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surgery question

laurieg's picture
laurieg
Posts: 18
Joined: Jun 2008

I try to be positive everyday, but I do have a question about surgery. I had a thoracotomy and my top right lobe removed on the 13th, and still can't sleep that good at night. I sleep a bit here and there through the day in a recliner. But at night I hurt and am unconfortable. Is this normal? Also, about a week ago I contracted contact dermatitis on the palms of my hands. I have what looks like blisters all over the palms of my hands with the most intense itchy. Anybody experience this or am I just the lucky one? Also being new to this whole lund cancer thing, is it eaiser after surgery to breath in the air conditioning, I feel like it is. Wow!!! I sound like I'm whining! I don't like that so might I add it is a beautiful sunny morning and I am so happy and grateful to be alive.

cabbott
Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

Call the surgical center about the contact dermatitis. You may have been given a drug in the hospital that caused it, or maybe you are taking the drug now. You will want to see what drug it is as allergies can get worse. Even if it isn't an allergy, the nurse or doc on duty can give you an idea of what to do. Don't be afraid to call them about anything, even the sleeping problem. Pain is very normal after surgery. Did they give you any pain med prescription before you left the hospital? I left without mine because I didn't think I needed it. Then the hospital IV stuff wore off and I was in deep do-do. I ended up having to go see my GP to get a prescription because oxicodone is a controlled substance. My hospital was out of state and too far to go for a bottle of pills. The prescribed dose or a little less was enough to take the edge off the night pain. During the day I managed with regular Tylenol. Finally I got to where I could take Tylenol or nothing at night too. I know it was scary for me to HAVE to take a controlled substance for pain, but I knew I needed to get the pain under control so I could heal. Pillows helped too when I slept in bed. I have a body pillow and a couple of other pillows that helped me sleep at a slant or lay on my good side without my arm pressing down on my bad side(kind of like hugging a log). A fan or ceiling fan in your face can help with breathing too. The worst situation was when I got frustrated and cried. Just don't, take my word for it. Falling on your incision isn't a good idea either and I did that in the bathroom trying to wash my own hair. Um, it is safer in the kitchen sink with one of those squirter things. I survived and it was amazing how much better I was in just a few weeks. I am still not totally "back to normal" after two years. Some areas of my ribs hurt when you press on them. The incision where the second chest tube was is still red and feels funny. Most of my chest and back are numb and feel "asleep". But I am able to do most things and I did not need pain meds after the first month. Folks with conventional lung surgery tell me that recovery can take more than a year. Let your surgical team know your needs so that they can prescribe what works for you.
You absolutely need the air conditioning!!! You are now the person they are talking about when they say that the humidity, heat index, or pollution index is dangerous for folks with breathing impairments. Especially right now you NEED the AC. My mom took me walking in a local mall that caters to senior citizens who need to walk in AC. I could barely keep up with the oldest of them, but the exercise helped me heal too (as well as sleep at night). I needed it flat and cool. It took a while before I was ready for a walk around my neighborhood and I live in a state without mountains or many hills. You are recovering from MAJOR surgery and your circulatory and respiratory systems need time to readjust. Just getting the general anesthesia out of your system takes awhile too (more than a few days!). You will get better. I had my last lung surgery on August 2nd two years ago (almost) and by October of the same year I was back in the gym. I had to take it easier than usual, but I worked up to where I am now pretty much back to normal in all areas. I do spinning, cardio, yoga, and weight lifting as my rehab. Some folks go to standard rehab if their recovery is too slow. I didn't qualify for that, but the daily exercise is my kind of rehab so I can do what I need to do the rest of the day. Just do your breathing exercises right now and go for a walk where it is cool when you feel up to it. Work gradually up to a mile a day inside on a flat surface. Then gradually challenge yourself to what you can do outside. Different folks heal at different rates, so take it easy. My mom would add to eat protein at every meal to aid healing too. Eat small meals. Large ones make it harder to breathe.

laurieg's picture
laurieg
Posts: 18
Joined: Jun 2008

Thanl You for all your info. I did see the doctor on Monday about my hands and their the ones who told me it was the contact dermatitis. All of the other info was very helpful.

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

I had my lower right lobe removed, laurie, followed by a second surgery after contracting a staph infection. And this was my second cancer (I hope).

I say that to advise you that I did not have any ribs messed with (VATS) and that I was sort of used to the routine due to the previous, much more involved surgery a couple of years earlier.

Cabbott always gives good advice, and I would go with that, but I have to add my bit here: bearing in mind that I had first two tubes and then three (following the infection surgery) I was TOLD that I would want to sleep on the side where the tubes had been (and where they were, when I was in the hospital). Oddly enough, this proved to be the case. And it did hurt. As Cabbott suggests, I was given a pillow by the staff at my hospital, a sort of midget pillow with a hole in it that I could stick my arm through, and this is what I used nightly for the first couple of weeks.

Like you, I did not sleep well at first, but it doesn't take long (at least it didn't for me) to get used to things and to move on. I even had a portable IV when I came home, and still found a way to sleep after just a week or so without much interruption.

So there is hope :).

BUT...I had no ribs broken, and can't imagine how much extra that adds to the equation. And that just points out again how we all are at least a bit different in our treatment, care, and experiences.

