Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Little Background

It's been a really long couple of months for me and Nick. For those of you who know the story, feel free to skip this section. I began coughing in Fortaleza, Brazil in July, while on a short-term missions trip, and it continued until my surgery on 11-23-07. I tried many allergy medications throughout the summer with no improvement. Nick sent me to a chest x-ray at the end of September. We were surprised to learn that I did not have pneumonia like we had thought. Instead, the imaging showed a large mass in my left lower lung. From there, October was filled with a series of CT Scans, several MRIs, and many days of blood work. I got to experience a Bronchoscopy and I strongly recommend trying one if ever bored on a Thursday night. Just kidding. The Dr puts a camera up your nose, down your throat and into your lung to check things out and to take a sample of foreign material if needed. Blood vessels in my lung had grown around the mass, that was the size of a large orange, and the Dr was afraid to take a sample for fear that I would bleed internally. He took a sample from a smaller mass that was growing in another air tube, but the tests came back inconclusive. We still didn't know what it was.

The rest of October brought more tests, including a PET Scan and an MRI brain scan. At this point our pulmonologist did not know what this mass was, but he knew it needed to come out. He referred us to Dr Handy, who turned out to be one of the best thoracic surgeons in the nation. Nick and I met him on October 30, after what seemed to be a long wait. Due to "lit up" lymph nodes in my PET Scan, he was certain I had cancer (always a possibility, never a probability), but he was careful to not come right out and say it. He did, however, indicate that instead of removing the large, rapidly growing mass in my lung, we needed to get into treatment immediately. He feared that the lung surgery would "put extra miles on me" and may not help my recovery in the long run- if I already had malignant cancer in my body. We scheduled a biopsy, called a mediastinoscopy, for three days later. Dr Handy cut into the base of my neck and using a scope, took tissue samples of my lymph nodes from behind my heart. He reported back to Nick after the hour-long surgery and said, "I really didn't expect to tell you this, but it's not cancer." He very enthusiastically informed me the same in Recovery. This was 11-02-07.

More story after I sleep for a while...