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Post chemo/radiation Stage 3b question

Jen McC
Posts: 2
Joined: Jul 2011

Hi, my mom (56yr.old) has just completed an intense combo of chemo & radiation and is doing well cancer wise. They told us that her lung is very damaged and that the treatment actually worked "too well" While this is ok on some counts, her breathing is very laboured and they inform us that it might never get better. Her heart rate is also very high, goes up to 140-150 when she walks around. Is there anyone out there that has been here? Will it get better? Does breathing therapy work? She is very depressed and any positive feedback would be appreciated. Thank you.

Glenna M's picture
Glenna M
Posts: 1576
Joined: May 2009

My breathing is also very labored and my lungs are in such bad shape that they can't operate until I have had therapy to improve the lung function. Doctors said mine are only functioning at about 25% but it is from the tumors, scar tissue and emphysema. I have been doing breathing exercises that were posted on this site, using my spirometer and will start Pulmonary physical therapy next week.

I wish I could tell you more about therapy but please encourage your mother to try it. The online exercises do make me feel a little better and they show breathing techniques for when you get too short winded. Please check out this site and have her try them.

http://www.youtube.com/user/lungexercise#p/c/1526604DDA1D82AD/3/iIrAUL_VmiU

Please keep us updated on her progress.

Stay strong,
Glenna

Jen McC
Posts: 2
Joined: Jul 2011

Hi Glenna,
Thanks for your info. It's greatly appreciated, I will share with my mom. I know that her oxygen levels are good (95) but she just doesn't seem to be able to catch her breath. Do you have 3b? Do you find it difficult to walk around? How far out are you from finishing treatment? Thank you so much!!

Glenna M's picture
Glenna M
Posts: 1576
Joined: May 2009

I'll try to make a long story short :) May '09 I was diagnosed with 1a NSCLC in left lung and after PET scan it was determined I also had SCC Supraglottic Laryngeal cancer T3N0M0 also. Two separate types of cancers. Received chemo (cisplatin) and 35 rad treatments. After completing this I had 4 sessions of Stereotactic Radiosurgery, this is a more targeted radiation for my lung because the tumor was small but it was also too close to my pulmonary artery for surgery. When I was originally diagnosed they also saw a spot in my right lung but the oncologist said not to worry, he said he didn't believe it was cancer but they would keep a close eye on it.

In Feb.'11 my CT showed "subtle changes" in my lungs, May CT scan showed the changes were "more distinguishable" so they did a PET scan which showed a 2" tumor in my right lung plus activity in my left lung and lymph nodes in the center of my chest. Right now they are not sure what stage I am or whether this is reoccurence or a new cancer.

After seeing a thoracic surgeon and pulmonologist it was determined that it was not safe to do any surgery (even a biopsy) because my lungs are not functioning well. Now I will be seeing a physical therapist twice a week but I had already started doing as much as I can to strengthen my lungs at home before I start therapy. In the couple weeks that I have been doing the breathing exercises, using the spirometer and walking daily I can see changes in my breathing. I still get short of breath when walking but have learned to breath properly and control it so I can continue to walk. I walk quite slowly but I still manage to walk 1 mile in a half hour. I also found the online exercises that I posted the link for to be very relaxing and I would breath a little easier for a while after doing them. My oxygen level is only 92 or 93 so your moms is a little better than mine.

I have no problems breathing when I am lying down but do find that I am a little short of breath when I first get up and start moving around. I also cough a little when I first get up but am fine for the rest of the day.

I truly feel that physical therapy will do her good and they will be able to show her how to breath properly.

Please stay in touch.

My best to you and your mom,
Glenna

Ex_Rock_n_Roller's picture
Ex_Rock_n_Roller
Posts: 281
Joined: Mar 2011

One year past end of treatment (radio and 2 chemos) for 3B, and age 59.5 here. I'd like to be of more help than I'm probably going to be, but I think the big variable is the location of the radiation. My problem was largely in my left main stem bronchus, so any radiation I took directly to the lungs was kind of overlap/"mopping the floor" stuff. I basically wasn't getting any air at all into the one lung when I started treatment, and I was a serious fitness buff beforehand, so I was blowing normal numbers just before diagnosis even on 1.2 lungs. Within two weeks of the start of radiation, I could tell I was getting air in better than I had been in months.

HOWEVER: I did sustain damage to the tissue of both lungs (they had to nuke a node on the right side), and I'm pretty sure my pulse rate went up appreciably (into the hundreds). I have no idea what your mom's situation will be, but I'm now back to low sixties/high fifties at rest on a good day, and can hike and bike. I too have been told that lost function won't come back, but you can entertain the thought that maybe it's too soon for your mom to tell how she really is. It's going to be a full month beyond end of treatment before she feels "normal" under the best of conditions.

I didn't do any targeted exercises, just my normal activities (walking and biking) in ever-increasing amounts. Assuming she is going to improve, I can tell you even as a wannabe jock that she will stay at the same level (i.e. feel like she's gaining nothing) possibly for weeks at a time. Then she may wake up one day and feel like she just popped up to another level. It has happened to me more than once.

She should stick with some kind of exercise program, not matter how minimal. So say I, non-expert! All the best of luck to her!

Dan620
Posts: 220
Joined: Dec 2009

Hi Jen, Ex_Rock_n_Roller is right it does get better, it took me about 5 weeks after end of treatments (4 chemo Taxol & Carbo and 35 Rads) before fatigue and breathing started getting better. August 27th will be 3 years since last chemo & rads and i would say i'm about 90% of what i was before dx, turned 69 June 20th. ..... Best wishes to your Mom and family.... Dan

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