Recovery after Lung Cancer Surgery

1997 – The Weight of it all.

Recovery after lung cancer surgery is quite remarkable. Unfortunately it takes so damn long. One day seems to meld into another, leaving me wondering if I would wake up the next day and feel worse or better. Perhaps I only remember what suits my remembering now. There are so many little incidents that creep into every day. So many discomforts and it’s always one step forward and two back, like trying to climb up hill with skis on. I have a tendency to think the worst. So on the back slope I would wonder if my cancer was back. Did I need to call the doctor? Another Xray? Help!! I was so lost and confused because I had no idea what the consequences would be if I just went about my day. And what did that mean?

Lung Cancer blog
My Twenty Years +

I questioned how long it would take for me to breathe naturally. So I called mydoctor and asked him if I should continue to use the spirometer. His reply was, “Shouldn’t you be getting on with your life?”  What, it’s ok to do that? I was walking on thin ice and I didn’t have the faintest idea what my life was.

What about my very painful chest muscle cramps? He told me that I should expect that because the architecture of my chest wall had been compromised? Would I have cramps for the rest of my life? They felt like someone grabbing a hold of my chest muscles and twisting, then letting go. I was a rubber band.

Chest wall with lungs
Lungs withing chest wall

As days wore on and I started doing more I found that my cigarette cravings were less. My mantra, “If you smoke you’ll die” had become automatic. I did what most other people do when they quit smoking and gained weight, a lot of weight. During my down times I watched a cooking show, Caprial and John’s Kitchen. I was mesmerized by her movements around the kitchen, how each plate or spoon was handled, each pot stirred. I was a groupie!! So I cooked!! Flans, roasts, pastas, everything, anything and all things. I was becoming an expert, I would be a chef!! I’d cook with Caprial!

A friend was teaching ballet and beginner conditioning classes.  I joined . Bending and stretching became my daily routine and I tried to be as graceful as possible but probably looked more like Jar Jar Binks. Eventually I started to feel stronger.


I learned how to lift weights from a local trainer. Doing everything that I had not done before my cancer showed me what I had missed. I was a maniac, up early morning to walk four miles along my beautiful Pettaquamscutt River and then home to eat, and do an hour of weights. It took a couple of months for my weight to finally come off!! I was an exercise junkie, a non-smoker, fit, strong. My world was so different than the one I left behind.

I think that of all the cancers that I have had, my first cancer changed me the most. I still was my basic crazy, impetuous, stubborn self; maybe a bit more tempered, like chocolate, rearranging my crystals to be a bit smoother, less edgy. By having had a large part of my body carved away I mourned my loss and needed to know that I was still all of me. Would I walk, sound, and act any differently?

My husband has been my number one fan, my rock, stable, reliable and ever trustworthy. I knew that it was a trial, but he showed his love for me everyday. Dave had a masters in physiology so a lot of medical terms, that I had had no reason to know before, became common in our home. He looked sad and scared. He tried to hide it, but couldn’t.

Agatha Christie once said, “The saddest thing in life and the hardest to live through is the knowledge that there is someone you love very much whom you cannot save from suffering.”

I learned one thing, that I had very little control, if any, after I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was told what tests I had to have, what medicines to take and what dates things would take place. It was no longer my world. It was a medical world. But I fought tooth and nail with Dave over every decision. I was in desperate need of control over my life. I struggled with this like a dolphin in a fishing net, a fox in a snare. It seemed as if everyone wanted a piece of me. Dave wanted to have control. I wanted to have control. I was now a medical thing, an illness, a non-preventable maybe for the future.

8 thoughts on “Recovery after Lung Cancer Surgery

  1. Leslie Lowell says:

    Merry, you are a gifted writer. You write with passion about your experience of healing after a cancer diagnosis and major surgery.
    I wonder if you have thought of submitting your beautiful, heartfelt work to a publisher of a health magazine, etc.
    Have you asked your physicians if you could be a contact for others who are facing the same diagnosis and same surgery as you did? You would be a wonderful mentor.

    • Merry says:

      Hi Leslie- Thank you so much!! I’m not sure which magazines or which of my posts they would like. I have done some mentoring and caretaking myself. any suggestions?

  2. Linda Sullivan says:

    Another great chapter for your book!!!! Well written and so emotional for me to read. I am so glad you are allowing us in your heart! Keep fighting, my friend! Love, Linda

  3. Maureen says:

    I keep learning so much about you-but have known from the second I met you how strong, determined, talented and beautiful you are!

  4. Emily Ford says:

    Chemo brain. Oh my. Yes. I’ve typed. Erased. Then typed. Then erased. For 20 minutes now. Ill just go with this – Thank you for sharing your story. You are truly an amazing person.

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