I have lung cancer, and I don’t smoke. Wuuut?

I had a cough.

I had a cough that wouldn’t go away or get better, no matter what my doctor prescribed.

I also had back pain, back pain so bad that I ate ibuprofen all day just to make it through work, home, sleep. Repeat. And it kept getting worse!

My doctor and I pursued the cough. First with prednisone, then, antibiotics. My lungs cleared up with the prednisone, and my snot went from rainbow colors back to clear after the antibiotics, but the cough stayed. I would cough so hard that I thought I would puke. I’m not a puker. It. Was. BAD!

I coughed every minute, if I didn’t use my rescue inhaler every four hours, which would wear off after about three hours. I had to have a hard candy in my mouth to suppress the cough around the clock. And if someone came into my workplace with too strong of fragrance on? Forget it. I was in the bathroom coughing until the air cleared.

I got a chest X-ray on a Monday morning after telling my doctor that the cough wasn’t improving. Something was wrong. The chest X-ray showed a mass in my right lung. She told me on Tuesday morning. I called my boyfriend immediately after. It wasn’t bronchitis or pneumonia or anything I expected. “I need to talk to you right now!” I said with tears bursting from my eyes. He talked to me calmly as I drove home to pick him up. I called my boss to let her know, and neither of us went to work that day. My boyfriend and I went to get coffee, then came home, went to our room and held each other. We talked and cried and talked some more for the rest of the day.

My doctor ordered a CT scan. I got that done on Wednesday, during a blizzard. It showed more than just a mass in my lung. I had bone damage in my spine and fractures in my right femur and ribs, and a couple of other spots lit up in the scan. It also showed excess fluid around my heart and lungs. The mass had spread.

My doctor ordered a biopsy. I went in for that the following Tuesday. My boyfriend stayed with me the whole time, and waited for me just outside the procedure room. The surgeon took tissue from my lymph nodes around my left clavicle. Supraclavicular. I was sedated but awake for the procedure, and the surgeon talked me through every step. He used a hollow needle and ultra sound to find the right place to sample, then inserted another needle into the hollow needle that could grab tissue. I remember him explaining what the needle sounded like when they snipped the tissue before he went in and grabbed it. It sounded like scissors cutting through something very thick, like a zip-tie.

Even though the procedure was fairly simple and quick, healing from it took weeks. I had a terrible bruise to cover up every day at work, and eventually I gave up trying and just let my rainbow skin show.

We had the preliminary results from the biopsy the next afternoon. I left work an hour early and had my boyfriend meet me at the doctor’s office this time.

Pulmonary Metastatic Adenocarcinoma.

From what my boyfriend and I had read, this was the one we thought it would be based on my symptoms.

My doctor and another doctor at the office called and pestered a local hospital, renowned for its cancer care. The best in the state, and one of the best in the nation. My boyfriend told me that if we didn’t get in to this one, he would fly us to Dallas to get me into the second best cancer hospital in the nation. Oh my god, I love this man!

We had our diagnosis, but we didn’t have our why. I am young and healthy and am what the medical people call a “never smoker.” We had to wait for genetic testing results to come back from the biopsy tissue samples. I was optimistic and thought we would have them within a week, but they said it could take up to ten business days.

Hurry up and wait!

In the meantime, I got in to the cancer clinic at the local hospital, thanks to the referral from my doctor. More on that in my next post. I’m very grateful to my doctor for her persistence with the hospital and the connection she had with them. I’m very grateful for my oncology team and the wonderful care I’ve received so far. I’m very grateful for my family, and for my now husband, who has been at my side through this entire process.

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