I had an upper right lobectomy just a little over a week ago. I really don’t detect much difference in terms of my breathing ability, even though I have now lost a portion of my lung. I can still go up the stairs in my house without shortness of breath, walk my dog, and go for short walks on the treadmill (I am working on getting these to be longer as the distance from surgery increases).
You see, the right lung is made up of three lobes and the left lung is made up of two. I still have plenty of lung capacity left and in time, the remaining two lobes of my right lung should expand to fill the empty space in my chest where my upper right lobe used to reside.
My surgery was more difficult than doctor's expected
My lobectomy surgery lasted just about 4 hours, which is way longer than was originally expected. This didn’t bother me much since I was unconscious due to general anesthesia and had no idea of the time. However, my family and friends were kind of concerned that it was taking so long.
As a stage IV lung cancer survivor, it turns out that I had scar tissue from prior nodules that had disappeared with treatment and adhesions caused by years of targeted therapy, so my surgery was more difficult than the more standard lobectomy that a stage I patient might have.
Successfully performing a Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS)
My surgeon was awesome, because she still managed to perform my surgery as a Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS), despite some of these challenges. VATS is a minimally invasive surgery where three small incisions were made in my chest wall and a special camera and surgical tools were inserted through those incisions to remove my upper right lobe. During the surgery, my surgeon was able to view the inside of my chest through images from the camera, which guided her in performing the surgery. Science is incredibly awesome!
If the VATS had not been possible, I would have had a thoracotomy instead, which would have resulted in a larger incision made in my chest wall between my ribs and possibly the need to break one or more ribs. My recovery time would have been longer and likely more difficult with this more invasive procedure.
After my VATS surgery, I spent two nights in the hospital before going home. The nurses in the hospital had me up and walking on the same day as my surgery. It’s very important to do that in order to reduce the chances of getting blood clots.
In addition to walking to prevent clots, I had blood thinner injections in the hospital and continued them at home for 8 days (my husband got to do those, which definitely wasn’t the most fun thing we’ve done together as a couple!)
I am now officially NED!
I’m home now and feeling a little better and stronger every day! I just heard from my surgeon that the tumor that was in my right upper lobe had clean margins and all of my lymph nodes were clear of disease.
I am now officially NED (No Evidence of Disease), which is something I never thought would be possible when I was first diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer!
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