[NOTE: This is not the first time I've had a dry cough accompanied by shortness of breath since I did my breast cancer treatment. It's actually the third time I'm experiencing it since I did chemo early 2017. I'll elaborate in the later part.]
Last October 29, 2018, I experienced a severe panic attack on my way home from shooting a major Paramount Pictures film as one of the background extras. I was experiencing dry cough that day accompanied by mild shortness of breath and come evening time, my mind went cuckoo thinking maybe cancer has returned and spread to my lungs.
So I drove myself to the E.R. and as I was being inserted an IV, the graphic memory of my breast cancer treatment last year all came back to me. I reminisced going bald, the gruesome side effects of chemo and the ugly burn in my radiation. Hence, major anxiety kicked in and I passed out for a few minutes.
I remember waking up all blurry seeing this heavenly face in front of me and my first thought was, "Am I dead in heaven? Is she an angel?" But as I came to my senses as she kept saying, "You're okay, sweetie. We'll take care of you. We got you!," I realized she was one of my nurses, I was still very alive and lying down in the E.R. No angels around and definitely not in heaven.
After all the series of tests that included chest X-ray, blood draw, ECG and breathing through the stethoscope, all my results came out normal.
"You're fine!," said the doctor in charge of my case. "You just had a panic attack. You probably have a regular cough or some allergy but it's not as bad as you think it is. Now go home, rest, hydrate a lot and live life full on!"
And I did exactly just that... I went home, took a hot shower, laid down in bed and held on to my doctor's words, "It's a regular cough with panic attack... It's not lung cancer... I'm okay... keep living life..." as I slowly fell into a deep sleep.
I tried my very best to function normally in the next couple of weeks despite my dry cough getting slightly worse. I have bouts of fear coming in that maybe the E.R. misdiagnosed me but I keep talking myself out thinking I'm just being paranoid.
I wrote my pulmonologist on MyChart to report about this unusual dry cough and kept updating him every week about the status. But he just kept responding with the same messages... that I should just wait if the cough lingers for more than 2 weeks without improvement. Meanwhile, take cough suppressants. At the tone of his replies, he was also convinced that it was just a regular dry cough and that it will eventually resolve on its own.
Week three has passed. Still no improvement. It wasn't getting worse but it wasn't getting better. And my worries started creeping in.
I texted a good friend who happens to be a pulmonologist based in New York about what's going on. She prescribed that I start taking steroids as she suspects an infection or inflammation going on in my chest area since I'm experiencing shortness of breath. A regular dry cough isn't suppose to do that. She also suggested I go on further testing to really know what's going on.
November 19, 2018. It's been past the three week mark since the dry cough started, I went ahead and wrote my oncologist on MyChart about the entire incident. I also requested for a new pulmonologist who will be more proactive in working on my health concerns and not someone who just prescribes "sit back, chill and drink cough suppressants" as if I'm making all this shit up.
November 20, 2018. I came in to do a full chest CT scan with the support of a good friend and a breast cancer co-survivor. My anxiety levels were off the roof and my mind just kept entertaining all the worst case scenarios with the possibility of lung cancer being on top of the playlist.
It wasn't helping as well that I was on steroids because that f*cker amps me up and makes me all jittery. But I braved through it in full warrior mode with the mindset that it's better to know what the deal is and formulate a game plan to stay alive than not know and discover too late.
This morning, I got the results. My oncologist's nurse explained it in full detail:
I definitely have an infection/inflammation in my lungs again so she advised that I keep taking the steroids and we will see if it improves in the coming days. How or why do I get lung infection? We still need to figure that out.
Random possibilities are allergies or external forces, my airways are sensitive to something now, or I have recurring pneumonitis... all possibly from the after effects of chemo or radiation just because I never experienced this problem before the breast cancer treatment.
On top of that, the results say that there's a few super tiny nodules that are spotted in my lungs. Big probability is that it's from the infection/inflammation I have but knowing my history of breast cancer, it needs to be closely monitored. In three months, I will do another CT scan to see if it shrinks or enlarges. If it shrinks or stays the same, then I'm all good as it's only from the infection I got the past few weeks. If it enlarges, then there's a reason to slightly worry and do more tests.
And as I'm writing this, the steroids are working and I feel my dry cough and shortness of breath getting better. But the 3 months waiting game officially begins to know for sure what those tiny lung nodules are.
As I process all these information in, I couldn't help but reflect deeply on my life and mortality once again. I barraged these crazy thoughts in my head to the Creator up above.
Am I ready to die soon?
Am I living my life exactly how I want to? Am I rolling with my purpose in the planet?
Am I maximizing my full potential as a human being? Am I pursuing my dreams and vision with mad passion and no inhibition?
Am I declaring my truth and being who I truly am?
And the answer to all of this is NO.
NO I'm not f*cking ready to leave the planet soon and I will do EVERYTHING in my power to extend my stay as long as I possibly can.
No I'm not really living my life how I want to yet because I still somehow give a sh*t about what other people think.
No I'm not running along my purpose fully because I'm too complacent to figure it out. No I'm not maximizing my full potential because I still somehow listen to self-bullying that says "You can't do it!" No I'm not pursuing my dreams with no holds barred because I'm somehow scared to fail.
No I'm not saying my truth because I might lose people, followers or potential sponsors along the way.
But now that I got another soft nudge from the shadow of death, I say, "SCREW IT, JAYMEE. Enough being a half-baked chicken sh*t and grab your life by the balls! NOW is all you really have so DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO, discover who you are, your potential and what your contribution to the human race is, and jump at it with both feet! Time to practice your WINNER preachings and GET ON WITH IT."
There will definitely be a lot of changes in my life, decisions and social media content that will happen in the next three months as I wait for the tiny lung nodules verdict. But one thing's for sure. I will keep my followers in the loop and would appreciate your continued support in my blog as I carry on with soul searching in this nerve-wracking life after breast cancer.
Oh, and a little take away from this is to not wait for the idea of getting sick or dying before you actually LIVE your life. Do it NOW. While you're on the planet, while you can get up and get going, while there's time. And be your own health advocate. Never doubt your intuition. If something feels wrong in your body, get it checked. DEMAND if you have to. And if your doctor isn't in your case, TAKE CHARGE and switch to a new one. Your body is your temple. Love it all the way by taking very good care of it.
Better to be vigilant and prevent things from getting worse than being "chilled out" only to discover that it's too damn late to be saved.
So yeah, COUGH SUPPRESSANT my ass! I knew it wasn't just dry cough and my gut was right all along. I'm so glad I listened to my inner voice and took action. Otherwise, the infection/inflammation could've done more damage to my lungs.
I'm so relieved that I'm okay... that my shortness of breath is now fading away. And I can't wait to just ROCK THE F*CKING BOAT as soon as this infection/inflammation is completely gone. Meanwhile, I'll celebrate Thanksgiving with so much gratitude in my heart that I'm STILL alive and writing this blog for y'all.
Let's keep WINNING! We got this.