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Change of Life

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Since I was young, I've heard about "the change." The Big M. Menopause. I gave it my best shot for a year and a half, and couldn't quite make it. This past April (2004), I had a month of what I thought (and still do) were related to menopause -- I had just about every one of the Top 10 symptoms as reported by most women. Then in May, I began to feel bad. Mind you, I never was inclined to be sick much in my life -- never had colds/flu like most people do -- so feeling "bad" to me was probably much worse than to many people.

I would go home tired, and spend weekends trying to regroup. A few weeks into the month, I began to have shortness of breath. One day while trying to walk from my parking space to work, I thought I wasn't going to make it, but managed to drag myself the rest of the way. The night before Memorial Day we had major storms all around us. I couldn't sleep, and had a really hard time breathing. I would try and take a deep breath, and just couldn't feel it going anywhere. (Hard to describe.) When I got up Memorial Day and it was the same, I decided I must have some help.

Of course, a holiday weekend, and my primary care doc is out of town for the week. I decide to go to a walk-in clinic where they take a chest x-ray and tell me I have pneumonia. Great. Stroke of luck #1 was having a sharp person there who had them copy my chest x-ray, and then tell me to go to the ER of the hospital where my doctors are. I did that, and by June 4th, had had one test after another, culminating in bronchoscopy with a biopsy to confirm SCLC - right mid/lower lobe, at the windpipe. Bummer. Change of life indeed.

Stroke of extreme luck #2 - being treated all week by a Pulmonologist who is aces, both personally and professionally. I was told by more than one nurse that not all docs would have put all the pieces together like he did, so I was able to get an immediate diagnosis and start treatment. The day before I left the hospital (and the day before the final biopsy results were in) an Oncologist visited me, and we set up chemo to begin the next day before I went home. I've not looked back since then.

The Oncologist has been somewhat a sore point personally, as he isn't the most positive creature on the planet. (I call him Dr. Gloom & Doom!) He started out insisting that my adrenal glands were involved, while the Pulmonologist and my Primary Care Doc (Internist) insisted otherwise. I finally insisted that they all get together and just decide something. Sheesh. They talked, but Dr. G&D has an ego that won't stop, so he isn't about to admit he might be mistaken about something. Oh nooooooo. He then suggests I should have a biopsy of the adrenal glands, even though he had told me previously that it wouldn't do any good, and even if it showed negative, that wouldn't necessarily mean negative. (&*#$%) I informed my PCC that I would have NO procedures of any kind done unless he and the Pulmonologist both signed off on them, let the Oncologist know this, and things have been much better since then.

I was beginning to have the horrible realization that Dr. G&D might be holding back radiation therapy because of his "hunch" about my adrenal glands. After he talked with the other 2 docs, I had the 2nd CT/PET scans, and then an appointment with the Radiation Oncologist. The 2nd scans showed (again) NO involvement of the adrenal glands, confirmed by the Radiologist. At last! This confirmed that I was limitd stage!!! Of course, Dr. G&D wouldn't admit he may have been mistaken, but did acknowledge that 3 other docs disagreed with him! Ppfffttt.

We're all getting along famously, now that Dr. G&D knows I will check his every move and every word he says. Today, I finished round 3 of chemo (Carboplatin/Etoposide), started week 2 of radiation therapy, and will begin round 4 chemo on Aug. 6th. I'm taking larger than normal doses of Carboplatin, but so far have had virtually no side effects, other than tiring out a bit earlier than usual on workdays. The 2nd scans re-energized me and refreshed my motivation to fight this battle as hard as I can. The Radiologist, a wonderful person & fantastic doc, looked me in the eye the day he told me those results, and said this: "We are all fighting this with you here, and we are all working with you for a cure."

Wow. Through tears, I thanked him for just saying that -- I'd not heard that from anyone before. It was an amazing moment.

I'm 51 years old. I'm in really good shape, all things considered. So far, this treatment hasn't knocked me off my feet, and I will continue to fight with every moment of every day that I have. I fully realize this is a long battle, and one that is mostly uphill, but what the heck? I can do this. I'm thankful for each and every day that I have, and know that I never had any guarantees to be around for age 60 or 65 or 80 or 90 or whatever. Almost 2 years ago, my sister had a heart attack, and she fights heart disease every day of her life. She's 67. Our mother is alive and well at age 91 (as of Aug 27th), and is in better shape than either of us - ha! No kidding.

The scale of hope vs. dread sometimes tilts too far in one direction, but for now, the dread side is about to vanish. I have fewer pity parties now than I did in the first few weeks, am a bit less scared to try and be "normal" every day, and have a little better handle on my emotions. It gets better every day.

And the most recent stroke of luck?? (Well, not luck, but good fortune -- more blessings that I have in my life) FINDING THIS FORUM!!


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