The thing about Cancer and the medical world is, if you haven’t had to navigate your way through it before, it’s like learning a new language. It feels like you are in a foreign country where everyone seems to know what is going on but you.
You see, my husband has this large mass atop his right lung which was spotted in an X-Ray in an Urgent Care Facility almost exactly one year ago. How and why it was detected is a whole other story which I will tell you now.
Paul seemed to be slowing down a bit in the months leading up to our findings. He was slowing down on our walks, resting more and I just assumed he was “buying in” to the fact that he had turned seventy and was “getting old”.
Around Christmas and perhaps even before that, I had noticed that when he sat in this particular chair his neck looked a bit larger. I was thinking that it was probably because we had been enjoying the food of the season and maybe he had put on a little weight or that the chair didn’t have good head support. It was not so noticeable that it made me really think anything more about it, but every once in awhile, I would think “hmmmmm”.
As the New Year came along, I began to notice that his face seemed a bit puffy or swollen, particularly on one side and mostly in the morning. I thought he should check in with a doctor. He didn’t notice it at all and thought I was crazy when I brought it to his attention. It got better as the day went on so he didn’t feel the need to go. I also noticed he was sighing a lot when he exerted himself. I would ask what was the matter, and he attributed it to allergy season etc. I bought it because he has allergies and the seasonal allergies were different on Cape Cod than when we lived closer to Boston. I urged him to have it checked out. When the swelling seemed to get worse on the right side of his face, and his eye was very puffy, I finally called the doctor myself and set up an appointment for him.
I went with him one evening and met his new doctor who decided to treat him for a sinus infection. A little time passed and it got worse. Paul went back a second time thinking his medicine wasn’t working because the swelling had progressed. The doctor added a medicated nasal spray. No changed occurred with the nasal spray.
Next he began waking up with purple colored ears. Then purple spider vein blotches appeared on his chest. Paul didn’t even notice them and there were many. We were in the bathroom together one morning when he appeared from the shower and I saw all of these blotches and was quite alarmed. Paul still didn’t see what all of the fuss was about. One more trip to the doctors occurred to show him these blotches, and the doctor looked at his recent blood work and said that there was no indication of any problems. He didn’t seem concerned.
When he woke up one morning with a very swollen face, purple blotches on his chest, purple colored ears and a purple colored hand, I got extremely concerned and turned to Google. I typed in “purple blotches on chest” under Images. Up popped two pictures of a man with a swollen face and the time stamped on the bottom of the picture as 7:30 am. It showed a second picture of him looking like his normal self. It was very similar to Paul. There were also pictures of purple spider vein blotches on his chest strikingly similar to Paul’s blotches. Then I saw the letters SVCS. Superior Vena Cava Syndrome. “Superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS), is a group of symptoms caused by obstruction of the superior vena cava (a short, wide vessel carrying circulating blood into the heart).”
I called an RN I knew who I had been talking to about Paul’s unusual symptoms and she seemed a bit alarmed when I told her what I found. She said that he needed to go to Urgent Care right away where they would be able to do an X-Ray and that I should tell them what I thought it was. I called home to let Paul know what I had found and that we should be going to Urgent Care that very day and he agreed.
X-Rays were taken. A large mass sitting atop his right lung was found. Our learning of a new language had begun.
(if you read my first blog “Without Our Permission”, you will learn what happened next.)