During the recent Texas power outage & winter storm, I thought I might have lung cancer. Doctors found a mass on my lung. Yesterday, I learned that the mass is benign. I’m still going through testing and figuring out my treatment because a benign mass on my lung remains an issue, but at least it’s not cancer. The following is my experience during the power outage & storm while going through a cancer work-up.
I’m writing this from Dallas in the midst of a statewide power outage during the Texas Winter Storm Uri 2021. I’ve left my unheated home in Austin to a rented Airbnb near my heart transplant hospital.
I left Austin a week prior to the storm for my annual heart transplant appointment and ended up staying over because of the impending storm.
They found a mass in my right lung. I need more medical tests to rule out lung cancer. I’ve already conquered bone & breast cancer; not sure I’ve got the warrior energy to fight another battle.
I hate cancer. Cancer killed my mother. She died shortly after my heart transplant and while I was healing from a bilateral mastectomy.
The fight against cancer is deeply personal for me. Cancer is cruel and painful. I’m anxious to think I might have cancer again. I’m 44 years old and had to have a heart transplant because of chemotherapy from my bone cancer battle when I was 15 years old. I’m worn out thinking of cancer.
The day I learned that I had a mass in my lung, there was also a 140-car pile up on a nearby Texas highway. This was days before the storm was predicted to impact Texas and it’s then we decided to prolong our stay in Dallas. The roads became unsafe without warning.
A nurse called me from their cell phone, powered by their car, to tell me that my lung biopsy surgery has been canceled because of the power outage.
I just saw images of friend’s houses flooded from busted pipes. Houses are burning to the ground because there’s no water to put them out. People are freezing to death inside their homes. I feel desperate, but there’s nothing I can do.
I’m depressed. I’m crying alot. I’m not sure if I want to keep battling to stay alive if I do have cancer. Life feels very uncertain.
Thankfully, my “urgent” lung biopsy was rescheduled, so I’m off to the hospital tomorrow. I just hope we can drive safely.
I’m at the hospital, which is eerily quiet and empty. I walk over ice to get to the entrance. I have to go it alone for this outpatient surgery because of COVID, my husband can’t stay with me. He’s my rock and keeps me calm, but you do what you got to do. I can do this alone, I tell myself. Adam’s going to try to find us food. We have two canned goods at our rental and very few provisions with us. I hope the grocery stores are open and have food on the shelves.
I learned that my nurse slept at the hospital last night and several days prior because of the massive power outage and icy roads. She says her back hurts. She pats my gurney and says she slept right here, in my now occupied gurney and that she cleaned the room prior to my arrival! I’m stunned by this information. Rosanna didn’t even sleep in a bed, but a narrow, hard gurney. These dreadful gurneys are not meant for sleeping, they’re used in surgical procedures unit; the only place to house that many staff members who spent the night at the hospital. All the extra beds are filled with COVID patients. Talk about heros.
I’m scared and so grateful to be having this lung biopsy sooner rather than later. I need to know if I have terminal cancer.
Adam was successful at getting us groceries. I’m relieved. He picks me up from my surgery and we return back to our rental. I can’t believe that we have heat. Everyone I know has lost their heat. We must be on a hospital grid. I’m so grateful to be warm and also have water. Yes, we have to boil the water…but you read that right: I HAVE WATER with *normal* pressure. I don’t have to melt snow using a tea light and clay pot.
While I’m grateful to have the resources to rent a place in Dallas, these funds are not endless. I’m 3 hours away from the epicenter of the storm in Austin, where my condo is under ice and snow. My home in Austin has been without heat for 6 days. All of my vunerable neighbors have evacuated putting themselves at-risk for COVID, which is now the lesser of two evils. I worry about my loved ones.
It’s unbelievable that the risk of COVID, seems less likely than the risk of death or illness from exposure & lack of basic needs in your own home.
I’m in pain and healing slowly from the lung biopsy. I feel like I’ve been kicked in the chest from a horse! It reminds me of healing from open heart surgery. Coughing up small amounts of blood is painful and I’m glad I can find a suitable cough pillow. I text my friend who had a double-lung transplant, she reassures me that my symptoms while unpleasant are normal.
My transplant friend lives in Austin and she’s lost power and is also without water. She has two kids. She’s melting dirty snow for water. When you’re a transplant recipient all snow is dirty.
Texans have become MacGyver! Everyday new cataclysmic problems arise, big & small; they pop up like some menacing whack-a-mole!
This is not your average storm for us. Give us a hurricane or tornado and we know our drills. But a power outage in the face of menacing, deadly cold, well we are not prepared. I don’t even own a wool sweater or an ice scraper.
Sigh…the fire alarm is going off and we’re forces everyone to wait outside. Pipes are freezing and we think its affecting the fire system. Or someone was smoking in their non-smoking apartment. It’s a mystery. Everything is covered in ice and the temperature is well below freezing (15°F). I’m concerned that my dog doesn’t have enough protection, so we are going to sit in our car. Many people are using their cars to find heat.
Currently, most Texans don’t have basic needs like warmth, water or food (shelves are empty and trucks are causing pile ups on the highways).
I just spent 2 days and hours on the phone to locate my anti rejection medicine while away from home. If I miss too many timed doses of this drug I will die. I also need insulin for my diabetes because my injectable medications are frozen and no longer viable. 🤦♀️ An unthinkable scenario prior to this power outage and storm.
Days turn into weeks since I learned about the mass in my lung. I’ve returned home to Austin to only one cracked pipe under my bathroom sink. Whew, we dodged a bullet and my home is fine.
I’m sitting by the phone waiting for the results of the lung biopsy. I’m so restless and can’t sleep.
On my first day home, I climb a flight of stairs and had trouble breathing. I felt like I was going to pass out. I immediately took my blood pressure and it was low. I have no idea why I have low blood pressure.
I call the on-call transplant doctor, they recommend I go to the ER. I spend the night in the hospital. Doctors tell me that I have pneumonia and discharge me because they need the bed for COVID patients. I doubt I have pneumonia, but the Austin hospitals are full. We have COVID overflow patients at the Convention Center. It doesn’t matter-I’m ready to be home. I’m just relieved that I don’t have a pulmonary embolism (I have a history of blood clots).
Finally…I get the call that the lung biopsy reveals that my mass is BENIGN. Thank god, I’m not going to die. I’m so relieved. My body, mind and spirit are worn out from worry and stress. It will take me days to unravel from the curled up fetal position that I’ve been in for two weeks.
I celebrated all weekend! Then I got another call that I still need to do more testing, take a round of antibiotics and “wait and see” whatelse needs to be done to address the benign mass. I’m also struggling with continued low blood pressure and dizziness. While uncomfortable, I can handle all of this…at least it’s not cancer.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my cancer scare during a historical power outage and winter storm. I’m grateful for warmth and clean running water. I’d say that I’m on the mend, much like my community.