Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Panic Attack Saved my Life

Many of you already know I am a lung cancer survivor after sharing it with my wonderful on-line family. I have often been asked how I figured out I had it, because there is usually no symptoms until it is too late. I was one of the lucky ones that found out in time to save my life. Here is my story...

It was the beginning of February when things started to get wierd. My anxiety was off the charts and I ended up in the emergency room a couple differen't times. The first trip to ER they gave me something to calm down and help me sleep. A week prior to this hospital stay, I was anxious, wasn't sleeping, I was pacing, and couldn't for the life of me, sit down. Finally, my family couldn't watch me suffer anymore and my older brother(Bless his soul ) drove me to the nearest ER at about 2AM. When the medication they gave me, finally kicked in, (it took a while)I slept for the next 18+ hours. Upon discharge from this episode, the Dr. referred me to see a psychiatrist to find out what was going on. I must say, I wasn't real surprised by the diagnosis, which was "anxiety" and "depression." This first trip to ER and the extreme anxiety I had been struggling with the past couple of weeks, was all part of a puzzle that would soon reveal itself. Read on...

It had been about a week since my scary trip to ER. I wasn't pacing anymore and was sleeping pretty normal since starting the anti-depressant. I felt like things were starting to look up and I welcomed this with open arms.

It was the third week in February and things on this particular day seemed pretty normal. It was about 7PM and I was relaxing on my favorite couch, watching the Minnesota Twins baseball game. I made myself one of my favorite snacks, celery with cream cheese. From out of nowhere it seemed, came a blast of that frightening anxiety. I stood up and walked around my apartment. I tried some calming techniques so the anxiety wouldn't build. I was doing some positive self-talk, rubbing my feet into the floor to ground me, and trying to focus on the baseball game on t.v. Nothing was working and my anxiety started getting worse. I was now having heart palpitations and other unsettling symptoms. I was now convinced that I was having a heart attack. What does Linda do when she thinks she is having a heart attack?? She calls her best friend Laura, her twin sister. History repeating itself, I dialed her number and said, "Laura, can you bring me to ER, I think I'm having a heart attack." God Bless Laura and her patience, as many of these episodes turn out to be recurring anxiety. She picks me up and drives me to ER. I told them adamantly, that I was having a heart attack and needed assistance immediately. The normal procedure to assess for heart attack is: X-Ray and Electrocardiogram. Laura and I are now waiting for word on my test results. Have you ever seen two twins that are connected at the hip, waiting for results? Trust me, it wasn't pretty. If taped, we probably looked like two insane women hugging eachother to death. I'm sure the fear in the room was palpable to any who dared enter. Oh, Here comes the doctor with the results...

Noticing that Laura and I were coming unglued, the woman doctor spoke in a calm and comforting manner. She told me that my electrocardiogram looked great and I had not suffered from a heart attack. I gave a big sigh of relief and prepared to hear what I have heard in the past. That it was a panic attack or extreme anxiety. She calmly stated that the x-ray revealed a spot on my right lung. l was confused and asked her what she thought it could be. She explained that in Minnesota, many people get spots on their lungs because of mold that grows here. She said if this was the case, they would have me take an anti-biotic and that's usually the end of it. She asked if I was a smoker and I prouldy exclaimed, "No Way, Never." She assured me that it would be rare for a non-smoker of fourty-one, to have lung cancer and this was probably nothing to worry about. She asked me to follow-up with my primary physician to rule out cancer or any other lung disease. I walked out of that hospital feeling very confident that this was just a little bump in the road. Unfortunately, on March 1st of 2004, I received the phone call that noone wants to get. "I'm sorry to have to tell you this Linda, but you have lung cancer." I repeated back those scary words, to be sure I heard it right. The next thing I remember was hearing a loud thud and finding Laura passed out on the floor next to me.

I will always be grateful that my body spoke to me during those early weeks in February, especially the night they found the spot via the x-ray. My body was telling me things were not right and warning me. I will never complain about the panic attack that saved my life.

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