Jump to content

David P.'s Story of survival (again)

Recommended Posts

Hello everyone.

There have been more than 600 new people register on the message board since I last posted my story of survival and living post surgery, and many have questions and fears that are similar to those my story seemed to help last time. So, for those who already know my story, this is not for you . (and I'm glad there's now a separate forum again for these types of stories to keep them all together so new people could go directly to it).

My name is David Piercy. Many of you know me from my posts, but as we are over 1200 strong on this message board now, there are probably some who don't know me. I found this website two years ago in November as a result of being interviewed by my oldest daughter Karoline for a biology research paper she was working on about lung cancer. She kept quoting the grim survival statistics and mumbling, "boy, are you ever lucky to be alive." Then she went off to write the paper and I sat there thinking. For the first time in the long time since my surgery I was thinking of myself as a survivor -- who has beaten some kind of odds -- was I really that lucky -- where were these statistics my daughter spoke of? At that moment, I felt quite naieve; I had never given my "survival" a second thought; come to think of it, in all these years I had never met, or spoken with anyone with lung cancer, let alone someone with one lung. There were no support groups or computers back then,(in 1977) let alone CT scanners (I had my first CT scan last January). I was too busy getting on with life I suppose - must have blocked it all out. As we had just purchased a computer about two weeks earlier, I typed in "lung cancer survivors" and found this site within minutes. I couldn't believe it, I started reading messages and it was like finding your long lost twin that you didn't know you had, but always had this feeling of missing something. "HEY, THERE'S SOMEBODY WITH ONE LUNG!!" I yelled. "AND THERE'S ANOTHER!!" My girls came running. Everything I read made sense. I was brought right back to my own diagnosis, surgery, and recovery. I could relate to those having difficulty climbing stairs, and thought to myself " don't worry buddy, you'll be running up stairs before you know it." And there was Bob Mc. enjoying life hiking the Costa Rican forests. (Bob, I hope you're doing well now). I knew others could do it. I spent about one week reading and re-reading all the posts before I got up enough nerve to write my first message. I remember thinking what a wonderfully loving, caring, and supportive place this message board was, and how comforting it would have been to have something like this way back when; to receive advice, support and prayers from Dave G., Ginny D., Katie B., Debaroo, Laurie, or Connie B. herself, would have made a huge difference in my state of being.

My first post was generated in response to a call from Connie for survival stories. After reading messages and replies, I could see how just talking to someone who has been through what you are going through could ease ones fears. With Connie and Just Rich being the longest term suvivors on the board at 7 and 13 years, I felt I had something to offer with 26 years of experience. One thing I had noticed in reading all the messages was that nearly all of them mentioned TIME. Survival Time was that one thing that survivors had, and those newly diagnosed or in recovery wanted. Everyone seemed to wear TIME as a badge of honour. They wore it proudly, almost always mentioning how long they've been around for in the first line of their post. I could see how comforting it was.

Well, here's my story for those who don't know it. I hope it helps.

Today I am a 47 year old Middle School Technology Education teacher. Twenty seven years ago I was a 20 year old university student who was informed that the cause of his recurring pneumonia that began on a Sun Valley ski trip was a 2 cm. carcinoid polyp in the upper left lobe. Surgery was scheduled two days later and after a complete left pneumonectomy, I began recovery with no chemo or radiation. I think when Dr. Hosie took out my lung he replaced it with a huge attitude - one that I can credit for getting me here today. There was lots of pain, morphine, chest tubes, cute nurses, and advise that said, "relax, you're not going anywhere for a while, it'll be too tough to breath." The attitude kicked in when the nurse brought the first bed pan. Instead, I got a rolling I.V. pole and I shuffled off to the washroom. Two days on morphine, a couple of late night pizza deliveries through the emergency ward, and three days of shuffling around the hospital in self pity with my rolling I.V. pole thinking, "why me, why me?", before I wrangled a day pass from the head nurse so I could walk home four blocks to surprise my parents. (head nurse didn't know I was walking). Parents were surprised. I was home for good a couple of days later.

I never did like sitting around, so two days after that I told my mother I was going for a bicycle ride. As opposed to the idea as she was, she couldn't stop me and my attitude. I've been riding my bike almost every day since. It started with only a few blocks, then progressed to a few miles, and over the next few years evolved into rides up to six and eight hours. Three years after surgery and back in university, I was the oldest member of the varsity rowing squad. They all thought I always came in last in the 10 mile run because I was the old guy. (I actually came second to last once, and if I only had two lungs, boy I would have...) My goal in training hard was to always do something to expand my lung capacity; I've forgotten what the inside of an elevator looks like. I could feel my lung getting bigger as the months past. I even began getting breathing cramps way up in my collar bone area. I remember that when I had two lungs and I would yawn deeply, there was always a second stage to the deep yawn. The second, deeper intake of air would completely fill my lungs and I can remember how good it felt. Well, now I get that good, completely filled feeling on every breath I take. The doctor told me that a normal two lunged person will fill only 25% of each lung when breathing. I no longer go for cancer checkups, just regular doctor visits, but I did go for a pulmonary capacity test last year, and the astounded technician said my one lung capacity is 64% that of a normal, two lunged man of my size, and that I fill all of my lung every breath. All of you wondering if you can function normally on one lung, I say "YOU BET YOU CAN!!" and then some. Not many people know that I only have one lung. It isn't that I'm embarassed or ashamed. It's because I'm usually competing against two lunged people and I needed to know that I was doing well, (or not) because of my capabilities, and not because the guys saw me as the poor one lunged guy.

