By Wednesday 10/30, I could barely get my breath. My onco was filling in at another onco office, so the nurse practitioner ordered another chest x-ray. This showed a significant amount of fluid on my chest. In addition to that, since I was struggling with my appetite and wasn’t eating much, my hemoglobin had fallen to 6.5. The NP scheduled a procedure in radiology which the docs would find the most dense source of fluid in my chest by using an ultrasound on my back. Then they would insert a straw-like tool and withdraw the fluid. In the meantime I went to the cancer center to get two units of blood.
I have to say that this was the scariest day of my life, even more scary than when I found out I had cancer, and it had spread. I’ve never had breathing issues before. I’ve had about 5 chest colds in my life, usually cured by over the counter meds. This is the first time in my life that I was struggling, literally fighting to get a breath of air. The fluid withdrawing procedure could not be done until Thursday the 31st because the radiology team was so backed up doing the same procedure for so many other people. To make me more comfortable, the nurse practitioner set me up with a local medical supplier so I could have oxygen at home. As I sat at home, watching the supplier bring in tanks, tubing, and a big central unit for our living room, I got tears in my eyes. I was afraid to cry because I just didn’t have the wind for a good cry. I looked up at John and said, “Well this is it…I’ve seen it a hundred times, home health comes in to deliver supplies, the patient goes on oxygen, gets weaker and weaker and just dies. I’m going to die this time…” John held my hand and told me to try to hang on.
The next day, my sister Cat came over to help me get ready and take me to my procedure. I was so scared because what if it hurt, or what if it didn’t work? What if there was some other freaky complication? Thankfully, the procedure went perfectly. It wasn’t painful, just a little uncomfortable. It only took about a half hour. They removed 1.5 liters of fluid from my chest. It was in between my chest wall and right lung, completely compressing the lung. I coughed as the lung re-inflated itself, but thank God there were no tears or other damage. My relief was so immediate that I didn’t need my oxygen as we left the hospital. I was in my wheelchair, but it was nice to breathe on my own.
This is another interesting chapter in my battle. I had just told someone at work a few months ago that even though I had some spots on my lungs, at least I wasn’t having trouble breathing. Well, now I know how it feels, and what to expect if I need to have fluid removed again. Plus, it adds to my testimony even more. Knowing exactly how it feels to struggle for air will help me support other people that struggle. Cancer, chemo, and other treatment isn’t supposed to be easy, and I went a long time without experiencing much pain (other than my leg) and side effects. Having these other complications makes me feel even more thankful to be here. One day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time is the only way to live.