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Husband to Have Thoracic Surgery Next Week


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My husband has a tumor in his left lung. He was just diagnosed in May 2003 after a P.E.T. Scan, that followed a CAT Scan ordered by his lung specialist. He had non small cell cancer in his right lung in 1997 and we were not together then. We are a newly remarried couple after divorcing almost 15 years ago. He went through the last cancer alone, it was not discovered until he was in Stage III.

This cancer stuff is all new and very frightening to me, I am learning information via the internet. He wanted to put off having surgery for financial reasons and the oncologist and his lung specialist advised him against it. He was so concerned we would lose everything and he wanted to be a good provider for me this marriage, because he was very irresponsible when we were younger. I convinced him with help from family we should be ok and he will get a 50% of his monthly income from his employer up to 26 weeks. I told him I am not worried about the material things I just want him, I want us to have as many years together this time as we were apart. He is 51 and I am 50.

They want to remove his upper left lobe and I am seeking information on what to expect during and after his hospital stay. Can this happen again? The oncologist says it is curable at this stage, does that mean this won't happen again?? They are calling this cancer a new primary cancer, not a recurrence of the previous cancer, can he get a recurrence from this one

I have so many questions and concerns but most importantly I would like to know how to make him feel better emotionally and what kind of care will he need when he comes home from the hospital? Also should I summon our adult children here for the surgery, is it something that could be fatal?? I am really trying to think positive but I have to be honest and say sometimes some thoughts about all this is frightening.

Please share any helpful information with me before he goes to surgery on June 26.

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Boy that was when I was diagnosed with lung cancer. December,97. I am so sad for you and your husband that he has been afficted with this awful disease twice. I am glad that the doctors feel he can rid of it again. You did not mention in all the tests that he has had that they found it any where else. This is GREAT. The surgery is no fun but many of us have been through it. Epidural catheters post op are great to relieve the pain. Very important that he get up within a couple of days to eat, walk around etc. Our thoracic surgeon wants all his patients to have at least passive range of motion on the second day after surgery to the affected shoulder to prevent the shoulder from freezing up. As soon as the lung is reinflated they will remove the chest tubes and generally thats when they send you home . Some of us have gone home in 3-4 days, some longer. The newest and greatest surgery is pneumonectomy using VATS, video assisted thorocotomy, no big incision, relatively little pain, home quick recover quick but it can only be used by a trained MD, on someone who never had chemo or radiation and the tumor is in a place easily resectable. If you are really afraid it will come back there are some who feel that all tumors should have chemo after surgery because of the chance of a micro metastasis. Generally it has not been recommended unless the tumor touches the pleura, or is in lymph nodes, or of course if it has metastisized. Like I say if you are really concerned ask the doctor if he has read studies on the benefit of giving prophylactic chemo. Please keep us posted on how his surgery went . This we all know is a very emotional and stressful time we are here for you Donna

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Dear Friend,

Donna is a nurse and a cancer survivor who has had surgery, so she is an expert when giving advice. I am also a cancer survivor who has had surgery. I read so many positive things in your post and wanted to answer one of your more specific questions.

You asked if your adult children should be there for the surgery. I would say yes, if at all possible. This surgery is serious and both you and your husband will need emotional support during the surgery, while he is in the hospital and during the recovery period at home. Although the surgery and recovery are challenging, many people have gone through this and are now functioning very,very well--so be concerned, but not emotionally upset about the physical part of surgery.

Your good news is that the doctor used the word "cure" and I would basically do anything to hear that word. You both have a lot going for you here, eventhough your husband has this second primary. He's lucky to have you in his life again because cancer is so isolating and lonely.

Take care. I am thinking of you both,


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I know what you are feeling as a spouse. My husband, age 70 went through this operation 9/11/02. I was not afraid of the operation for he was always a strong person. He went though it great, they went in thinking it was just one but found two tumors. Had to take the whole left lung and not just the top of the left lung. He also had micro spots in 5 of of 7 lymph nodes. He came out of the operation just great. I spent most of the time with him except nights when i would return home to get myself energized for the next day. He could have come home from the hospital on the third day if he had his way but his dr was out of town and they kept him 5 days.

I am a person who likes to be by myself during things like this. We have a son who would have been with me but I can do so much better by myself. I only have myself to look after that way. don't have to worry like a mother about anyone else. It worked out fine for all of us....

Hope the best for you and yours. Think positive.......God Bless....

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Your husband is still very young and should go thru this just fine.

I am 44, had my lobectomy 2 1/2 months ago, and am already back at work full time, riding a bike every day and outside of a few lifting limitations (Currently, I believe those wil go away) and heat causing a problem with my breathing, I feel quite well. Considering :wink: I certainly don't LOOK like anything was different. Well, clothed anyway :wink:

It didn't seem that I would ever feel this way immediately after surgery tho :wink: He will be hurting, push the morphine button! Thats what it is there for, and he will feel quite weak.

