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Surgery after all- what to expect

cb girl's picture
cb girl
Posts: 56
Joined: May 2010

After my husband has had 6 cycles of gemzar/cisplatin-with tumor shrinkage occuring- a new surgeon has said he can operate. We tried this approach in May, but after finding cancer in lymph node biopsy surgery was stopped. Now after chemo and an opinion from a different surgeon, but same Cancer Center we are looking at VATS to remove his upper right lobe. He has stage IIIa, but there is even a difference of opinion on that. They keep saying what an interesting case this is- have all your academic discussions you want, but give me a mechanic to fix the problem. So after all this, my question is- what can I do to help him in his recovery, what did others of you that have had this surgery, want or like after surgery? etc. And when he recovers from this we're going to do it all again on his lower left lobe. Getting 2011 off to a rousing start, but hoping that getting it all out will make him and us survivors. Happy and Healthy New Year to all of you who continue to inspire and give hope to all of us.

z's picture
z
Posts: 1414
Joined: May 2009

Hello,

I had the vats for removal of the lower right lobe on 9-23. I had to have the plumonologist testing to see if my lungs were sufficent enough to withstand losing a lobe. The lungs were good enough to handle it. I started doing breathing exercises before the surgery. I was in the hospital for 3 days and on pain medication the whole time. The pain wasn't severe, the chest tubes are uncomfortable and a nuisance, but very tolerable. I was off of work for a month and then returned to work with no restrictions cleared by my dr. The only thing I couldn't do before the clearance was lift over 10 lbs. I now have my stamina back and feel very well. It will take a little while to get the stamina back. I wish you and your husband well. Lori

cabbott
Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

The meds at the hospital kept me mostly comfortable though I do recall not liking the chest tube much as it was always in the way. The nurses were great help and took terrific care of me. They warned me about the probablity of lots of tubes and wires when I came out of surgery so I didn't panic. I was weak as a kitten and found it hard just to sit up, much less walk the first little bit. Before I left the hospital I was trucking around the ward with pole in hand.

When I got home smells bothered me really badly. Food that could be nuked in the microwave was better than Mom's home cooking thanks to the anethesia and how it affected my sense of smell. You'd have to know how great a cook my mom is, but meat tasted tinny and smells made me gag. She was a trooper and froze up the dinner she had planned and went for the microwave and bland food for a few days. That helped.

I had had major surgery before, so I knew about some of the surgery side effects. Hard butterscotch candies ease a sore throat from the breathing tube. Phillips Milk of Magnesia helps with constipation from the the pain meds. Drink plenty of water as soon as able to also ease this problem. Prunes, fruit and high fiber bread also help. Don't laugh! This may not be a problem for the docs but it is a major issue for patients.

Blocks under the head of the bed (just 2-3 inches) helped things drain toward my feet. I tried sleeping with a couple of pillows but I kept rolling off of them. Some folks sleep in an easy boy chair so breathing is easier at first.

My friends and family took me to an old mall nearby so I could practice walking once I could walk around the inside of my house okay. I kept pushing the limit to where I was tired but not exhausted. Too hot, too cold, and too dry are not good for weak lungs, so the mall walk was best. Perfumes still cause me to cough. So do cleaning supplies and varnish odors. I can tolerate dust from sweeping the floor now, but back then it bothered me.

The breathing exercises are boring but useful in strengthing lungs.

Attack illnesses of any sort with a vengence. A cold is serious when you just got out of surgery. Don't be afraid to tell folks not to visit if the flu or a cold epidemic is in the area. They will understand.

Figure out what you need to stay healthy and ask others for it. I hated accepting the help, but I finally started telling folks what dinners would help and what I wanted. They wanted to help with something and I couldn't use another bowl of jello or a two layer cake. So I finally suggested cards to the local diners and made life easier on all of us. You may be tempted to skip a few of your own doctor appointments what with all the ones you are attending for your husband but don't. He needs you in good health so by taking care of yourself you are taking care of him. That includes taking time off for yourself every week.

If breathing problems don't resolve in a timely manner after surgery, ask about pulmonology therapy. I saw the thoracic surgeon for surgery, the pulmonary oncologist about future drug treatment, and didn't realize for over a year that a pulmonologist was the guy I needed to see about coughing all the time. So many specialities! So little time to learn it all! When in doubt, ask the nurses. They have the most hands-on experience.

