After the flurry of fear that surrounded me the last couple of days, today I remembered, through the helpful and supportive letter of a dear friend, that it’s time to take it all one step at a time. Whatever needs to come next next in my journey will happen whether I welcome or reject it. Being in a state of denial is so much more work. So, today I am enjoying the benefits of the procedure from this morning and breathing much, much easier.
My procedure started a little bit late because the pulmonologist was called to an emergency; he came to the waiting room himself to tell me what was happening, and, of course, I was certainly not going to argue with him about his priorities. The delay was about 30 minutes.
When we started, I remained sitting up, leaning forward over a table. The nurse held my hands and my arms to give me gentle support. The doctors made the incision for the thoracentesis after numbing the area outside and in with local anesthetic. Then, they inserted the needle (more like a small tube) between my vertebrae on the outer left of my back. I could feel some pressure, and the surgeon warned me that I might feel it a bit, but it was not really unpleasant. As they worked inside the pleural cavity to extract the fluid into tubes, my lung, which was folded up like an accordion, began to expand. They told me that I might feel some pain from that happening. While they worked on me, they asked me to breathe steadily with pursed lips and pressure on the exhale while also moving my feet in a tapping motion all the while. I was fine except that I have been having a lot of nausea, which I get from the chemo but more than usual, which seemed to be accompanying my difficulties with breathing. So they kept stopping the procedure until I stopped retching. They would ask me if I could continue, and all I could think about was them getting out all of that fluid and insisted on continuing as soon as I recovered a little bit.
Finally, the surgeon said they were done; they had gotten all of the fluid out. A whopping 1800 ml, which he said was like a half a gallon. He said he was was sure I would feel an amazing difference in being able to breathe again. I kept coughing and could feel the lung expanding and hurting as it did so, but they assured me this was normal and would continue until the lunch had resumed its normal size and I coughed up all the residue that was caught up from the lung being compressed. They gave me some oxygen, and it seemed to help calm down the nausea. They also gave me an injection of Zofran®, so between the two I started to feel human again.
When I was time to go, I was surprised at how much of a difference I felt immediately in breathing. The last few weeks I could barely walk two steps before being out of breath. When I got off the wheelchair to get in the car, I felt like I could breathe again like I normally did before all of this trauma. The rest of the day I simply slept as I was exhausted for some reason. At first, it was hard to sleep because I kept coughing, and the coughing was causing my lung to hurt. Finally, it just happened, and I woke up a few hours later feeling like a real person.