Marifran Korb

Tag: pulmonologist

My Relationship with Cancer, Part 15

by on Jan.13, 2014, under Overcoming Cancer

“Do I need BOTH my adrenal glands?” I asked Dr. S., the pulmonologist. “Yes,” he asserted. “Two really are better than one. Together they affect every organ and every gland of the body. They produce hormones you need. Indirectly, adrenals are useful to the lungs.” When I told him that the urologist and I had parted ways over that point, he simply said I should find someone else to do the surgery.

Then he informed me that he would not approved of me for surgery just now anyway. He recommends eight weeks of pulmonary rehab first. “Your lungs are at high risk for surgery,” he asserted. Though he stated that damaged lungs do not improve and that lungs get worse as one ages, he believes that rehab could improve my lungs by 10 percent. Doesn’t that seem a contradiction? And why wait until I need surgery to improve my lungs by 10 percent?

Accustomed to doctors not making sense to me, I did not verbalize the incongruity, though I wish I had.
One thing I did say was: “The idea that damaged lungs cannot improve, and only get worse, is very depressing.” Dr. S. neither said a word, nor did he look at me. What I was struck with was the pure hopelessness of it all, as I was seeing his viewpoint. While not fully accepting it for myself, I remembered hearing this before.

Also, I was pointing to the fact that his job must be depressing since no patient with damaged lungs gets better. That seems like it would be most, if not all, his patients. All he can do is give medications to make life somewhat bearable, while he watches those patients get worse.

The belief that damaged lungs never improve was one I heard when I went to my first pulmonologist. It was in 1985 and I was already a busy wife, mother and youth director. A nurse-acquaintance in a seminar reached out and shared concern for me. My breathing was labored, though no different than what I was used to. Sally suggested a pulmonologist at the hospital where she worked. She may have saved my life. At least, Sally saved what was left of my lungs after 41 years of breathing challenges from birth.

That first pulmonologist, Doctor B, sent me for lung tests that showed I had only 16% of my lungs functioning. I’m not sure if it was the same exact PF Tests as is done now. The results were enough of a shock to the doctor that he said he could not help me. So he put his pulmonary nurse, Nancy, in charge of overseeing my care for whenever I needed something.

Five years later I had pulmonary tests again and results went up to 19%. The same pulmonologist was stunned. He informed me that when there is lung damage, lungs never improve. Besides having asthma and emphysema early in life, I had repeated bouts of pneumonia, bronchitis and bronchiectasis that created damaged lungs resembling Swiss cheese. Yet, my lungs expanded in some ways.

Recently, when I saw the present pulmonologist, he clarified the ‘gold standard’ that doctors now use to evaluate stages of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Explaining the stages, he said that there is no category for less than 15% of lung function. That is because the body cannot sustain lungs that function at 15% or less, he stated. No one ever told me that. Without knowing it, I was so close to the edge all my life before seeing that first pulmonologist. I knew that when I saw that first pulmonologist, I was no worse than I was when I grew up.

Also, on this latest visit, I had lung tests resulting in a score of 39% of capacity for a woman of my age. The norm is 80-100% for any age. At less than half the norm, I still live a normal life. Despite having less than half of my capacity, I live a normal life. Yes, I may have a more difficult time climbing up hills, walking up stairs, dancing in the rain, breathing frigid air, and facing heavy winds than others. And, I still do those things. Always, I manage to do what I want and need to do. I have no complaints.

It is astonishing, considering that my lungs are not supposed to improve and considering how much better my lungs are since 1985, despite the fact that I am now much older.

Everyday, I feel the difference. In the past, breathing was so difficult that I struggled all the time, even when I rested. While it took many years of gradual progress, I breathe well when resting now. Greater physical endurance is another way my lungs have progressed. So much for that theory about damaged lungs.

It appears I have overcome more than I realized.

5 Comments :, , , , more...

My Relationship With Cancer, Part 14

by on Dec.30, 2013, under Overcoming Cancer

Due to irreconcilable differences, the surgeon and I parted ways. A week ago, I met with my urologist surgeon for a consultation so I could ask questions. My husband Ed attended the meeting and neither of us liked what we heard.

The main disagreement was that Dr. W. planned to remove my adrenal gland along with the kidney. Never did he reveal that until I asked about it. He insisted I don’t need the adrenal gland since I have two. I said I want to keep it to help my lungs. Without acknowledging my point, he said: “I don’t want to be bothered with that little thing.”

Though I did not say that the adrenal gland was a deal breaker for me, immediately I did say I would have to reconsider the surgery. Dr. W. seemed unconcerned about my hesitation.

