Time for another biopsy.
Hello readers. Part 1 of this blog series covered discovery of a spot on my husband George’s lung in November of 2013 and the comedy of errors that ensued with medical testing mixups and an attempt at a biopsy. To catch up, go here for Part 1.
We left off with a call from our family doctor on July 21, 2016 with bad news: The latest CT scan showed the spot on his lung had grown. The spot had measured 14 mm prior to this date, but it now measured 16 mm, plus it was irregular in shape. One part of it was 11 mm.
Back to the Pulmonologist
George was referred back to the lung doctor. I went to the appointment with him on August 22, 2016, and the doctor showed us the screen with pictures of the PET scan. I whipped out my cell phone and snapped a few photos.
He informed us the spot and lymph node had grown. Lymph node? This was the first time we’d heard about a lymph node being involved. Very alarming.
A knowledgeable friend explained what these PET scan photos show: “These are transverse sections of the thorax showing thin slices of the lungs inside and across the chest cavity. They take hundreds of thin slices through the thorax. Horizontal cuts.”
It’s still Greek to me. Even if the doctor had taken the time to explain it to us, all I could focus on at that appointment was the fact that a lymph node had been involved and we didn’t know.
August 26, 2016 – They did a bronchoscopy and the pulmonologist was able to get 12 tissue samples from the spot on the lung, but the lymph node was hard and the doctor was unable to penetrate it to get a sample. “It’s probably calcification,” he said.
The good news was that the lung didn’t collapse during the biopsy procedure like it did in December 2013.
Results of the August 2016 biopsy: “Non-diagnostic.”
The pulmonologist referred George to a thoracic surgeon because both spots were suspicious, showed hypermetabolic activity on the PET scan, and they wanted to get to the bottom of the problem.
Referred to a Thoracic Surgeon
September 8, 2016 – Dr. G, a cardiothoracic surgeon, seemed very competent. We liked him. He wanted to address the lymph node that was near the heart (in the hilar region of right lung). That’s the lymph node that was highlighted in the PET scan.
Dr. G explained that he needed to figure out if that lymph node was malignant. He said there was definitely something going on to cause it to be growing and changing. It could be cancer, pre-cancer, or an inflammation. So, lung surgery would be down the road after the lymph node issue was addressed.
First, he referred George to a cardiologist for a stress test to make sure his heart was strong enough for surgery. Dr. G also wanted a CT scan with IV contrast. It would take one to two weeks for the insurance to approve both and to get the appointments scheduled.
A lot of the things Dr. G told us were in technical medical terms we weren’t familiar with, plus he has a bit of an accent, so I’m not sure I completely understood everything.
I had him spell a lot of the terms for me, but in looking back, I now realize I misunderstood the procedure he explained to us, even after asking questions and listening to his answers. He was talking about two different procedures, but that wasn’t clear to me.
Once Dr. G received the CT results, he would have a better idea of what was going on with the lymph node. He told us if the biopsy of the lymph node came back as malignant, he would order chemotherapy before he removed it.
For the time being, we had to await clearance from the cardiologist and approval from the insurance for the testing and biopsy procedure.
Getting the appointments scheduled and insurance approval and necessary testing done dragged out for over a month.
In the meantime, our 40th wedding anniversary rolled around. This called for a special outing. George planned a dream date: Riding bikes at the beach. We had to rent one for me. It had been at least 25 years since I’d rode a bike, and he reserved one with hand brakes so I could set the speed to be easy to pedal. I hoped the learning curve for hand brakes would be a breeze.
September 12, 2016
The bike store was about six blocks away from the beach. It was nerve racking riding in the street following George, harrowing riding on the sidewalk, and challenging trying to slow down and not accidentally turn and hit people walking by. When I slowed down, it made it even harder to steer. It was easier to stop and let people pass. I have mild vertigo, so that kicked the difficulty level up another notch.
It was a beautiful day, although cloudy when we first got there, but then the sun came out while we rode toward Seal Beach. On the cement path, people and other bicyclists shared the walkway, so even though there were no cars to worry about, it was still tense for me. I know, W-I-M-P.
We ate lunch out on the sidewalk patio at an Irish pub and grill.
George got a patty melt on sourdough and I got tortilla soup and a Cajun chicken salad. The salad was delicious.
A Stroll on the Pier
After we finished lunch, the sun went behind the clouds, so it was cooler and the ocean breeze felt perfect. It wasn’t too hot or too cold. We parked our bikes, then walked to the end of the pier. So tranquil.
The weather couldn’t make up its mind. Cloudy, sunny, cloudy, sunny. Kind of like the ebb and flow of the ocean. And the ups and downs of life. If I was writing a novel, this could be a foreshadowing of what the near future had in store for us.
George took a short video of me riding the rental bike in the parking lot of the bike shop before we turned it in.
He was really hoping I’d fall in love with riding a bike, but his bubble was burst because I had no intention of ever getting on a bike again, although I didn’t have the heart to tell him that. I just said I wasn’t crazy about bike riding.
This concludes Part 2. In Part 3 I’ll cover the mediastenoscopy, a biopsy of a lymph node in the throat region and The Beach Boys concert at my all-school reunion. Cowabunga, dude!
What are your thoughts? Have you dealt with anything like this? Do you like to ride a bike? Do you love the beach?
I’d love to hear from you.
If you’d like to receive future posts, you can subscribe by email. Just fill in your email address in the window in the sidebar.
Thanks for stopping in!