.  I just hope my body absorbs it. 

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Yvetteh:

I think it was Julie_K that had the plural effusion but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that yours WILL go away soon!

bp

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Hi Bob, yeah my lungs look and sound good too according to my docs.  I really think it has something to do with how fast my heart beats at times. 

I have been able to view my scans to see my lung.  They removed my upper left lobe and byt he second day the lower lobe had extended up to where the upper lobe was.  At 3 months you can hardly tell that I had a lobectomy.  The body is so amazing....  

Have you had a chance to look at yours?  

 

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If anyone is interested and having significant pain in the areas of surgery, I have another exercise that can be done to ease the pain without drugs.  It is done only with hand movements.  This was written by ? and was found on one of the many lung cancer sites I review.  I have found it to be very helpful.  I believe what it does is by you manipulating the areas (lightly) you are not only breaking up scar tissue, but also helping the nerve endings to find each other again?  This is just my educated guess.  I am not doing the bands yet, cause I am just now able to lift heavier items (more than 10 lbs) Give it a try and or pass it on. Wishing you all the best!  

"Hi. My daughter had just studying physiotherapy when I hadn't op and she advised me to go to physio. I saw 2 and both helped me in 2 ways. One at the time sounded a bit unconventional in her treatment but it worked. She was a neuro physio just by chance and she explained to me how nerves can become pain nerves after trauma and not 'sensation' nerves. I was completely numb front and side from having the traditional thoracotomy. She made me lie on the bed, eyes closed and slowly stroked one side from back to front across my rib area on the good side and then did the same on the site cut side and then did the 2 sides together. She said the brain likes symmetry and that we have to re-teach the brain that the nerves need to feel sensation not pain. I did this 3 times a day at home with my youngest daughter and after 3 weeks I started to have sensation and less 'nervy' pain. I have full sensation now except on scar tissue but still have pain in lower rib area that has never gone away. Just twinges. I went to a respiratory physio who didn't really help.me for the breathing but I met an amazing young man who when I told him my issues said he knew exactly what was wrong. I couldn't even start for 5min or do anything that involves me uses my arms and torso. The burning back and side ache was so painful. He explained the op and how they 'strength' you on the table etc and he started of with simple stretches. I had a band wrapped around both door handles (side on) or around a frame so you could pull on them both ends. I started with 5 and built up to 20 of pulling with straight arms to my side. Then bending my elbows and pulling in to my waist height. And once I got that so it wasn't to painful I made the band's into a circle about shoulder width, put hands inside slightly outstretched and tried to open my arms,.so the band's became the resistance. Just strengthening my muscles. He gave me other stretches and deep breathing exercises as he realised my lower rib cage wasn't moving at all really and that was 6 months after my op. So all that helped me within a month, pain and mobility wise but I just can't so much without becoming breathless. Walking up the stairs gets me haha I have to wait on top to catch my breath. Hope these tips could help you."

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No, I haven't seen my x-rays.  I guess I could ask the surgeon or Pulmo. to post them on line so I could.  good idea.

You should make your last post a new post, new topic. Maybe something like: "Pain after surgery".  It looks good and would be very helpful for people having the type of pain you mentioned.

Thanks.

bp

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