I figured I would start with my first post with telling you a bit more in depth about my personal journey with Lung Cancer.
2014 was a very rough year for me, I was consistently sick with a cold, pneumonia, the flu, bronchitis, I could not catch a break! August rolled around and while my cold symptoms subsided, I was unbelievably tired at all times. I looked like a giant marshmallow and my skin was almost grey. At work everyone would tease me because I was exhausted and had this grandpa wheeze in my voice. (We all thought it was VERY funny, we learned very quickly that it was not). On August 25th, 2014 I picked up the phone to answer a call and my voice completely went out. It was like I was hit with a surprise bout of laryngitis. I was holding my shoulder because I felt a sharp pain and waddled to my boss’ office. I walked across the street to a City MD and was immediately rushed into a room. When you tell a nurse you are having chest pain and shortness of breath they do not stop until you are receiving an EKG so they can make sure you’re not having a heart attack. Normally I wouldn’t be happy with this diagnosis, but the nurse read the results wrong and I was rushed to the hospital with a “heart attack”. Being a true New Yorker, I knew the traffic would be terrible and it would be way easier to walk the 6 blocks. So I took my bag, watched the ambulance pull up and walked 6 blocks south and 2 avenues over to NYU Langone Hospital. Little did I know when I walked through those doors, that I would walk out with one less organ.
In the emergency room, I was given another EKG and a heart attack was ruled out. I was rushed to radiology to have a CT scan where I was told my entire right lung had collapsed. I remember the nurse telling me, it could be a mucus clot, a blood clot, or some sort of mass. I was taken upstairs to my new home for the next week and pumped full of antibiotics. The next week was a rotation of Physical Therapists banging on my back to get out my mucus clot, plus a lot of jello and Law and Order SVU. Finally nothing was improving and a pulmonologist sent me to get a hard bronchoscope. I would not wish this on my worst enemy, it was ZERO percent fun, but it was effective. As I was given a popsicle, put in my own room on the recovery floor and given a DVD to pick out I knew something was wrong. In walked 4 nurses, and my pulmonologist. I was told they found a mass. I said, “Great, A mass of what?” They chuckled, I chuckled and then realized by mass, they meant tumor. I had a tumor in my lung, not a mucus plug, but a tumor. I was in shock, I had previously told my parents to please stay in North Carolina, I am an adult and could handle a little mucus….now that we were working with the C-word, up came the parents. I was rushed and given a more invasive bronchoscope to determine what kind of tumor. When I woke from the procedure I was told my tumor had to be taken out immediately. It was a Carcinoid, and I was very lucky that it wasn’t something worse. This fell right on Labor Day weekend, and because like school kids doctors don’t work on that weekend, my emergency surgery was on hold until Tuesday September 2nd, 2014.
On Monday September 1st, 2014 I remember saying goodnight to my parents and sitting in my hospital room waiting for my surgery in the AM. I was watching American Ninja Warrior, and it was the first time a girl had made it to this round. I watched and remember saying if she makes it through this I will keep my lung. (VERY stupid in hindsight). She fell about 2 seconds into the course, I turned off the tv and closed my eyes. The next morning I was taken to surgery. After 4 hours I came out tumor-less, cancer-less, and lung-less. I spent the remainder of the week in a step down unit being bathed by amazing nurses, visited by the best friends a girl could ask for, and having my parents by my side every single minute. (Shout out to the BEST parents in the world).
I was taken out of the step down unit, to a regular room with an amazing woman named Dorothy. She had just had heart surgery and we would talk and watch tv and heal together. When I was finally released I went back to my house to begin the real process of getting better. It took me 5 weeks before I was back to work. 7 weeks in total to lose my lung and heal. I was running a mile 54 days after my surgery. Today I forget most days about my one lung, but I never forget about how lucky I am that I was given a second chance. Many people with a diagnosis of lung cancer don’t get to just have it taken out and live a very long life. And I hope to live in a world where my story, is everyones Lung Cancer story.