Letters to My Lungs
BY Judith T Krauthamer
PUBLISHED August 03, 2017
Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group.
September 2012, Hello, Dear lungs.
I heard from my GP today that you showed up for a group picture with my stomach. I am not sure how that happened, since I was looking to capture the elusive answer to my severe nausea. Somehow, the camera — the incredibly expensive one called Computerized Axial Tomography or CAT scan — caught an image of your bottom lobes.
They found nothing wrong with my gut. However, some tiny nodules, referred to as ground-glass densities, were found on both of your lobes. I will keep you posted in three months from now when I have another scan. The GP is hoping (or perhaps I am hoping and the doctor is merely speculating) that you have had a hidden virus, infection, or inflammation that will go away on its own.
January 2013, My Dear Happy Lungs,
We took pictures of just you! Thirty adult years of not eating red meat, not smoking, not drinking alcohol and lots of swimming in lap pools have kept me relatively healthy. In other words, no hidden infections, no pneumonia, no viruses. The ground glass nodules are still there. It seems odd that you are harboring uninvited, unwanted aberrations. The good news: nothing new appeared and the original ones have neither thickened nor grown. I have a pulmonologist, and he said I have nothing to be worried about.
July 2015, Greetings Dear Spotted Lungs,
It’s been two years. I had another CAT scan without contrast just to check up on you. It seems that a few of your nodules are larger. One of them, a 1.2 cm nodule in your medial left upper lobe, is growing, as is one in the lower left lobe.
Let’s not get anxious. I have led a mostly toxin-free life. There does not seem to be any reason for the “C” word to be in my vocabulary, with the exception that my mother died from lung cancer at the age of 67.
By the way, I have switched pulmonologists. The first one seemed to think I was fine and didn’t appear concerned about my family’s history with cancer. The new pulmonologist also isn’t particularly concerned or alarmed. I am a bit guarded, however, that there is not one poster, brochure, or magazine on lung cancer in her office. There is a lot of media and paraphernalia on sleep apnea, snoring, and smoking cessation.
She said to relax and come back in a year.
June 2016, Namaste Dear Lungs,
I have just had another CAT scan, and the results read, “There are again noted areas of increased density and ground glass opacity.” Guidelines recommend a tissue sampling. In that case, it means major surgery, since these nodules are deep, deep within your recesses.
I plan to call the top hospital in town, and get the name of the chief of thoracic surgery, and beg an immediate appointment. And, I suppose, check in with my local pulmonologist.
July 2016, Darling curious Lungs, an update:
My pulmonologist admonished me for getting an appointment with the chief of surgery. She said, and I quote, “Why are you seeing him? He removes cancer.” To which I replied, “Yes, I know.” I decided to fire her on the spot.
I will let you know what the surgeon says.
July 2016, Sweet concerned Lungs, I have news.
I brought the CAT scan and results of a positron emission tomography (PET) scan the surgeon ordered before I saw him. The PET scan said there was “no significant FDG uptake” which essentially means no evidence of malignancy. The surgeon looked at the latest CT scan and said, “I am 80 percent certain you have cancer. When would you like to schedule surgery?” To which I replied, “As soon as possible.”
August 2016, Dear tired, weary Lungs,
Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for giving me 115 percent capacity prior to surgery, so that I can still breathe deeply after a chunk of lung has been removed and biopsied. I want you to know that the area of density they removed was indeed non-small cell adenocarcinoma. I (we) won the lottery on having the most common form of lung cancer in non-smokers.
The lymph nodes are clean, which means the cancer is considered stage 1. We go back to the surgeon in six months, and also visit an oncologist with whom I can build a long term relationship. It turns out that these ground glass nodules are insidious! You still have six of them, and they grow slowly.
You (we) remain a high risk. There is a chance that cancer will manifest. We must stay diligent, self-advocate, and keep those pictures coming! You and me, kiddo. We are in this together for the long haul.