Get up, walk, move around! Right now, BEFORE surgery, he/you may think that is impossible, but it really isn't. It seemed pretty gruesome from reading about it on the net, and it truely is, yes, but the recovery seems so quick for what it is.

It is natural to be scared, I was! He should do just fine tho, and so should you. He is lucky to have your support.

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I really appreciate the information that has been posted as well as your thoughts and prayers especially from someone (Gina) that has had the actual surgery. The doctors are telling us the surgery is not an easy one and he will be in intensive care for 2 days (that is without any complications) and could be more if there are complications. He also says the hospital stay will be 7 - 10 days. Those things heightened my fears however, they did say if he does not do anything the cancer will spread. So the benefits must outweigh the risks, for them to choose this treatment. Here are some other details, it is not in any lymph nodes and according to the P.E.T. scan it is the only "hot spot" which is why they are taking the aggressive route. He said some things they wont be able tell when until they go in. My husband was also recently diagnosed with a condition called atrial fibrillation, where his heart beats irregular (fast) and is on medication called Digoxin. However his heart specialist cleared him for the surgery.

Will there be any breathing problems when he is released from the hospital or will it depend on his personal health. Will we be able to still sleep in the same bed at home or will it be uncomfortable for him (due to pain) or me if I am worried about accidentally bumping him or something.

The cancer he had in 1997 in the right lung was cleared via chemo and radiation, he said they had him prepped for surgery to remove the right lung and found cancer cells when they made an incision at the base of his throat and decided against surgery.

This new spot was found when I scheduled him for his annual check up with all his physicians. If I am reading the CAT scan report correctly the size of the mass is 1.9 x 1.4. When they complete the surgery will the surgeon or the oncologist come and tell me exactly what they found and if they had to do anything different?

The social worker at the oncologist office said sometimes they will be depressed has anyone experienced that?? One last thing I know this sounds ridiculous but some friends are telling me that when people are opened up during surgery sometimes it causes cancer cells to spread. I have not read that anywhere on line is that one those old wives tales that just won't go away?

I am really encouraged by hearing others that have had loved ones go through this and individuals that have been through it. I don't understand all the language yet to post things at the bottom of my post like you all have about treatment and medications and such, but I am sure when this is all over I will.

Again Thanks and keep the info coming...

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Hello Mscyn-

I had my surgery on 12/6/02. It's definitely a delicate surgery, but your husband should come through it fine. His overall health is a factor as well. If he's in good shape otherwise, not only will his recovery go quicker, but he'll feel less beaten up.

I was in ICU for 2 days and in the hospital for 5 more. I actually could have gone home in 5 days, but they kept me just to be sure.

My surgeon told me they would not know anything for sure until they were inside my chest. After surgery, they came out and spoke to my family first. After I woke up, they put me right in ICU on a liquid diet for the first day.

I had pain until a few weeks ago, but it was well controlled with meds. Tell him no to be a martyr, use the pain meds. It will help.

Good luck.


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Hi Again,

I know you are really scared and worried but this is something that none of us can really tell you how your spouse will be doing during and after surgery. Nine out of ten he will be fine through this as you to will need to be.

My husband came through it fine however he still sleeps on the couch. He could not get comfortable in bed and still can't. Of course he had mets to the bone and they probably were there before the operation because that part of his body (rib cage) has never been without pain. He had a PET scan and it to did not show lymph nodes affected however when the dr removed 7 of them 5 were affected with micro parts of cancer. Nor did the pet scan show he had two tumors in the same upper left lobe. That to was fond during the operation. So you can see, until they go in and get that horrible cancer tumor out, you will just have to hang in there, talk all you want on here and pray-pray-pray..

God Bless

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I had my surgery in Feb 2002. My left upper lobe was removed. My surgeon said it is the worst surgery anyone can go thru. I can't say if that's true or not as I've never had any other serious surgery (had cataracts removed). I can say this, tho, it's not something I'd want to have again. But I fought to have it, because it gives the best odds. And I would have it again, if necessary. I also had chemo afterwards and I think that's a good idea since no test that exists today can find tiny spots of cancer. Tell your husband he will do fine. And, if he has a positive attitude, he will!

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You've received some good information here. I suggest that you also scroll down from the main page and read the folders entitled Hospital Hints and Hints and Tidbits, etc. Pay particular attention to the threads about "breathing".

Be sure to ask for an epidural. Mine fell out on the 3rd day, and the pain after that was really hard for me to deal with.

Use a pillow for coughing. Use the Spirometer (the plasticy thing with the ball) religiously. Get moving as soon as possible and keep increasing activity when you get home.

We have a 2-story house, so for the first week or so at home I had a hospital bed smack dab in the middle of the living room :roll: . After that, I

slept in a twin bed by myself for quite awhile with my pillow harem and hot pad. I know some people speak of sleeping in recliners.

Wishing you the best and know that you all will be in my prayers. "Cure" sounds fantastic...do whatever is needed to head in that direction.

