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My mother is getting surgery Fri and I don't know what to expect

shannalanai
Posts: 22
Joined: Jun 2008

My mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer back in April of this year. Her sister and first cousin died from it years ago and her great aunt had it twice so we knew it was a strong possibility she could get it. When they did the full body scan they found a lump in her right lung. They have not been able to biopsy it because it is very small but the results of the PET scan they are pretty sure it is lung cancer. Not to mention she is a heavy smoker (just quit this week). However they feel that the breast cancer and the lung cancer are not related. They feel they are two seperate cases. They removed the lump from her breast on May 22nd and now they are removing her lump from her lung on Fri June 20th...next Fri. I really don't know what to expect. How long the surgery is going to be, how bad she will look afterwards and feel. I am totally in the dark and I don't want to walk into this blind. I have researched on breast cancer for years so I pretty knowledgeable on it, treatments and what to expect. I don't know what to expect with this lung cancer. How aggressive it is, how much is her chances for survival or nothing. I really would appreciate any advice. I will be one of her main caregivers and I need to prepare myself for this. I have read up on it on the American Cancer society but its to vague in some ways and the numbers don't tell me much. She says they caught it early so her chances are good but my mom tries to protect me alot by not telling me things so its hard to trust what she says is good. She doesn't seem to realize I handle things better when I am informed and prepared. Any help, advice, or whatever would just be absolutely appreciated!
Thank you,
Shanna

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

It is very good news indeed if the two are unrelated! I, too, had a previous cancer (head and neck) only to have a very small lump discovered in my right lower lung lobe. As with your mom, they could not determine whether it was malignant or not without a biopsy, so they went in, took out the node, determined it was malignant, and went ahead and removed that lobe (not the whole lung). Everyone's case is different, and everyone's case is handled differently, and everyone has a different pain threshhold, but I can tell you honestly that my surgery, which lasted, I've been told, about six hours (they did the biopsy during this time, too) and the subsequent time in care related to it was relatively painless. Perhaps the hardest part was getting the trachea tube down the hatch :) because of my previous surgery in the head and neck area.

I was given an epidural prior to the surgery (highly recommended!) and was put under, of course, and literally felt no pain.

They anticipate two days in ICU, but I was out after just one day. Following that, it was expected I would remain in the hospital for another four or five days, and if I had not developed a staph infection, this would have been the case.

Believe it or not, as scary as it sounds, and lung cancer and lobectomy are pretty scary to consider, I agree, it was really not so bad.

I was advised that I would probably not be able to run any marathons in the future, but that is fine with me, as running for fun seems like an oxymoron in any event :).

Best wishes to your mom. It sounds as though she is in great hands...yours!

Take care,

Joe

shannalanai
Posts: 22
Joined: Jun 2008

Thank you so much for your reply! It helps so much when I read encouraging things like this. Its all the unknown that scares me. How long ago was your surgery? How long after the surgery did you need constant care? I am trying to think on how long I need to make sure I or someone else can stay with mom. She is will be 50 years old on the 22nd and is in good health so I am hoping she will recover quickly. I know she doesn't want to be down for too long. I don't think Mom is going to be too disappointed that she can't run any marathons...hehehe. Thanks so much for the reply and best wishes!

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

Shanna: I turned 52 today, and haven't smoked for about three years now. My initial surgery was on January 31 of this year. However, I developed the aforementioned staph infection, and so ended up getting another surgery and staying in the hospital for nearly the entire month of February. THAT IS NOT THE NORM. But...it makes it hard for me to say how long the after-care needs to be vigorous in nature. I can tell you that your mom will probably be asked to use a couple of breath-enhancing devices frequently during the day while in the hospital and after she gets home. She may get a device like the inhalers that asthmatics use. And I was told not to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for a month following surgery.

Otherwise, really, I came home (and I was also recovering from that infection, mind you) and was up and about immediately.

It may be that they will want to add chemotherapy to the mix, by the way, once your mom has sufficiently recovered from the surgery, as a 'precautionary' measure.

Others in this discussion area can probably be much more precise, since the infection sort of complicated things for me.

Again, best wishes to you and your mom and your family.

Take care,

Joe

shannalanai
Posts: 22
Joined: Jun 2008

Congratulations on being smokefree for 3 years! She has an aspirator that she had them give her after her surgery to remove the lump in her breast. She wanted to go ahead and start working on it to get her lungs in good shape for the surgery.I worry because she has COPD already so I am afraid it may cause complications...I am not sure. Again thanks so much for the replies. It has helped out tremondously. It makes it a little less scary. :)
Take care and best wishes to you as well,
Shanna

justashley's picture
justashley
Posts: 3
Joined: Jun 2008

I too was a heavy smoker (30 years) just quit this Feb. I thought I was going in for a routine sugery to remove a fiboris mass in my lower left lung - guess what it was LUNG CANCER. I first heard the word on April 1.2008. They did a lower left lobectomy. By and large it was not pleasant chest tube for several days they broke a rib (this is common don't panic) and just generally uncomfortable. I did have an epidural-it didn't work - but again it wasn't unbearable the nurses took great care of me. As stated before everyone has a different pain level. But all it all it was worth it to get the Cancer out - it had spread to the lymph nodes they were removed at the same time. Luckily for me the PET scan 2 wks later came back clean I am on 5 rounds of chemo as a preventative so don't be supprised if they suggest that also. It will be tough but I suspect your mom is tough if you feel she is not being completely honest go with her to the doc appts and make informed decsions.
She may be down for a couple of weeks and will DEFFINATELY not be able to lift anything and will have to learn to breath differntly but it will be okay - feel free to email me.. One last thing the smoking thing is very hard to get over I still want one in times of stress but all I have to do is to take a deep breath and the graving is gone. - talk to you soon my prayers are with you both

