Home » Medical Procedures and Other Drugs » My own pulmonologist, and my own demon monk

My own pulmonologist, and my own demon monk

Posted by on August 12, 2012 in Medical Procedures and Other Drugs, My Health Updates - 19 Comments
pft machine

We cornered the hallways in Georgetown Hospital’s pulmonary department, me with an oxygen monitor attached to my finger and him, a medical Fellow, reviewing the readings as we went. Just walk at your normal pace, he told me; I eyeballed him suspiciously, walking ever so carefully in a straight line. If they wanted to check me for public drunkenness, then they should have the courtesy to just say so. Sure, I’d gotten a little rowdy in the chemo wards in the past, but those days were behind me. That business about dancing with an elderly woman’s IV line was mostly just a media myth.

Still, we walked.

When we returned to Dr. Reichner’s office, the Fellow informed her that I had passed the sobriety test. Not in those exact words, of course, but I think we were all speaking the same language. Unsatisfied, she sent me to get a “pulmonary function test.” (This should be read with air quotes.) I think I know what a souped-up breathalyzer looks like. This one was a glass cage, looking a little like a claustrophobic Harry Houdini water cage where he’s dropped in, hands cuffed and barely escapes with his life.

I was asked to breathe as hard as I could into a mouthpiece several times. Then the cage was closed, air pressure modified, and more heavy breathing. It was like being in the backseat of a ’57 Chevy. Unfortunately, I don’t think I passed this one. I was unable to breathe outward without coughing and catching my breath. We kept trying and I kept coughing. When it was over, the poor nurse had to give me some albuterol, and I wheezed my way back into Dr. Reichner’s office.

Dr. Reichner, my pulmonologist — uh yes, I have my own pulmonologist now. If Dena can have her own bartender, I think I can have my own lung doctor. Dr. Reichner, like all of the doctors we’ve worked with so far at Georgetown, is sharp as well as compassionate. She spoke encouragingly but I could tell she wasn’t entirely happy with my test results.

Have you ever had a bronchosocopy before, she asked? I don’t know. Does it involve drinking a jug of liquid laxatives and having tubes inserted in uncomfortable places? Laxatives no, tubes yes. Only these tubes would be run down my throat. Along with a camera and some medical tools to burn stuff. What kind of stuff? Polypy stuff.

So. I’ve got an “intraluminal ploypid lesion in my bronchus intermedius.” I know, right? Suffice it to say that I’ve got a growth inside my right bronchus (where the trachea splits into airways into the right and left lungs). Possibly a cancerous growth, though there’s a remote chance it could be a latin-spouting monk stuck in there.

As a result, on Tuesday, I go in for a minor surgical procedure in which they are going to either have a stern conversation with this monk or remove the lesion by burning it out. Which means I’ll suspend the radiation treatments for a day or so. It’s not a complicated procedure. The only expected side effects are a sore throat and coughing up a little blood for a couple of days.

I welcome it. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. The radiation treatments have been making me tired, and I think the side effects of the Inlyta are accumulating and causing cycles of nausea and some severe stomach pains. The worst, however, has been the shortness of breath and the incessant coughing. I’m now one of those people that, if you ask if I have shortness of breath walking up stairs, would have to say yes. Which is infuriating. I’m not out of shape, overweight or eighty years old. And, as all the testing in pulmonary shows, I’m not a drunk. So what gives?

The cough and respiratory problems are partly a result of tumor compression narrowing my pulmonary arteries, but also, we hope, the lesion in my airway. Dr. Reichner was clear that we can’t know for sure and therefore can’t know that the procedure will produce the desired effect — i.e., better breathing. Still, we can hope. I have full confidence in Dr. Reichner and Dr. Anderson, who will be performing the procedure. Actually, I’m pretty certain this will help. I can feel this thing catching in my airway at times; to what degree its removal will improve my breathing I can’t say but I am sure it will help.

And if it’s not the lesion, I’m still confident that the doctors will be able to cast out the monk. After all, Georgetown is a Jesuit hospital (and home to the infamous stairs from the Exorcist).  Surely they can find a home for this chatty little demon monk pretender. Like, say, a Trappist monastery.

  • David Pollak

    Chris…glad to see your still hanging in there with your informative posts! You should think seriously about a career in writing when you grow up! I have decided that I may dedicate my work efforts to the highest form of bullshit and just stay in sales to CPA firms! That wonderfully witty group of counters of beans. Because of my dedication to the profession, I will be attending a conference at the Gaylord National Hotel the end of October and would love to get your contact information, on the off chance I may have some free time to say hello. Kathy may be traveling with me and it would be great to say hello to you, Dena and your beautiful daughters.

    I Look forward to you next update and keep posting!

    Dave Pollak

    • Dena Battle

      Dave – we’d love to see you and Kathy when you come out in October!  Keep us posted on travel plans.  My e-mail is dena_battle@yahoo.com.

  • Matt Ivy

    Chris, great update.  Tina and I will be pulling for you and hope it doesn’t represent anything serious going forward.

    We love your attitude and your dedication to your updates.  Also, Dena is a superstar caregiver and non-stop researcher looking for every potential treatment out there.  We know this because she is an invaluable resource to me and Tina as well!

    Hang in there pal!
    Matt & Tina Ivy

  • Patricia Alana

    Chris, super update! I will be in your corner, praying this is nothing; that can’t easily be fixed.

