The day before my scheduled VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery) to remove three nodules that were suspected of being lung cancer went smoothly. 7AM I found myself on the 8th floor for a fasting blood draw and vitals. Then on to another floor for pulmonary testing to determine my lung capacity prior to surgery. The technician shared surprisingly, “Your lungs tested great. You have perfect lung capacity.” Check.
Then on to the surgeons office for a preoperative consult. The nurse who schedules surgery explained where to report, what would happen and how the day would go. The surgeon came in to give final instructions. He explained he would be making about a two inch incision between my ribs where the camera would be inserted. Then he would make smaller incisions for the instruments. He would remove three wedges of my left lung. They would test the frozen samples right there in the operating room. Then post surgery, from recovery I would be taken to a room where they would monitor me to be certain the lung remained re-inflated. I would have oxygen and would be uncomfortable. I would have a chest tube to drain the fluids from surgery from the lung and as soon as that subsided it would be removed. The entire hospital stay would be about three days.
Everything went exactly as described. Post surgery, Doctor shared with Tommy my tumors were positive for adenocarcinoma (cancer)….we would need to wait to see what type of cancer from the pathology report. This would take several days because the tissue would need to be grown on slides called “stains” . But, he felt 90% it was lung cancer. This would be highly treatable in this early stage. They also removed some lymph nodes for testing.
Everything unfolded as explained. The surgery ran about two and a half hours, as Tommy waited for me patiently in the same waiting room he had waited four years before for 9.5 hours during the whipple procedure. Once I had spent an hour in recovery, I was moved to a room on the 7th floor. Tommy joined me.
The chest tube caused far more discomfort than I had anticipated. Dr. explained he had to go far into the top of my left lobe to get one of the wedges and could have caused some nerve damage. I was not able to sit upright or get out of the bed for about 24 hours. But, once the drainage subsided, the tube was removed and I felt immediate relief. I was sore, but no longer had shooting pain when I moved.
Thursday I was released from the hospital and sent home to await the pathology report that all of my doctors agreed would probably reveal the tumors were lung cancer. They thru out a 90% figure which gave us hope.
It was the fourth of July weekend, and my surgeon said sometimes he might get a call on Friday at 4PM with results. Not surprisingly Friday came and went and no phone call. But, Saturday around 1:30 in the afternoon he called. “Is your husband home?” “Yes, let me get to him and put us all on speaker.” I said as I rushed up the stairs to his “man cave” where he was watching golf.
This phone conversation was a complete shock to Tommy as the Dr. shared the results of the pathology report….”the tissue is consistent with pancreas cancer.” The doctor was obviously shocked. We just didn’t see this coming he said. The behavior and growth of these nodes made us believe they were lung cancer. We ended the conversation with “we will discuss this further next week.”
Tommy hung up the phone in total disbelief. “Why would they give us such huge odds and then come back with this report?”
We agreed to reach out to my pancreas cancer surgeon as I texted him to please call me. He called after a short time having called my oncologist and thoracic surgeon to confer.
Basically they all were surprised with this result. Further testing and discussion will be forthcoming. We will determine next steps and a plan will be in place within a couple of weeks.
Personally, I held a small doubt that it was lung cancer. Perhaps out of fear? Perhaps preparing for the worst so I could be joyful in the lung cancer report. I believe that God, not my surgeon or my oncologist or the pathologists in the lab are in control. Nothing about this cancer from May, 2014 has been typical. So why should A-typical results now be such a shock?
Plus, this energizes me even more to shout it from the rooftops…..”This mysterious cancer needs our attention.”
July 11th fifteen Zitiello’s will board a flight to Italy were we plan to have the time of our lives, just as we did in July 2015 after completion of my surgery and treatment. We are not going to let this news engulf us or lead us to the chair in a lump.
God knows exactly how this will all turn out. I plan to allow Him to let it unfold exactly as He wants it. And, hopefully we will all emerge prepared and more informed and more hopeful. Nothing about my pancreas cancer has been typical so far….so why would it be now?
Please pray for me and more importantly for my family to have the courage to continue to battle. We firmly believe that is why I am still here. God has more work for me to do. I will lean on Psalm 91 to bring me thru, nestled under His wing feathers is where I will remain.