Good luck!

lekkerone
Posts: 199
Joined: Jan 2011

Hi I am new here. I had a lower left lobe lobectomy on Dec.1/10 and feel very fortunate that no further treatment is necessary. I do have questions about exercise. I live in an apartment and as the weather is cold right now, I walk the halls and have started walking up one flight of stairs.
My question is, should I strive to walk faster or should I try to lengthen the time I walk?
I use the spirometer but any other things to increase my breathing capacity would be welcome.
Also at 5 weeks out of surgery, how should I expect to feel? Thanks for any advice

mamacita5's picture
mamacita5
Posts: 254
Joined: May 2010

I am not sure if you had VATS or standard surgery, which could certainly make the difference in your healing time. I had my lower left lung removed in May via VATS and I would say it took a good 3 months to start feeling like I could begin to exercise with any amount of exertion. I also had a horrible cough that is VERY common with this type of surgery. My doctor told me the coughing was actually helping my lung to expand. The cough finally went away, thank heavens. My chest is still tight at times and my ribs are still tender if I press on them. I am taking a yoga class now which had been very helpful in getting my joints loosened up a bit as well as being a great form of stress relief. After surgery I had 3 mos of chemo and 30 days of radiation. I started back to work full time in October while doing radiation. It all just takes time.

lekkerone
Posts: 199
Joined: Jan 2011

Thanks mamacita 5, you are the first person I have talked to who had the same surgery as me. I has the VATS and I was very relieved to hear it took you three months to exercise hard. I was also relieved to hear you still feel tightness and have tender ribs. That is happening to me also.
I plan to find a yoga class in my town as I hear it greatly increases lung capacity. I did not have to have chemo as the cells were encapsulated and the nodes clean.

I think I was getting too impatient with myself. Thanks again.

mamacita5's picture
mamacita5
Posts: 254
Joined: May 2010

Lekkerone - Glad I could help, but believe me I am STILL not exercising hard. If you do take a yoga class consider svaroopa yoga which is not based so much on poses but on stretching, stress relief and deep relaxation. Props (blankets and blocks) are also used which is helpful in supporting areas of your body which may still be sore. I think the thing it helps the most with is letting me relax my chest and lungs. I am also starting to walk a little bit, still makes me really out of breath but I really need the exercise after being inactive for the past 7 months.

lekkerone
Posts: 199
Joined: Jan 2011

mamacita and anyone else? I can't even imagine wearing a bra at this point. If you wear one, did you have to get a special one or, like me, are you still wearing loose tops and no bra? Thanks. Diane

stayingcalm's picture
stayingcalm
Posts: 656
Joined: Feb 2007

Your post should be required reading for anyone having lung surgery!
♥ Deb

cabbott
Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

Thanks! I am glad others share their experiences with me too. It really helps.

cb girl's picture
cb girl
Posts: 56
Joined: May 2010

so glad to get all this info before my husbands surgery on the 24th. I have him read the posts so he will know that it isn't going to be as awful as he thinks ( hopefully). And since he is competitive he will want to recover as well as everybody on this board if not better ;-) if that's the incentive he needs I'll take it. Keep up the good work that all of you do. Thanks again.
Tracy

JohnBinDC's picture
JohnBinDC
Posts: 91
Joined: Nov 2010

Thanks for the excellent post. I had the traditional thoracotomy in March of 2009 and my experience was similar to yours, except once I got home, I could eat almost any food. While in the hospital, I could not eat at all for a few days, especially since they were trying to feed me cream soup, which was not very appitizing after surgery(yuk!).

It took a few months for the soreness to go away, but by July, I was running slowly and I ran a half marathon 10 months after surgery, beating my first ever hald marathon time.

I can add to what you said about accepting help. I have a hard time with that, but by doing so, life is much easier!

Have a grfeat day.