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Another note here that I have not seen mentioned. And I am sure that it will be ground into hubby in ICU and afterwards. He will hate this "command":

COUGH, COUGH and COUGH some more. His biggest enemy after sugery will be infection and pneumonia, both can be caused by excess fluids that will collect in the chest cavity. Coughing helps get rid of the fluids.

Coughing will be VERY painful, however, even with an epidural. Do it anyway. Use a pillow as suggested, no one wants to pop thier incisions, and in a starnge way, it does help with the pain. I also hit the morphine button a minute or two before my "planned" coughing sessions. It helped a little.

I can cough normally now, tho I need to do it less since I quit the cigs :wink:

My biggest "pain" as far as reflex lung stuff is yawning! Sneezing isn't a barrel of fun either. Both, I am sure, will return to normal. It is tolerable now tho. I almost think the yawning thing is funny.

Also, on the subject of infection, he will be drowned in antibiotics. I forgot the name of what I was getting intraviniously (sp) but it is the same stuff they give aids patients when hospitalized for anything. It is strong stuff, and after he is saturated with it, his sense of taste and smell may change. It may also make him nausious. Ask for meds to help counteract this. It effected my appetite, and it is very critical to EAT during this time.

As far as sleeping, I used a good quality air mattress once I got home, and it seemed to be much more comfortable for me than a conventional bed. Fluid collected (pooled) and made me cough constantly when I layed down, so I also slept propped up for almost a month, then I was finally able to sleep horizontal, on my back and eventually on both sides. I actually have been able to sleep on my stomach for a little over a week now. I don't think I would have been comfortable sleeping with someone else, so don't take it personally if he wants his own bed/space.

Also as mentioned here, a heating pad will be his new best friend. I still use mine at home instead of meds, it actually works better for the joint pain (ribs) and is much easier on the old metabolism and brain function! :wink:

> Be sure to ask for an epidural.

My surgeon offered me a long lasting nerve block. He claims it lasts 6 months to a year, and I still am quite numb on my right side as far as muscle and skin are concerned. (It does nothing for the rib discomfort) It is exactly like what your face feels like when the dentist goes overboard with the novicaine. I am glad I got it, and it is quite easy to get used to.

I have not heard of anyone else that has had this, so I am thinking this is a very new option, or maybe just something my surgeon does? Anyone else get this?

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The information I have recieved from this site has been so helpful, I am soooo glad I stumbled upon this site. To hear from people that have had the surgery and their suggestions is wonderful. I called my husband to the computer this morning to read some of the information and he is feeling a little less anxious about the surgery now. You know sometimes it is the fear of the unknown that magnifies your apprehensiveness.

We know it is not easy however we now have some idea of what kinds of things to expect. I am certain, I now have a group of supporters that will help me through this and allow me to get to the point where I can help others that come to the sight also. I am sure we will have many other issues that I will be coming to you all for. Now I have a question after I am no longer a newcomer where do I post my questions and concerns?

For the RN (Gina) thanx for the message about the Atrial Fib. Maybe that is why they said 2 days in ICU. The AF was just discovered after this mass was discovered in late March and they started the process of getting a cancer diagnosis. First they removed some lymph nodes under his left arm, they were benign, well one week later he ended up in the hospital, stomache swollen up like a Budda statute!! It was pleural effusion from pneumonia, (they say the outpatient surgery didn't cause it but I wonder)and while on a heart monitor (cause they thought maybe it was congestive heart failure) they found his heart would occassonally go up to 144 beats. My husband said this has been happening for awhile, but whenever he would get a EKG it would not happen. So after 2 days in the hospital during which the fluid was drained off (fluid tested negative for cancer cells, it was around the right lung were he had cancer previously) and all kind of heart/lung tests they diagnosed him with Atrial Fib. So after we went through all that with no answer about the mass the oncologist decided to do the PET Scan. Then 2 weeks later we went to see the surgeon to schedule the surgery and before the lung specialist would clear my husband for the surgery, he wanted to do a bronchosope (s?)

Well that procedure had to be stopped because my husband started bleeding profusely and they could only get minute pieces of the mass, which were non definitive. After that the lung specialist agreed with the oncolgist and said he should have the surgery because the PET scan are usually 98% accurate.

I wish I had found this site soon as they found the mass because I was livid that they didn't have answers after the lymph nodes, after the fluid. I thought why could they not give us the answer. Then when the PET scan gave us the answer the lung specialist gave us a hope becuause he said he really would rather get a piece of the tissue, then that hope that the mass would prove benign was shot to pieces when we went in for the pathology report and he didn't get enough tissue sample. He then said you have to get the surgery. It was an up and down ride and I really could have used you all then. But now I know where to come and vent and question and just write when I am nervous. So here I am and believe when I am anxious and being long winded like now, typing my feelings and thoughts helps. But more importantly hearing from people like yourself eases all the crazy thoughts that run rampant in my mind sometime.

Today my husband is off work I am going to try to get him up and let us get out to enjoy the day out of the house. Until tomorrow, God Bless you all. :lol:

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