No Sign of the Enemy

Despite the reservations I share with this fellow in regards to using combat metaphors for cancer it sure as hell sometimes feels like an enemy. And in the past week there have been two very encouraging pieces of intelligence gathered on the enemy’s movements (or lack thereof I should say!). The pathology from the lung surgery came back negative for all 24 resections and my tumor marker is now 2.1 which is the first time it is in normal range (0-2.2). Nobody is declaring victory just yet but this is good news and it is all quiet on the interior front.

The last week has brought some unexpected trials. Originally we thought I’d be in the hospital 3-5 days and it ended up being 9. The reason was that my left lung would not stay inflated without an air hole in my chest wall to release pressure. Think of the lung as a ballon that sits inside a sealed bag (the chest cavity). If the balloon (lung) has a hole in it then air escapes into the space between the outside of the balloon and the inside of the bag (the pleural space). When this happens it’s hard to re-inflate the balloon because the bag is sealed and pressure builds up between the balloon and the bag. This is the case of a collapsed lung or pneumothorax.

I had a chest drain at the bottom of my chest cavity which came out on last Tuesday after they did a clamp test (closing the bag) and my lung seemed to stay inflated. However, I had a tiny lung leak that just wouldn’t seal up and finally they decided to punch a small (1/8”) hole near the top of my chest and put in a tube attached to a Heimlich valve (I guess he is known not just for his maneuver but his medical device invention). I have this setup with me at least until Thursday of this week when I go in for an x-ray and follow-up.


And for added fun shortly after I got home I developed a harrowing case of constipation. Due to the pain meds and having my digestive system re-arranged two months ago everything stopped, I couldn’t eat, and a new kind of pain arrived. I had no idea being stopped up could be so bad! After 3 days, taking some serious laxatives and stopping the pain meds I am finally getting back to feeling human and am eating (just on tylenol now which is an OK trade because the abdominal pain had become worse than the incision and chest tube).

Despite these complications I have found this surgery to be easier overall than the RPLND. Perhaps it is having already been through a major surgery, or that it is less central and deep of an incision and manipulation, that they were able to give me more opiates and an epidural, or some combination thereof. The right lung should be even easier as there are less tumors in that one than the left. We’ll know better on Thursday when that will be scheduled but we will wait until the left lung is healed and my body is strong again of course.

I am grateful for the pathology, for the marker, the good wishes, the visits, the calls, the thoughts, the prayers, mantras and meditations. I am grateful for the return of the sun and the proximate shivering warm awakening of Spring.


  1. KirsTie Page BenedicT says:

    Sure beats the Kim K. ‘butt selfie” on so many levels…or any Kardashian butt selfie! How did it get blurred? Did someone complain😜

  2. Standing in front of Molly Wee’s – just had a cheeseburger and beer in your honor- love and blessings you, one of my favourite people I have had the privilege of meeting in this life!

  3. This is truly unbelievable–I can’t believe you blurred out the butt.

  4. john and marija mccarthy says:

    Jay- We both admire your courage – and your ability to make complicated medical issues clear to lay minds. Marija recently broke her arm and had the same difficult constipation aftermath due to the pain killers she was prescribed. A friend suggested that a kiwi a day resolves the problem beautifully and for her it works. You might consider the same. Good luck as you deal with the next steps . Marija and John.

  5. life anew
    life awake
    life perfect

  6. Michelle Farnum says:

    Sounds like good news, Jay. KR is right, Spring is on the way. Love to you both, Michelle

  7. My heart feels your struggles . Your body’s resilience reflects your unbelievable strength. I continue to send all the warm healing thoughts I have. My love and hugs to you and Katie Rose.

  8. Mary Ludington says:

    Wonderful news about the pathology, Jay! I’m so sorry about the tiny lung leak delay and all that happened because of it. Oh, you guys — so grueling. Sending you lightness, love and new, good health as you head into spring. Love, Mary

  9. Theresa Ryan says:

    Wishing you bright light everywhere! xot

  10. alan st. vincent says:

    You are amazing. Get well! Our love to you all.
    your uncle al

  11. I’ve been feeling very optimistic about your prognosis lately, Jay, and here are the medical notes to support that. Keep up the good work, you and Katie Rose are superstars.

  12. Ann Bresnan says:

    That email was such a big relief! I kept waiting after the teaser from Katie Rise…so sorry about all the pain you have suffered. Katie, you must be exhausted, too…just try to remember that June is just around the corner. Heal and gain your strength for the few remaing yards. xo ann

  13. patty giesecke says:

    Wonderful news all the way around. You have handled this, as well as everything else, like Bat Man. Begone…..enemies!. Love from DC

  14. It is great to hear that you are making such great strides. Congratulations on all the good news! As always, sending you lots of positive thoughts.

  15. Karen Erickson says:

    Jay. this post is such a relief. all this info is so comforting. seeing you yesterday was the hardest time since 8/13. But now to know you are resolving problems, it drops my shoulders and like you said in your blog, the most important news is all clear in body and marker is normal. I forgot all about that when I saw you in so much pain. Love, Mom

  16. Jay, you continue to kick ass. Love that sunlight coming in through the windows. The days are getting longer, the sun is higher in the sky, the light is brightening. Keep it coming!

  17. Claudia Jessup says:

    Step by step, onward & upward to Total Healing. You’ll be there in the not-too-distant. All this (your story, updates, wisdom, humor & poems) needs to be turned into a book. xo C&J

  18. BRAVO, JAY . . . AND KATIE ROSE!!!

    As Jeni says, “Hugs & Love!”

    Robin & Helen

  19. Jay, what an amazing update. It just makes me laugh when I see people on Facebook complaining about the rain. I want to direct them to the Busted Nut… and to the voice of quiet, sane and life affirming poetry of Jay Erickson.
    Rock on my friend. May you be free from bowl pain and may everything be “regular” soon.
    We all love you and KR so much. I pray for your continued healing, for both of your spirits to stay as strong as you are and for Spring to bring us birds, bees, flowers and a song of good news from the Erickson-Hillegas compound. Love Nadiya~

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