I started EMDR therapy yesterday. It was… Odd. Having to focus on the memories and emotions that go with them, especially when I have suppressed them for so long, was difficult in itself. Concentrating on them while watching the light moving left to right and back again… Wow! Talk about feeling deeply again. The tears would come spontaneously, or a new thought would pop into my head, and we would concentrate on that.
Thinking about that moment when my surgeon told me the morning after my surgery that I had cancer. Lung cancer. Adenocarcinoma.
… It was a fluke that it was ever found. In order to stay field certified to wear level B HazMAT protection for my day job, I had a medical monitoring appointment. I was asked if I wanted a chest xray, since I had not had one for a few years. Sure, why not? No problem. Had the appointment, got blood drawn, hearing and vision tests, spirometry, and that chest film. After waiting 6 weeks for my certification, I called my employer’s industrial hygienist and left a message stating I had not gotten my clearance yet. Three hours later, I got a phone call from the MD for the occupational health group we used. “There is a problem with your xray. There is a nodule. You need to follow up with your physician to find out what it is and get cleared.”
“Wait… You’ve known this for 6 weeks, and just now telling me?”, I asked. He gave me a bullshit answer, telling me he was waiting for the radiologist to tell him the next steps. Lying bastard. It was on the radiology report that was sent to him 12 MINUTES after I had the xray done! “Recommend Chest CT without contrast”. He only called me when out IH called to find out the status.
I immediately contacted my personal physician who ordered a walk-in CT with contrast. I left work and had it done. More tests came after… Blood work, a PET/CT scan, and then, a visit with a thoracic surgeon. Which led me to that morning after I had surgical biopsy and a possible removal of part or all of my left lung.
I was sitting in bed. I couldn’t lie flat. I couldn’t breathe if I did. I had a chest tube, a large bandage on the left side of my chest, IVs, and oxygen. It hurt like hell, even with narcotic pain meds.
“How are you doing? It’s cancer. Adenocarcinoma. It had a lot of mucous around it, and that’s why it wasn’t obvious on the PET scan.” And him telling me that he took 25 percent of my breathing capacity away while I was under anesthetic. I asked him the next step? Chemo? Radiation? Nope. He felt confident he got it all. We’d monitor with CTs every 6 months. Now, I needed to heal. But…
I lost the left lower lobe of my lung. My lung. MY FUCKING LUNG! I could hardly take a breath at that moment due to atelectasis (He collapsed my lung to do the surgery), and the chest tube sticking out of the side of my chest, that the end of as it turns out, was up near my shoulder blade, and if I moved or coughed caused excruciating pain. Pain meds helped minimally. I was walking the floor of the hospital, hunched over, huffing and puffing like I had gone running for my life. Is this my existence now?
I was in shock, thinking back on it now. My brain instantly numbed me to that horrible news that I HAD CANCER. My goal at that moment was to leave the hospital and go home. I’ve beaten crap before. Not cancer, but other issues. A kidney problem that nearly killed me. Spondylolisthesis that incredibly unstable and was painful and nearly took my ability to work in EMS and even to walk. “That which does not kill me makes me stronger” kept popping into my head.
But, with the chest tube in, I wasnt going anywhere. So I sat there in bed. I had a few visitors, but I really began to feel very afraid and alone. And angry. I had a few visits from Kaiser nurses, including one who asked me, “Are you going to quit smoking?”, a lady with a therapy dog who had no clue why I was there, but offered me to spend a few minutes with her dog, a social worker who left a pamphlet… On smoking cessation. I told her I don’t smoke. “Really? Well, let me leave this here anyways.”, and then another nurse who also asked me if I was going to quit smoking. She was the one I replied, “I don’t fucking smoke! I haven’t since I was 15!” I have lung cancer, so I MUST be a smoker, right? What morons. That social worker visit was the entire extent of Kaiser assisting me with the stresses of my diagnosis until later in the year, even though I wanted and desperately needed help.
One of my visitors, a friend from EMS, was there when the chest tube was pulled (Warning! That’s the link to the video when I had it removed. Not for the faint hearted.). Not a pleasant experience. I had to lie down flat for it. But, being a fellow medical professional, he was fascinated by it. Suddenly, the horrid pain was gone! Yeah, I still hurt, but not like when that tube was in my chest. I went for a walk with my friend, and felt a lot better walking, pushing my IV pole as we walked the floor.
So when I was offered the chance to be discharged, I took them up on it. Bad idea. In hindsight, I should have stayed another day or two. Thinking back, I was high as a kite, and they should never have even offered me discharge at that point. I even had to wait 2 hours in the discharge pharmacy for my pain meds. Another friend took me home. And try and rebuild my existence. For the record, I was discharged just over 24 hours from admission.
Slowly, the thoughts of what happened, my diagnosis, and information I researched, began to work on my mind. And not in a good way. (To be continued…)