The phrase “it’s never as bad as it seems” is not one that I often say. Nor one that I think often applies to me. We’ve had a few things in our neck of the woods which have definitely been as bad as they seemed. Worse even.
But this week was the exception.
On Tuesday I had an appointment to get fluid drained from my lung after some very noticeable shortness of breath. They drained 1.8 liters of pleural fluid (fluid that had accumulated between the lung and its lining). It is normal to have a few teaspoons of pleural fluid. After draining, they estimated that there was still about a liter remaining. It would have been too traumatic for the lung to drain any more than they did at one time, but I can have it drained again (and will next Tuesday).
Shortness of breath is a new thing for me as is the rather impressive amount of pleural fluid. Added to the shortness of breath is a bit of panic–why can’t I breathe right!? Mark and I were, of course, eager to find out what was causing it and how treatment might change to address it.
After an eventful Wednesday (tree falling taking out electricity, phone and internet and starting a tiny fire on the side of the house) and another day of waiting on Thursday (power restored hours after the tree fell–thank you to all who made that happen!!), we found out that Dr. Campbell would see us this morning with the lab results from the pleural fluid.
Of course, we didn’t know what to expect, but having almost 2 liters of fluid drained from a lung, in our minds, would probably warrant something. I think we were both rather certain that we would at the very least lose the meds I’m tolerating so well after only a few months’ use.
But things were actually not as bad as they seemed. This pleural effusion was caused by the irritation of tiny cancer cells in the pleural lining. Like a tearing eye trying to evict a sand particle, the fluid keeps building in hopes of flushing out the tiny offending cells. Dr. Campbell was unconvinced that having tiny cells in the lining was an indication that the cancer was growing. In fact, the x-ray taken just after draining the fluid showed that the nodes in the lungs were stable.
So, I will have the lung drained again for comfort on Tuesday. I will go back up to my full dose of Magestrol (the oral med I’m on) and I’ll stay on Herceptin. We’re hoping that upping the Magestrol will clear up the tiny irritating cells. If it does not, there is an option of draining the fluid completely and then putting in a sealant between the two layers to keep this from happening again (amazing!).
While my breathing is still not normal (rats, i’ll have to sit in the chair and read again rather than scrubbing the tub), my spirits are back up where they belong. Things really are not as bad as they seem. Hooray!
In case you needed a visual reminder of how much fluid was drained…
(that was for you, Heather :) )