A person runs on a treadmill thinking about their lungs, which have gone through a lobectomy

Life Post-Lobectomy

It’s now a little over three months since my lobectomy in February and my life is completely different from what I expected. By now, I had hoped to be getting back into lung cancer advocacy work full time again, including travel to a number of conferences and other events. But given the current craziness in the world, these events have all been canceled or are being held virtually.

Finally past the initial pain and fatigue

Physically, I’m feeling really good. I’ve gotten past the initial pain and fatigue from my surgery and have nearly all of my energy back. In order to build up my endurance and eliminate any shortness of breath from reduced lung capacity, I have been walking at home on my treadmill (too cold to walk outside yet in Chicago). I started with 5 minutes at a time and have worked up to 30 minutes per day. I’ve even positioned my treadmill so that it faces out a window into my street so that I can get a little sun through the window and feel like I am outside.

Focusing on my recovery

Unlike any other exercise regimen I have attempted in my life, I am actually sticking to this one religiously. I have the time now and I’m not going anywhere. Hopefully, the 30 minutes per day will counteract any additional food or alcohol I am consuming because of increased time sheltering in place at my house! Seriously, though, I likely never would have been able to be so focused on my physical recovery if I had started traveling again, so this enforced period of staying home might end up as a positive for my health.

In addition to starting to exercise, I also have been sleeping more each night since I no longer have to wake up super early for morning flights!

My scars are healing

With respect to scars, I have three small ones from my VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery). Two are on my right side (one higher and larger than the other) and the third is on the upper right side of my back. All three are fairly healed now and remnants from the dissolvable stitches have fallen out. I can tell that they are mostly healed because I no longer want to scream whenever I cough or sneeze!

While the larger scar on my side still feels a little sore if I touch that area, the other two no longer do. This larger scar is from the incision made to remove the right lobe of my lung, so it makes sense that it’s more sensitive. The other two scars were from the incisions made for the breathing tube and camera.

Proud of my battle scars

While these scars might bother me if I was the type of person who wore a bikini to the beach, the way they look is not an issue for me at all. In fact, I am proud of them and consider them “battle scars” that I have earned through living with lung cancer.

The only lasting issue I have with my scars is that they have resulted in a newly formed hatred for all of my underwire bras! From talking to friends who have also had lobectomies, I fear this aversion might last for quite a while! I have found some fantastically comfortable camisoles with built-in bras, though, which may be my new norm. Ladies, if any of you are having a lobectomy and need recommendations, please let me know!

Feeling lucky and positive about what comes next

I consider myself very fortunate that I was able to have my lobectomy, especially since it likely would be considered “elective” and not occur in the current healthcare environment. I had a follow-up appointment and x-ray with my surgeon before sheltering in place, so I know that the rest of my right lung has expanded to fill the empty cavity where my right lobe used to be located.

Further scans and appointments have been postponed until June, and I hope to hear continued good news at that point. Please wish me luck!

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