    I adore you and Dena, for all you do; looking for every possibility out there! you are both an invaluable resource to me!  Sometimes,  being able to hang in there;  is a really big deal!

    Sending you my warmest Aloha!
    Patricia Alana

  • Mike Venable

    Chris and Dena, as you know it is Sunday. And today, like every Sunday, I mentioned your names out loud at the point in our Episcopal Holy Eucharist service where we’re asked to name people we’re for whom we’re praying. We are a tiny parish, the most southeastern outpost of the Diocese of Alabama, and we had something very special happen today.
    We had the first christening of a baby in the church since our youngest son was christened 23 years ago! 
    It was a pew-packer with 29 in attendance. We followed the service like good Episcopalians, with food and mimosas. I drank one for you. 
    Please know that I’m providing encouragement from back here on the road, hoping I won’t catch up, but that you’ll reduce your pace and fall back in with me. Let’s take the slow road, my man. The slow road is a good place to be.
    Please wish Dena a happy Sunday. Be strong, brother. I just sent Dan George another email. We’re waiting on them to summon us to Duke for an initial HD-IL2 consultation and then we dop we’ll be scheduled in that program soon. 

  • Bettroddy

    Chris, I hope the surgery and tests all come out good for you,by that, I mean I hope your breathing gets better after the testing.. I myself have been on oxygen since 2004,and the most testing I’ve had is mostly ex-rays, antibiotics and prednisone to keep my airways clear. I’ve been in the hospital numerous times…and do Ok for awhile….but get pneumonia at least twice a year…..It has been just a part of life for me, You might have age on your side, and I do hope all your surgerys and tests will help you. I only wish the best for you Chris. Keep the faith and keep a possitive outlook…..praying for you and Dena in all my prayers….

  • Minnie kriek

    Hi Chris, “intraluminal ploypid lesion in my bronchus intermedius’ is actually, if you’d pardon my superior knowledge,  a  tree of unknown origin growing in the rich environment of your airways. These trees arise from  nuts losing their way in the inner highways of your body, or breathing too deeply when running through a glade of trees. I will be interested to know what kind of tree it is and if it will flourish beyond the perfect growing environment of your bronchia!
    The reality is that whatever it is, it must be stopped so my prayers are with you and your family for Tuesday’s procedure.
    Best wishesminnie

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003090600049 Στα επίθ

    Good GOD…a tumor in your bronchial tube…..anything else??? This cancer has overstayed its’ welcome.  Well, if anything, fighting this kidney cancer battle certainly gives you more than enough to write about. Hearing about the different tattoos is funny. My brother also had a couple weeks of radiation and had these radiation tattoos in quite a few places on his body. My family and I would catch him lifting his shirt up and yelling every now and again “Hey! I’ve been tattooed!!” Well, we all were laughing hysterically, though as I write it, it doesn’t really sound that funny now. All those life saving treatments certainly keep you busy. I think we were all so tired from the countless appointments we were all punchy and just laughing at anything. 

  • Margo

    Here’s hoping…and praying…you’ll be breathing easier after tomorrow’s procedure, Chris.  Your humor and positive attitude inspire all of us as you face another bump in the road.  You, Dena and your girls are always in my thoughts and prayers. 

  • Plummersue

    Chris, I talk to Dena often and get her take on how things are going, but love to hear “the real story” from you!!  We will be bringing your sweet babies back tomorrow and will keep the prayers coming the entire way for success on the procedure!!  Looking forward to spending then next couple of weeks with all of you!!  We love you!  

  • Jplantin

    We pray that Tuesday’s procedures go well. Certainly you are due for some good news for a change. You are such an inspiration to so many. Once you’re healed, we need to start training for the 2016 Rio games. Pick your sport.
    Best always, Janet

  • JimG

    The monk has no chance against you, Dena, and Georgetown!

  • Maryalice Haest

    Once again you have made me laugh out loud! You, Dena and the girls are on my mind and in my prayers. Stay strong my friend.


  • RobinJoker

    Hey, Chris, you mean “intraluminal polypoid” rather than “intraluminal ploypid.” If there is anything we’ve learned from Buffy, it’s that you’ve got to get the Latin exactly right for the exorcism. I have a feeling it is going to help immensely. 

    Love, Robin

  • Todd Stone66

    Hey Chris, Your in our prayers. Hoping your procedure goes well tomorrow,

  • Renee

    I am hoping that its the monk. Having gone to a Jesuit school, I know how crazy and bizarre they can be. As always, thinking happy and positive thoughts and prayers for you.

  • Amy

    Was thinking of you all day yesterday. Hope the procedure helps you breathe easier. Sending good wishes and payers your way, as always.

  • callie schaper

    I am sorry to hear that you have been coughing so much. That must be so uncomfortable. Keep up the good fight Chris.

  • Shaun

    Hey Chris,
    Glad to hear you have your own Pulmonologist. Today I visited my Cardio-Oncologist in Boston. Not trying to one up you in the specialist field, but this guy only treats people on Sutent or other TKIs. As an added bonus, he looks just like Dr. Sanjay Gupta, so I assume that there will be a feature story about my case on CNN soon. The ticker seems to be doing OK. Good luck with everything. Thought and prayers always.

    Shaun T

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