Almost done. My increased lung capacity has no doubt come about through hard work and exercise. These days I go to work early two or three times a week and run up and down five flights of stairs 30 times before going twice around the universal weights gym, and finishing off with a couple of miles running on the treadmill. I ride my bike to and from work each day, and ride off road trails on the weekend. Three years ago my riding buddy and I decided we would try Cross Country Mountain Bike Racing. I got my race license and the first race I entered was a 24hr relay with five person teams, with each rider riding the 10 mile lap before passing the baton to the next rider... and so on for 24hrs. Of course, I had the slowest times on the team, but I was also the oldest and was only six minutes slower than my buddy who is six years younger than me, and had two lungs. All the guys on the team say how much of an inspiration I am to them. I don't know if it's inspiration as much as a greater desire not to be beaten around the course by the one lunged guy. My racing goal has been not to crash too bad, and not to come last in my age category. I have only placed last once. (yes, I crashed) This last season, I was faster than my buddy in two races and I even won a race! For the past three years we have ridden up the 17 miles to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountains in Washington State, and I have beaten them to the top three years in a row. Last year my time was 2hrs 22min. This was a good year for me. I also entered my first adventure race -- 9 miles kayaking, 7 miles running UP a 4000ft mountain, orienteering, bushwhacking, and 18 miles of mountain biking. The team of four could never be out of sight of each other or we would be disqualified. I was hoping I wouldn't slow my team mates too much. I didn't, and we finished 34th out of 80 teams. I have raced three 24hr mountain bike relays so far on a team, and last September I raced in the World Solo 24hrs of Adrenalin mountain bike race -- 24hrs on the bike by myself riding around a 10 mile course. The year before, the guys in the 40 to 49 year old category only rode 10 laps of the 10 mile course in the 24hrs. I knew I could do at least 12 laps!! (there's that attitude again, But I only completed 11 laps.) I'm already registered for the Solo 24hrs race this September and am determined to complete at least 13 laps!!

My philosophy in all this is you must insist on enjoying life. To do that you can't worry about things you have no control over. You have to get out there and be active - there's lots to chose from. You must, must, must, have a positive attitude in everything you do. You must eat healthy. You must breath healthy. And one more thing before I go. I have figured out two answers to that "why me" question that has bugged me ever since my surgery. The first one is all of you - for me to be able to ease some anxious moments or give someone a little hope is the best thing I could ever thing of to do with all of my experiences, and I've found it has been a sort of retroactive healing for me too. The second answer to the "why me" question has come from my bike racing. I have found that thousands of people attend bike races every year. If I am going to be there, I might as well do some fundraising for cancer research. I am teaming up with the Cancer Society and will set up a donation for prize booth at each race.

This will mean I will have to come out of the one lung closet; all the racers will know the One Lung Guy will be a threat on the course and try not to have me beat them. I was one of the featured riders on the World Solo DVD from the race last year. (I'm working on setting up my own website so I can post some of my riding videos). I've designed a cycling jersey that has one big right lung on it, front and back. And my truck lisence plate will read IRNLUNG (I'm still looking for a sponsor to donate a truck and utility trailer)

Time and hope. I've got lots of time, and I'd like to be able to give lots of hope.

Update as of June 6th, 2004: I'm leaving tomorrow for a 7 day hike on the rugged West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. I race in a 12 hr mountain bike race on June 20th - from 8:00am til 8:00pm -- should be fun. I have some smaller races in July and early August, before a 40 mile race at the end of August. And that's just the warm up to this year's 24hr Solo race Sept. 4th and 5th, then one last 40 mile race at the end of September. I'll keep you posted. Stay active.

Update as of September 12, 2004: One week after the World Solo 24hr race, and the white jersey I'm wearing in my photo is a coveted winner's jersey I received when I placed first in my age category, completing 10 laps of the 11 mile course in 24hrs - 3 more than my closest competitor.

This year's race was dedicated to the members of this board who have recently passed away, and to those still struggling with LC. For that reason, I trained extra hard preparing for the race. The day I got my white jersey I said to myself, " self, now that you have a winner's jersey, you never have to do this again." (because it's far too difficult). And the next day I said, " Forget about that, I'll be back next year." As long as I have it in my power to do something that provides any level of inspiration to anyone looking for some, I will continue to do so -- because I can. What I go through in my 24hr race is nothing compared to what many people are experiencing with lung cancer. I have to go now; I have a 40 mile race in two weeks, then I'll take a few weeks off before I begin training for next race season, and next September's World Solo Race once again. Take care. I'll keep you posted. PM me if you want to talk about anything.

David P.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.