Tag Archives: bronchoscopy

Not So Bad After All!

I’m happy to report that I survived the bronchoscopy & the lavage – and I don’t think I’ll actually need years of therapy to move on from the experience!  The psyche-out proved to be worse than the reality. And while the experience was not pleasant, neither was it the traumatizing torture I had anticipated.

This is in no small part attributable to Dr. Lungs’ incredible capacity to communicate with patients in a manner that is calming, informative, human and respectful all at once.  The guy has a gift, I’m telling you.  Imagine explaining to a patient that you are going to make them gargle something that tastes like crazy glue, fasten a muzzle-like contraption around their mouth, stick tubes down their throat, poke around in the lungs a bit and then wash them out with “about half a pop can’s worth” of saline – and instead of having the woman run screaming from the room, she becomes more confident, calmer, less anxious.  Seriously.  Even throughout my cross-examination he remained personable, and cool as a cucumber:

 

“Am I going to feel like I’m drowning?”

“No.”

“But aren’t my lungs sort of designed to reject water?”

“Yes; you might cough a little, but you probably won’t feel it.”

“Am I going to gag on the tube thingy?”

“No, the freezing and the sedative will take care of that.”

“Can I please be heavily sedated?”

“We’ll make sure you are comfortable.”

“Can you make sure I’m a vegetable?”

“Don’t worry, we we’ll make sure you don’t feel any discomfort or anxiety during the procedure.”

“Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.”

 

Between him, the lovely nurses and the fabulous drug cocktail with which I was sedated (“We’re going to give you your martini now,” said the nice nurse), it was completely bearable.  Because I was completely stoned.

I already had a cold and a cough going into it, and was told that might make the recovery slightly worse, but apart from post-procedure coughing I feel fine.  I mean, I was doped up to the nines and had to sign a waiver saying I wouldn’t make any legal or financial decisions today (wait… is signing a waiver a legal decision?) so of course I slept deeply and magnificently all afternoon, and now I feel fine.  Cough-cough-coughy and tired but fine.

And now that it’s all just a slightly blurry memory, we have nothing to do but wait to see what the good doctor was able to discover with his lung-spelunking activities.  He assured me that it isn’t emphysema, and I’m still hanging on to his previous “99.9%” assurance that it isn’t lung cancer, so I can at least stop obsessing about those two horrors and focus on hoping for good news.

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The Ominous “Procedure”

It’s Sunday night and I’m feeling a little anxious about tomorrow’s bronchoscopy/lavage procedure.  I’m contemplating what it will entail:  they’ll put the equivalent of a drain-snake down my throat and into my lungs and then (because that’s not horrifying enough a prospect) they’ll wash my lungs out with salt water.  And they plan to do all this while I’m awake.

For real.  Doesn’t it sound alien abduction-esque?  Or like something that might happen at Guantanamo?   

At least I’ll be sedated, which is the next best thing to being out cold. I’m hoping to be heavily sedated. Like sky-high and super mellow, simultaneously.  Goofy smile, drool, whatever.  Just as long as I don’t feel like I’m choking on tubes and drowning at sea.

Maybe my imagination is worse than the reality will be.  Perhaps it won’t be so traumatizing, this tubes-down-the-throat procedure and this so-called “lavage.”  (They can’t fool me; just becasue they say it in French it doesn’t make it ok.)  Anyway, unpleasant as it may be, I know it must be done – we need to know what’s going on in my lungs, and sooner rather than later.  I just hope that whatever it is that we find, it’s more pleasant to treat than it is to diagnose.

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Sightings in the Solar System

When we got my fantastic CT scan results, I think I mentioned that we were still waiting for my doctor to get the results of my chest scan.  Well, yesterday she called to confirm that all of the affected (cancerous) lymph nodes between my lungs have indeed either stabilized or shrunk!

 <Insert sound of cheering here>

Yes, yes! Wonderful, thrilling, spectacular news, and I’m obviously happy as can be. But before we go high-fiving and popping the champers, there is a bit of a “However,” and it goes like this:

However, there are other little spots on my lungs that appear to have increased in size and number.

 <Insert deflated sigh here>

My oncologist explained that it would be unusual for some metastasized cancer spots to shrink or stabilize while some grow, so just what these spots are is a bit of a mystery.  Also, the dry, squeaky pet toy cough has returned, and she wants to find out if there is some kind of infection that should be treated before we completely steamroll my immune system with chemo.

So, off I went this morning to see a respiratory specialist at Toronto General, my friend Angelique at my side, acting as my emotional buttress and auxiliary brain. Child of two highly accomplished doctors, she knows her way around a hospital, and we sometimes call her Spawn of Doctors, or more affectionately, Spawny.

The respiratory doctor – let’s call him Dr. Lungs – was personable and professional and Angelique and I both give him full marks for bedside manner and professionalism.  He’s the kind of doctor that makes you feel safe – he knows what he’s doing and he treats you like a human being.  He should probably be on a speaking tour, instructing other doctors on how to interact with patients, but unfortunately I need him here right now.  He asked questions, and I gave him my cancer history, rattling off dates, clinical terms and names of drugs like a keener med student.  (This is what you learn to do after living with cancer for a while; you learn your medical terms.  It makes things go faster and more smoothly.)

In order to try to find out what those mystery spots are, Dr. Lungs wants to do a procedure which sounds rather nasty and involves sticking a probe down my throat and checking out the little flecks and then washing my lungs with salt water.  The probe is called a “bronchoscopy” and the water part is called “lavage” which is French for “washing” and English for “simulated-drowning-at-sea.”  Not the most festive event on my holiday calendar, to be sure.

On the upside, Dr. Lungs showed us the supercool CT scan imagery of my chest cavity and not only did it look like the solar system in a bucket, but when he was pointing out the flecks that have grown and multiplied we actually couldn’t tell them from the other “normal” flecks – and this was effectively a comfort to me. 

He moved his cursor around a galaxy in the right lung and said: “Here you see the abnormal spots from the August scan…”

“Mmm-hmmm…” We murmured appreciatively, thinking “Um, no, actually we don’t see them. They look just like all those other things you said are normal spots.”

Then he moved his cursor to the other side of the screen, where my most recent CT scan was, and said: “And here you can see that the spots have grown a bit, and that there are more of them.”

“Ahhh. Mmmm.” We said, thinking, “Dude, that looks like the planetarium.  Seriously, we can’t tell good spots from bad spots.”

So, thanks to our inability to interpret CT scans, it wasn’t as scary as it was fascinating.  It practically made us want to listen to Pink Floyd and spark up a joint, which probably (being a respiratory doctor) he wouldn’t have permitted. The important thing is that the technology was amazing, and his explanations were reassuring.  It made me feel like we can see what sneaky little cancer is up to.

Anyway, the “procedure” is scheduled for Monday morning.  I am hoping it reveals an infection, because if it doesn’t, we still have a mystery on our hands. As for the cough, Dr. Lungs thinks it could be caused by this constantly dripping faucet that I used to call my nose.  There is some kind of treatment for that but my auxiliary brain will have to remind me what it was.  Between the glorious “99.9 percent certainty” that the flecks aren’t lung cancer, the dazzling digital apparition of the solar system within my chest cavity, and the freaky details about my “procedure” –  I was pretty much at capacity.  My disc is full.  Thank god for emotional buttresses & auxiliary brains.  

Armour up, everybody, looks like we’re hunting dragons again.

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