Re the dermatitis, that was not an issue for me, but I have found very recently that I have developed a limp on my right side, when I was fairly athletic before all of this. Okay...I was a heart attack waiting to happen and cancer saved me from that (:)) but I really was someone who had no other problems, and suddenly I'm limping from time to time and don't know why.

I just turned 52 this month, so limping is completely out of the question :).

As for whining, my friend, that is part of the package. When you feel a need to whine, this is as good a place as any to do it.

As for the AC, I must say that I cannot stand a fan pointed in my direction, but the AC is not a problem, except for the cold feeling. I have been told my platelets are low, as are my white blood cells, and so that probably explains that. I agree with Cabbott that AC is a whole lot better than getting outside IF the environment (like mine right now) is filled with smoke from fires or is generally polluted. Otherwise, if you are in, say, Michigan, I would say get out, enjoy the air, get some vitamin D (not too much) and relish life!

I wish you well. I have a feeling that you are going to be fine, just based on the spirit I sense in your posts.

Take care,

Joe

cabbott
Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

If there is a next time I have to get a chest tube, I'm going to ask for that midget pillow. I have rolled on my owwweee side every time I have had surgery and it always woke me up. I just used my pillows to keep me from rolling and ouching myself awake. No one told me that most patients want to lay on that side or that there was a special pillow to get! I am always amazed at what you can learn here. By the way Joe, I hope you will talk to your GP about that limp. We can have other problems than cancer and most have solutions---maybe like your special pillow was for sleeping on your side! (My son the runner says try a cold gel pack on whatever hurts for 20 minutes on, 20 off if the injury is new and whatever NSAID your doc recommends, but you didn't say it was a hurt you could trace. Either way, you are in my prayers.)

laurieg's picture
laurieg
Posts: 18
Joined: Jun 2008

I didn't get amidget pillow either and it sounds great! I am going to check into it.

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

Cabbott:

Thank you for your concern, my friend. Actually, there is no pain in my leg. It is rather as though it has fallen asleep, even though I don't get that tingling sensation either. I just know that sometimes when I walk it is as if I have to drag that right leg along almost (ah, memories of being Frankenstein in childhood Halloween nights come to mind :)).

I coached soccer for 15 years, and I am wondering if I am developing a hip problem associated with all of those years of kicking a ball.

In any event, I will check with my GP, as soon as he gets over the Giants winning the Super Bowl so that I can bear his presence again :).

Take care, my friend,

Joe

cabbott
Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

Joe,

How are your abdominal muscles working? The surgeon put the 2nd chest tube in for me right where the nerve that enervates the right abdominal rectus muscle (the big long muscle that runs from your chest down sitting to one side or the other of your belly button) was.The chest tube went under my arm just at the bottom of my bra line(I know, you don't have one of those but I think you can get directions enough from that!). Without that nerve, my right side abdominal rectus muscle just doesn't work. The left is taking over somewhat, but forget doing 3 situps in a row. Two is an Olympic accomplishment for me at the moment. I only mention it because my right foot doesn't come up easily since the operation. I notice the drag, but there is not a real limp so far. I just have trouble getting my shoe tied as easily every morning and need an arm "assist" to bring my leg up every time I do a "warrior one" at yoga from a push up position. Mind you, mine was bad from the time I woke up and is slowly getting better as more muscles take over the abdominal work, so if yours is doing the opposite, it is more likely something else. At least it doesn't hurt, even though my performance every morning at the gym is pretty sorry when it comes to situps! You can tell if it is that because when you try to do a slight situp, only the one side muscle next to your belly button gets rigid. The other side is missing. Sorry if your team lost. Maybe next year!

C. Abbott

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

Cabbott:

No problem with the abdomen, but your description of your foot is exactly the same as what I am experiencing in that regard. In addition to the limp, I can not cross my big toe with the next one like I can with the left (the things we talk about in here :)) and I can't arch it upward...and yes, it is a tad more difficult to put a sock on that foot. Hmmm.

I started out with two chest tubes for my lobectomy, and then had three after a second surgery to remove the stuff generated by a staph infection (MSSA). So there was certainly the possibility of nicking a nerve. I will be seeing OncoMan tomorrow, and will start by bringing this up with him and go from there.

Thanks again, my friend.

Joe

PS No comment re the Super Bowl :)

laurieg's picture
laurieg
Posts: 18
Joined: Jun 2008

Joe,
Thank you for all of your advice. I amnot the kind of person who normally sits and talks to people on the computer. But since my diagnosis, it has turned into my therapy in a way. To be able to talk to people who are going through what I am or just to talk to people about it has been a blessing to me. Thank you again for taking the time to talk with me. Also thank you to everyone else who answers me. It means so much that people take time out of their busy lives to do that. God Bless

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

Laurie:

I wouldn't necessarily go asking around for a 'midget pillow' :). (They may re-admit you and put you on 'that' floor :)). It is more like a donut, simply a small pillow with a hole in the middle. But it did work wonders for me.

Re the advice, some of us, me, anyway, consider it a blessing of sorts to be able to help by sharing our experiences. My reward is in that, when I am truly able to help.

And, as you point out, it is nice to have a place where everybody knows your name (:)) so to speak.

Take care, and best wishes!

Joe

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