Chapter 9: Biopsy AND Results

Well, good medicine she was indeed. I had a fabulous time last weekend with family and was all geared up for my biopsy surgery this week on July 15.

I went for my pre-op appointment the day before which was a breeze, except for that time I stepped off the curb and rolled my ankle. It doesn’t matter where I am-If there is a curb, I will find it and step off of it awkwardly.

I had no trouble falling asleep the night before—a sense of “finally, it’s here” came over me and I was very peaceful and ready. We got to the hospital at 5:30 AM and they took me right in for pre-op. I wore my wonder woman t-shirt and socks, but they made me take them off for surgery. I found out it was going to be an hour and a half before surgery actually started. They had to sponge bathe me, do a few tests, and interview me for the 80th time. I had a very nice pre-op nurse-Jorge who was from Costa Rica who was very thankful for the work of physical therapists and loved hearing about pediatric sports medicine since he has 2 young athletes of his own. He was a great coach—reminding me over and over again that after surgery I had to walk a lot and do my breathing therapy.

Then the time finally came. They gave me some versed (“Happy juice”), I kissed Daniel goodbye and they wheeled me into surgery. This is of course the part where I wanted to pay attention because I am a nerd and always wonder how operating rooms work. The nurses laughed as I “jumped” onto the operating table from the stretcher and I said “I’m ready to get this done!” They kindly obliged as I asked them to take good care of my neck and jaw since I have some issues there. Then they strapped down my arms and the last thing I remember is the anesthesiologist (Dr. Chrysler) saying “ok, this is going to feel a little cold in your arm” and then I was out!

I woke up in recovery with a big plastic tube in my mouth and several nurses around me asking me to take deep breaths. I was obviously disoriented and groggy, but I knew what this was. Nebulizer. I could feel and hear a strange rattling in my right lung every time I breathed in and out, so they were trying to make sure my airways were open. Next came the nurses listening to my breath sounds, followed by the anesthesiologists. Then the portable chest x-ray to make sure I didn’t have a pneumothorax. FUN! I’d had a few asthma attacks in the past so this was actually fairly familiar, but a little unsettling. I quickly figured out that everyone was a little stressed about my breathing and then I figured out that “oh man, I have an incision on my neck and it HURTS.” This is the only time I felt un-brave. Surrounded by strangers, I felt very alone and scared. It was here that I gave myself a “shake it off, tough girl” pep talk and found a new wave of energy. Sink or swim Julie. You’re swimming. My breathing began to clear and everyone backed off a bit. The anesthesiologist came back and said that the surgeon had been very aggressive in my lung and it was likely full of a lot of fluid, so I would have to work to get that fluid off for the next few days. The chest x-ray was negative. Whew.

After 2 hours in recovery complete with some heavenly ice chips, they released me to “extended recovery” where I had the funniest and most animated nurse, Kelsey. I got to see Daniel and my parents and feasted on some applesauce (my new favorite food) and Percocet. 3 hours later, I was in a wheelchair on the way home.

Anesthesia was still rampant so I was feeling pretty good once I got home and set up camp on the couch. “Go big or go home” Julie set a timer for breathing treatments and walking, just as nurse Jorge had recommended. Home health PT was in full gear. I was starving and ate the most fantastic dinner of coconut milk ice cream, homemade chocolate fudge, and bacon followed by mint chip coconut ice cream for dessert. Hey, when you have surgery, it’s policy that you eat as much ice cream as you want, right?

I didn’t sleep well because I was still kind of wired from the day, and the next day, it totally hit me. Nausea, exhaustion, and pain. Spent the day on the couch, ran a bit of a fever, but began to feel some recovery setting in.

After my surgery, I didn’t actually see my surgeon, but Daniel and my parents did. He went over all his instructions with them, then they reviewed them with me later. I woke up in the middle of the night the 2nd night with a high fever and got up to take care of myself—nearly passing out in the middle of the kitchen. The whole room went fuzzy and it was everything I could do to quickly crawl back into bed and lay down. This was scary, because I remembered Daniel mentioning something about needing to call the doctor if I had a fever over 101, and I did. I called him in (we have been sleeping in separate rooms since I’ve been sick) and he was a very sweet 2 AM nurse, calming my fears and taking care of me. He reassured me this was probably just a random fever spike. I wasn’t so sure, given that I’d had fevers for 2 months now. I just didn’t know what to trust. Sure enough, my fever went down to the 96’s by the time I woke up.

Today I’ve spent the majority of the day on the couch resting. Anesthesia will catch up to you!

Right after lunch I was napping when my phone rang-it was the doctor’s office. THIS WAS IT.

I spoke with Julie, Dr. Moore’s PA, who told me that my biopsy results were in and EVERYTHING WAS NEGATIVE. My lymph nodes were just swollen but normal tissue, and my lung fluids were normal. We still don’t know what the mass is, however now that they know everything is negative, Dr. Moore isn’t 100 percent sure what the best next step is. So, he’s presenting my case at a thoracic surgery conference next Tuesday, where he will confer with other experts in the field including other surgeons, pulmonologists, and oncologists. So I will know better after that what the next steps are. Because I am only 31, otherwise healthy and unlike most of the patients treated for lung mass, they are going to try and be as aggressive as necessary while being as conservative as possible. Kind of makes me feel like a VIP, minus the red carpet. As my asthma doctor, Dr. Sheerin said (and I’ve repeated several times throughout this story)-yet again I don’t do anything in straightforward fashion. In this case I consider that a good thing.

Yay for great news! This was so comforting to get on a Friday going into a weekend. I was very anxious about having to wait out the weekend and possibly get a call on Monday while I was with patients. I’m so very thankful this worked out differently, and even more thankful that it turns out to not be a malignant tumor.

Stay tuned!

Read on to Chapter 10