Thursday, March 24, 2005

Pulmonary Tests

I had pulmonary tests today. I've never had breathing problems in my life. No asthma (thank God.) Nothing worse than the occasional bout of bronchitis. But one of the chemo drugs has the possible adverse affect of damaging lungs. One of the chemo drugs has a 1% chance of killing me through heart damage but luckily, that didn't happen. Before I started chemo I did a kind of benchmark test to insure my lungs were in good shape (they were.) And then a couple of weeks ago I got a virus and had breathing problems and had a second set of tests.

Today I went back to see if things were back to normal.

Breathing tests are a lot nicer than a lot of tests. Nobody needs to start an IV line for one thing. For another, there's Kenny, the pulmonary tech. Before I went to get my first test, Dr. Schnurr said, "Kenny's a good guy." And he is. He sits in a room full of breathing equipment, including a sort of phone booth looking thing where they can test the absolute capacity of your lungs. (Did that last time but not this time.)

For breathing tests I put on a nose plug and breath into a mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is basically a tube. Kenny tells me to breath normally a couple of times and then says, "Big breath IN, now blow blow blow..." and I empty my lungs while we both watch a computer screen that shows a line graph and a graph like those posters of thermometers where you keep coloring more and more in as you get more and more donations. The graphs, of course, mean something to Kenny. I just keep blowing and wonder why the line graph seems to inscribe a sort of etch a sketch circle. Breathing all of the air out of my lungs is hard. If you've ever done it, you'll know what I mean. It feels as if it is time to take a breath but I'm still blowing.

Kenny's also nice because he'll tell me how these tests compare with the last ones. On the capacity test I said I could tell I hadn't been exercising. 'You did really good,' Kenny said. Of course, he sees asthmatics and people with ephysema all day. But I knew I was in better shape than the last time. I told him I hoped to flunk the diffusion test (a test that determines how well the blood takes up gas. It's all well and good to oxygen in your lungs but if it doesn't get in your blood, lot of good it does you.) Last time I didn't do so well on diffusion and so didn't have to have bleo. He said it was better this time, but still outside normal. I laughed and said a lot of my tests were outside normal. (My CBC--blood cell counts--usually have six to eight items flagged as abnormal. And that's when they're good.) But I feel good. Not winded anymore and happy to bounce around and do things.

Maybe we'll go see Robots this weekend.

The test results have to be seen by my doctor. Chemo on Monday. Only four more to go.


Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Wish I'd had Kenny when I had pulmonary tests. I had Rakita, a woman who lived to snark. When I asked about the results of the test she told me, "If the doctor wants you to know, he'll tell you." (In fact, the doctor did, so neener neener.)

March 24, 2005 4:57 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Madeleine, do you have asthma? Is that why you had pulmonary tests?

March 24, 2005 6:16 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Good job on the improved PFT, Maureen!

I haven't had one since starting treatment, but pre-Hodgkins diagnosis, when my GP was casting about for reasons for my coughing, wheezing and inability to take a deep breath, they gave me one. I, too, got my results, and I scored a 65-70% of normal. Once I started chemo, all breathing difficulty left, and I was able to stop using the inhalers 2 months ago. Only now, after 3 cycles of ABVD, am I having trouble again. My onc thinks it's because of the asthma, but I might request that I get another PFT a little farther down the road for comparison. Oh yeah, and I didn't have asthma before developing Hodgkins. I think I just had the Hodgkins cough and breathlessness. Like the itching, classic symptoms when you have enlarged nodes around the lungs.

In the meantime, I've just resumed use of my two inhalers. I don't really mind using them if they help, but I would like to identify any Bleo-related damage as well so it can be treated and/or averted.

March 24, 2005 11:29 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Yeah, asthma. Not a particularly bad case, and it wasn't diagnosed until I was in my thirties, but by that time I'd compromised my lung capacity a bit. I haven't had an actual attack in years, thanks to a regimen of antihistamines and asthma meds. Lousy lungs seem to run in my family.

March 25, 2005 1:47 AM  
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March 24, 2009 12:21 AM  

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