Regina M

April 2012

My thymic carcinoma was diagnosed in July 2011. In May and June, I was complaining of breathlessness, weakness, & shortness of breath. When I walked up 1 flight of stairs, I was gasping for air at the top. This seemed very odd, as I had been going to a rigorous aerobics program 5x a week for 3 years. After 2 months of whining, I finally went to the doctor. I asked for a full blood panel analysis and x-rays.

My x-rays were clear; no sign of anything. All scores on blood panel were very good, except one: the D-Dimer score. My doctor said that it indicated that perhaps I had a large blood clot somewhere in my body. So, a CT scan at the hospital was set up for the next day. 2 days later, my doctor called me and reported that I had a tumor the size of a tennis ball in my media steinham, and the hospital would shortly be calling me to schedule a biopsy. The biopsy was 2 weeks later. 2 days after, my doctor called and said it was cancer. I was instructed to go to my employer (I am a middle school teacher) and file for a long term medical leave of absence. The roller coaster ride began.

I met my oncologist and surgeon In August in one appt; they explained that I’d have chemo to attempt to shrink the tumor. “If we take the tumor out now, we’d kill you.” So, the plan was as follows: 3 rounds of chemo, hoping the tumor would shrink, surgery, then possibly radiation and more chemo. I did the chemo for 3 months, with an infusion all day, then 3 weeks off, then infusion again, etc. (Cisplatin, Adriamycin, and Cytoxan.)
After 3 rounds of chemo, the good news was that it shrank my tumor 60%.I almost fainted! I was offered a “bonus round” of chemo, so I took it. Chemo was done in October. I strengthened myself by walking everyday to prepare for my surgery in December.
The surgeon removed the thymus gland and tumor, requiring cutting it off of my heart, lung, and pulmonary valve. Part of my left lung was removed. The vessels to my left diaphragm were cut, rendering that hemisphere useless. My surgeon explained to me that I had lost 20% of my breathing capacity, as a result of these procedures. I feel it.
After approx. 2 months of recovery, I proceeded with 6 weeks of radiation treatments, 5x a week (30 treatments.) I am now in a 3-week “recovery period.” My radiation side effects include a lot of coughing and weakness, but thankfully I have been able to eat and drink without problem. For over 4 weeks I have experienced much dizziness and lightheadedness, with low blood pressure, and so far 4 doctors can’t figure out why, other than perhaps radiation has caused this.

The tumor board, consisting of 22 doctors, which analyzed my case, recommended more chemo, so I start 3 more rounds in a few weeks. (There goes the hair again. Darn it.) This is mainly preventative. I’ll take it!

I was informed that there is no specific formal staging system for thymic carcinoma, therefore the staging system for Thymomas was used, called the “Masaoka system”. My cancer was staged at a stage 3.

I feel very weak, tired, and occasionally nauseated, but attempt to walk regularly to stay fit and build up my lung capacity. I hope to return to work in August at the onset of the new school year, but have my concerns about that. Hopefully, June and July will promise enough recovery to return to work; I do not know what is realistic.

I have decided to embrace the belief that they “got it” and I am going to live a long full life. Focusing on the statistics puts me in an unhealthy state of mind, I believe. . I am 58 years old.