The Unpredictable Complications of Surgery

Last updated: December 2022

I had surgery related to my lung cancer done on August 31, 2022. I did not go into the surgery thinking it would be easy, but I did not anticipate it to be this hard. We had been watching a lymph node in my abdomen for about a year. A PET scan was scheduled for August, but my anxiety got the best of me, and I moved it up to June. The PET scan showed that I had cancer in this lymph node, and I was given the option to radiate or remove it together via surgery.

Lung Cancer treatment: surgery or radiation?

I chose surgery over radiation for a few reasons. With surgery, the sample could be sent out and tested to see if there were new mutations. Also, it seemed like the lesser of two evils when it came to downtime. I am balancing cancer while also working full-time. Being sick and working full-time do not go well together. It isn't easy to get appointments in the evenings and on weekends. Of course, this is a topic for another post.

A leaky lymph node

Due to the location of the lymph node, I developed a Chyle leak. I was expected to stay in the hospital one night but ended up being there six nights. I was put on a restricted diet, and the doctors monitored the fluid from the leak. If it was too “milky,” I was told, “one more night.” This happened for six nights. It also did not help that the surgeon was on vacation, and I was working with his colleagues. The surgeon returned after the holiday, and I was discharged the same day.

What was hard about recovering from surgery?

I did not anticipate the things that surgery would do to my body. I was told that recovery was going to be about 4 to 6 weeks. On top of that, I was in the hospital every day for one week. I am one month out from surgery and still get exhausted during the day. I take a lot of naps.

Breathing

My breathing was affected by the surgery. After discharge, it was hard for me to walk even short distances. My birthday was shortly after I was discharged, and we had planned a trip to Galena, IL. This included a lot of walking. I did my best but had to stop a lot and catch my breath. I couldn’t even think about carrying anything AND walking. My weight restriction is 10 lbs. Carrying things and walking was very difficult.

Sleeping

Since I had a chest tube, I could not sleep on my side. I am a belly/side sleeper, so I had to adapt to a new way of sleeping. I chose to make my bed on the couch. It was a small victory when I was able to sleep in my bed again!

In pain

I was given a very strong medicine for the pain, which, again, I did not anticipate. I also used the pain meds to help me sleep.

Ultimately, if I had been able to anticipate the complications that developed, I would have taken a lot more time off of work to recover.

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