shannalanai
Posts: 22
Joined: Jun 2008

Thank you so much for replying! They have not biopsied the spot yet but they did a PET Scan and said they were pretty sure it was lung cancer. I am glad you warned me about the broken ribs. Mom was terrified that they were going to have to crack her ribs open to get in there like they did with my step father's heart surgery. I hope that doesn't scare her. How long were you in ICU and then how long was your hospital stay all together. She is really determined that she does not want to stay in the hospital long and is wanting to try to get out by 3 days. I will be taking care of her when she comes home and I am not really sure what to expect. She was saying she was going to do chemo and radiation to make sure to kill it all but we have not talked to an oncologist about this yet or her surgeon because he is waiting till she had both surgeries out of the way. They will be checking her lymph nodes while in there. How long was your surgery? She is definitely a tough person. She is a survivor.
Congratulations on quitting smoking! Quitting smoking was a HUGE step for her. She has been smoking for at least 30 years I know cause she has smoked as long as I have been around. She once told me that her cigarettes have always been there to help calm her. She spoke as though they were her best friend. We have butted heads over it more than a time or two because I was always afraid for her health. So far she has been smokefree since last Sunday. She has been gradually working herself down. She said this time if the first time it hasn't bothered her...like that she is not ready to bite someone's head off hehe. I am really praying that she can continue to stay away from them. I got her a breast cancer awareness angel that a breast cancer survivor has made for her 24 hour celebration...next is a week...then a month....then a year. I don't know what I can do to help, I am just trying my best to do what I can. I appreciate your reply so much and the prayers are very much appreciated and needed! I will keep you in my prayers as well!
Take care,
Shanna

cerobby
Posts: 8
Joined: Jun 2008

Shanna,
So glad your mom quit smoking, it really will make recovery easier. I had my upper left lobe removed May 30th. (Partial lobectomy) I was in ICU almost 2 days and had the chest tube in for three. The only hard part for me was the nausea from the anesthesia and the pain med's ( I had a pain pump) Once the tubes were pulled on the third day I stopped the med's and I was out of the Hospital the next day. I'm up to walking amost 3/4 of a mile daily and except for soreness around the breast area (very common)your mom might not be able to wear a bra for a few weeks check with her surgeon as to where the incision will be. My friends bought me a soft sports bra (no under wire) in a larger size that hooks in front. Get it in a larger size because she will have swelling. I also bought a couple of sleevless T shirts to wear underneath my tops.
As soon as she gets home encourage her to walk (no lifting!!) If you live in a hot area walk only in airconditioning).
I would not have be able to do this without the support of my husband children and great friends. Keep doing what your doing and God bless.
Cheri

cabbott
Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

I have a right mastectomy as well as right side lung cancer. The chest tube area was sore after it came out and a prosthesis was out of the question. I went back to my polyester stuffed pillow prosthesis and put it in a camisole top from Walmart. It cost about 5 bucks. It wasn't elegant, but it was comfortable enough and made my clothes look "balanced". At home in bed I skipped out on anything but old PJ's or big T shirts. Getting drainage tubes out with breast cancer is painless--kind of like butterfly wings tickling you from the inside. Chest tubes after thoracic surgery are another matter. They need to be removed fast and the patient should hit the pain med button just beforehand. You should leave the room and expect a yelp or two. It was not horrid or anything, but it was hardly painfree. It didn't help that the guy doing mine was a student, did it slow and in two jerks. The supervising doctor was not happy with him. I had very wide eyes and said OW! Of course, the second chest tube I was prepared. Unfortunately it was completely painfree. It turned out the nerve that would signal pain there was cut. I still have no pain sensors there and a few muscles that would help me do situps don't get messages either. So if your mom yelps, tell her that means her nerves are working: good news in the long run.

shannalanai
Posts: 22
Joined: Jun 2008

Thanks for the warning on those chest tubes! I will have to remember her yelps are good too. I hate the thought of that for her. When I saw her incisions from the lumpectomy and where they removed the lymph nodes it was hard to look at cause they looked so painful. I am going to have to get over that stuff real quick huh? She will not be at a teaching hospital but I am not real sure how experienced this hospital is dealing with these types of surgeries. The surgeon told her if she wanted to go to a specialist for this it would not hurt his feelings but she said no that she felt very comfortable with him doing it. So it makes me nervous about how many of these he has done and how capable the hospital is for this but she has trust in him and she is the one getting the surgery so I need to lay my trust in him as well. And most inportantly in the Big man up above. Again, thanks so much for all the info...I really appreciate it!

shannalanai
Posts: 22
Joined: Jun 2008

Thank you so much for replying! I really appreciate it. Everyone's comments have helped out so much! It helps so much to know what to expect and to hear everyone's different experiences. When she had her lumpectomy for her breast cancer they had to remove some lymph nodes to dissect them and check them for cancer and she had an incision under her arm, so we are prepared for that one. I didn't think about a sports bra being softer. I think she got a wireless bra but not a sports bra. I will have to check with her. That may do much better! Thanks for that info!
Thanks so much for the info and support. It helps out more than words can say...its still scary but I don't feel so in the dark and that helps.

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