Though I had told him of the COPD that I’ve had since age 14, the surgeon said he wasn’t doing anything different for my lungs during the three hours of surgery since he “can’t imagine any problem.” He did not talk to the pulmonologist as I requested. There’s more, but those were the most problematic issues.

It is sobering to realize that surgeons can do things without your permission. They can justify it and get away with it. Had I not read about the frequency of kidney surgeries resulting in loss of the adrenal gland, I would never have known. Whenever I would discover it, the damage would have been done and it would be too late. Then the surgeon can say: “I was only trying to protect you.” I want to have the choice to say yes or no to the risk. I want to be included in the decision, so that if the adrenal gland is fine, I want it saved.

Hoping to bridge the gap between the surgeon and me, my daughter Ilona spoke to the doctor. She quoted a study that said if a kidney tumor is less than 8 cm, the adrenal gland should remain in the body. Dr. W. said he knew of the study and he thought the tumor could spread to the adrenal gland anyway, despite my smaller than 4 cm tumor. In other words, he knew better than the study and he would do as he pleased. His real motivation came when he spontaneously said to me: “I don’t want to be bothered …”

Already I had been through many pre-op tests this month, including a nuclear scan, and a CT scan with contrast that I drank and contrast in my veins. After seeing the surgeon, I cancelled the pre-op blood tests. Interestingly, I had scheduled lung function tests for this morning. The pulmonologist got sick and it was rescheduled for January 9. If I were still planning on surgery, I would need the lung function tests and it would be very difficult to schedule them before the surgery date of January 6. The lung function tests would have determined definitively whether or not my lungs could handle the surgery.

Looking forward to having this all over with, I was prepared to be recovering for three months. Totally, I was ready to put all the searching, all the questioning, and all the recovering behind me so I could greet the spring with a new tumor-free body.

Yet, I have to see everything that happens as part of my path to wellness. All I know for sure is I will not be having surgery next week. While I sort out what my next move is, I am as surprised as you about the twists and turns in this story.

Clear that I am making the right decision in this moment, I eagerly await what opens up next. Meanwhile plenty of parties are planned for New Years Eve and New years Day. I will enjoy them all. Wishing each of you a healthy and happy 2014.

8 Comments :, , , , , , more...

My Relationship with Cancer, Part 13

by on Dec.17, 2013, under Random Writings on Relationship

In the last 15 months the kidney tumor did not grow more than a millimeter. That tiny difference was in only the width of the tumor. The rest stayed the same. While that sounds good, I realize that it is not good enough.

In October I went to a new urologist, Dr. W. After looking at the known history of the tumor, he informed me that the one centimeter growth between the previous two years was an ominous sign. He contends that any growth at all indicates that there is a 90% chance the tumor is aggressive cancer, rather than the 75% chance it is cancer.

Deciding that I could no longer afford to risk the spread of cancer, I gave myself six weeks to try some new strategies. At the same time I continued to take many supplements, practice Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, and Reiki. No one can try all strategies, all supplements or all methods to heal cancer. There are a multiplicity of modalities. Presently, there is no way to know which healing methods or supplements would work best for any particular individual. After reading and studying all I could find, I followed my intuition.

Happy in the knowledge that I did all I could handle, I know I gave it my best efforts. My new approaches caused me to find wonderful practitioners in healing professions. These practitioners have become friends. I have met fabulous people along this entire three and a half year journey. I am deeply grateful to all the support I have received along the way from friends and family. The Cancer Center has provided helpful classes, including a weekend Reiki Program led by Reiki Master and Teacher Sarah Dailey.

Satisfied that I did what I could, I look forward to a surgical cure. While I won’t have one kidney, I also won’t have the perpetual CT scan surveillance, nor the threat of cancer spreading. Realistically, I know it could come back, and I am not expecting that.

On January 6, I will be in surgery as long as I get clearance from the pulmonologist. Then it will be three months of healing. This journey is not over by any means. There still will be check ups for some years ahead to make sure no cancer cells escaped into the blood stream. For now I am looking forward to a cancer-free future.

My dear friend, Sheila Bakely Finkelstein, gave me the book: Help Me to Heal by Bernie Siegel.

Here is a quote from the book: Healing is a process, not a product – a journey, not a single destination. When you’re healed, your body is not necessarily free of afflictions, but your life is.

Never have I felt I had afflictions, merely challenges to contend with. Meanwhile, I am expanding joy and celebrating life everyday. Looking forward to exciting and satisfying adventures, I wish the same for you, dear Reader.

1 Comment :, , , more...