John

Greggriggs's picture
Greggriggs
Posts: 132
Joined: Dec 2006

You did good .
Good to see you name .
Bless ya
Greg

bfp9548
Posts: 28
Joined: Apr 2010

I have the VATS surgery almost a year ago (jan. 27). My upper incision is still sore at times and I had a rib fracture show up there during a CT scan in November. I was told that it was possible that this rib would always be weak due to the surgery. How it was broken I will never know. I just started having new pain. It is still tender if there is any pressure on that spot, but otherwise I am back to normal after the surgery. I was also in the hospital for three days and had an epidural. The chest tube was the only thing that was uncomfortable and as soon as it was removed it was a big relief. I was out of work for 6 weeks for the surgery. I started walking after I was home a couple of weeks. I started of course with very short periods and gradually increased my times. I have a Wii Fit and used this game to help me increase my stamina and lung volumes. When I had a follow-up breathing test after 6 months, i had only lost 6% of my capacity. The surgery had removed my upper left lobe and a small portion of my lower left lobe. I give the Wii credit for getting me up and moving when it was too cold to walk outside. Good look and get moving as soon as possible.

lekkerone
Posts: 199
Joined: Jan 2011

I had the VATs procedure for a lobectomy (lower left lobe) two months ago. I am unsure just how much to push myself in terms of exercise. I started using the treadmill over a week ago. I have progressed to 40 minutes and just over 2 miles. I feel good when I am doing this but the next morning I feel very stiff in the left chest area. Do you think it is possible to push myself too hard. I admit since the surgery, in the mornings I do tend to feel a bit sore until I have been up quite a while.

Any advice would be appreciated. I had no further treatment after the surgery as the nodes were clean. Thanks to anyone who can help.

cabbott
Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

You might ask the doctor or the nurses at the clinic you go to about the soreness.Most have encourage me to exercise to the point of being tired. However they have cautioned me not to work to the point of straining anything. Even when I first had breast cancer surgery in 2002, my surgeon encouraged weight training as well as walking. But he insisted I use light weights with many repetitions rather than heavy weights and few repetitions. I worked up to heavier weights very gradually and I still take it easy on anything that goes above my head. Well, the doctor said to limit it to 15 pounds and I'm at 18-22, but it has been 8 years. . .If I do strain something, I notice my body takes a long time to heal. It seems to take lots longer than it used to to recover from injuries. So now I never carry a purse (shoulder gets strained easily), I try to work out most days(to prevent injuries), and I skip contests that involve seeing who can do the most______(weight, repetitions, fastest whatever--you fill in the blank). The last is the hardest for me. I tend to be somewhat competitive and I hate to do less than my best. But sometimes it is better for your health to stick with the limit of just exercising till you are tired and not pushing the bar so far that you are in pain. The right limit is sometimes hard to judge, so ask your doctor if you have any questions about how much is right for you. Ask them about stretching exercises (maybe yoga?) if your muscles are feeling tight. That may help too.

lekkerone
Posts: 199
Joined: Jan 2011

Thanks for such a complete reply. I can see from reading your post that I need to slow down and regroup instead of trying to get in shape before my body is ready. I think I will do the treadmill everyday but shorten the time I walk and just increase very gradually.
I so much appreciate your input.
My surgeon and respirologist are in a city about three hours away and I doubt my GP would know much about the rehab for this but if I continue to have trouble I will have to pay him a visit.

lekkerone
Posts: 199
Joined: Jan 2011

Thanks for such a complete reply. I can see from reading your post that I need to slow down and regroup instead of trying to get in shape before my body is ready. I think I will do the treadmill everyday but shorten the time I walk and just increase very gradually.
I so much appreciate your input.
My surgeon and respirologist are in a city about three hours away and I doubt my GP would know much about the rehab for this but if I continue to have trouble I will have to pay him a visit.

Dapsterd's picture
Dapsterd
Posts: 291
Joined: Jun 2010

Well Family----just got out of Hospital after 3 weeks due to strep and pneumonia infection in the plueral, right side. Very rough--collapsed in ER with severe pain and could not breathe, was on oxygen for a week.

I am on home IV's antibiotics for a month, then a CT Scan, then my new doc's think they can remove my upper right lobe and I will be NED.

The lymphnodes showe no cancer remaining, right upper with a reduced tumor can now come out. I already had 1st round chemo and radiation this June through Nov., 2010.

The new Docs think I was classified incorrectly as a IIIB, not operable, they wish to change it to IIIA and then do Vats on right lung.

We will see..

Thanx

Dave

lekkerone
Posts: 199
Joined: Jan 2011

Aw Dave you have had a rough time. I hope that your recovery goes smoothly and that you will be a good candidate for the surgery. Take good care of yourself, Diane

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