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Coping

catlady123
Posts: 13
Joined: Mar 2007

I was diagnosed January 2007 with NSCLC and had my left upper lobe removed on February 13. They declared me cancer-free and told me to return in six months for a new CT scan and pulmonary function tests, which will be August. I was a smoker and had a problem quitting the cigarettes, but am proud to say that I am now smoke-free.

My problem is this. I worry constantly that the cancer is going to recur. Right now I am experiencing severe pain in my remaining lung that shoots straight through my chest and comes out at my shoulder blade in the back. I know a certain amount of pain is normal, my surgery was only 15 weeks ago and I do have quite a bit more "healing " to go through. But the pain I'm having now is something new. It started about 2 weeks ago. The pain runs up into my shoulder and neck and when I take a deep breath it hurts my windpipe really bad. Let me say that I do have a severe reflux problem and have been refluxing a lot lately due to my nerves, so my esophagus is pretty irritated.

What I would like to know, is there anyone out there who had lung cancer come back as quickly as
4 months? I'm terrified that the smoking I did do before I finally quit may have harmed me. Of course, the first lung cancer took 32 years to develop, but from what I understand, it doesn't take that long to recur. Then I have heard that when you do quit smoking, it takes quite a few years before your chance of developing lung cancer is reduced. I've read and heard so many different things that I don't know what to think. All I know is I have lung pain in my remaining lung, shortness of breath and pain in my windpipe, and I need some encouragement. I have an appt. to see my doctor, but feel like I am way out of control with this worry. Any suggestions?

I am on an antidepressant and nerve pills. I am absolutely beside myself with worry. All I can think about is death. My family is getting tired of hearing it and frankly, it's wearing me out. How can I be more positive?

maryaj
Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2006

Dear Catlady,
I had my right lower lobe removed for lung cancer in January of 2005. I had 5 chemo treatments, recommended because of the stage of Ca.
In June of 2005 I began experiencing "shooting" pains in my remaining lung - it escalated over a few weeks to severe searing, stabbing pain through to my back. It was nearly constant. At night it would take a long time, propped on pillows, etc to get into a comfortable position to sleep and in the morning I dreaded getting out of bed because after about 3 steps it would start again.
Called my surgeon's office but was advised by the the physician's assistant it couldn't be from my surgery. I called the oncologist, got an appointment. He sent me for more CT scans and a bone scan. Nothing was found. He sent me back to make an appointment with my surgeon,which is probably what I should have done in the first place because the surgeon told me that about 10% of people who have this surgery get this pain and there is nothing can be done about it. It has something to do with the body protecting itself from the trauma it has endured. My pain lasted about 3 months and I'm told it can last longer! -- I would sometimes get up, have pain for an hour, it would subside for a little bit but then come back. I remember feeling I couldn't stand it any more. Pain meds didn't help all that much.
I know all this isn't very cheery news -- but the good news is -- it's not new cancer!!
I was afraid like you are. Now I only get nervous at every 6 month CT scan checkup. I've requested and had every test for cancer that I can think of -- mammograms, pap smears, blood test for I think it is ovarian cancer. I worry sometimes that I may have brain cancer if I get a headache, or forget things which at my age (65) is frequently!!
I was a smoker too. For 45 years! I quit when I was diagnosed with emphysema. Then 2 years after quitting, I was diagnosed with the cancer.

There is no cure for emphysema. Hopefully, my quitting smoking will just have slowed down its progress. Mostly, I don't think about it. I walk a lot now and I feel my lung function is pretty good now.
Over the past couple of years, I have heard of many people who have had lung cancer (not all smokers). The ones who were diagnosed early enough have survived for a long time! I think that's us!
Good luck -- you will get better and by January of next year you will feel almost good as new!
Mary Anne

cabbott
Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

I don't know how long ago you stopped smoking, but one of the common problems of recent quitters is chest pain that lasts about a week. Also, there's a certain amount of coughing and bronchitis type symptoms that go along with quitting as your lungs start cleaning themselves. Drinking a glass of water every hour that you are awake helps. Shot nerves come with cancer of all types. We all worry. The only thing I knew about cancer when I was first diagnosed was that people die from it. It was not a very calming thought to say the least. Reading helped me by letting me know that many folks learn to live with cancer. Daytime exercise helped me sleep a bit better at night. Making a treatment plan and following it gave me less to worry about. Finding a support group in my town (The Wellness Community had a branch within 4 miles of my house!) gave me a way to vent without causing more emotional damage to my family. I doubt that your pain is a reoccurance since cancer is often painless. But if your problem continues for a week or two, you might want to see your doctor about it. You aren't immune from other problems just because you have cancer and there are ways to fix up many other problems once they are correctly diagnosed.

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