One Man’s Journey to a Lobectomy

Bob Hemstreet helps others beat surgery fear

When Bob Hemstreet was first diagnosed with a nodule on his right lung, panic and fear swept through him as he worried about the pain of surgery. Little did he know that a new minimally invasive thoracic procedure would not only cure his ailment, but also provide him with a swift and relatively pain-free recovery. Bob shares his story below:

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My biggest fear confirmed 

When I first discovered that I had a small nodule on my right lung, I wanted to believe that it was nothing of concern. Denial might be the correct term. As time went by and many CT scans revealed that the “small” nodule was growing every month, I came to realize that I must act.

I was afraid. There, I said it.

Convinced my life would never be the same

There are many great unknowns when it comes to major surgery—pain, scarring, down time. What will life be like afterwards? What are the side effects? Will I be able to work, play and enjoy my active lifestyle?

I searched the Internet to find people who had been through robotic thoracic lobectomy. I wanted to learn firsthand, not just from doctors and nurses–they don’t actually feel the pain and experience the effects–they can go home after their work is done. Robotic thoracic surgery is new enough that I didn’t find any patients who could share their experiences. The posts that I did find were from people who had had a lobectomy many years ago before the procedure was updated and improved.

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Remarkable results

That is why I thought I should write this. I had a robotic thoracic lobectomy on June 7, 2013. I tried to be brave. I knew that not having this surgery would be a mistake. The answers to the questions that I did ask, scared me enough to stop asking questions and just deal with it.

If you are facing the same situation now and want to know what it was like firsthand, here is the bottom line: it was amazing. It really wasn’t that bad. I had very little pain, very small incisions and a very fast recovery.

Small incisions and hardly any pain

I never had any great pains, and you might say I am a “weenie” when it comes to pain. It felt more like a cramp in my side. I had been afraid that I would wake up gasping for air and feel like I was suffocating. It wasn’t like that at all. I was discharged from the hospital 48 hours after the surgery.

I was still waiting to feel like I had major surgery. I expected several “zipper”-type incisions. Instead, I woke to see five small puncture-type incisions, most of which disappeared in a relatively short time.

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Life after surgery

They told me I could do as much walking as I wanted. Six days after the surgery, I went on a four-mile trail hike. Yes, I would get out of breath going uphill, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

There are a couple of things that I should clarify. First, at age 56, I work out every day and I am in better shape than anyone I know at my age. I believe that had a very big effect on my outcome. Second, I made the decision to go to Cleveland Clinic, one of the top hospitals in the country. The robotic thoracic technology was key to this minimally invasive surgery. And last, but certainly not least, my surgeon, Dr. Sudish Murthy, was highly skilled and experienced enough to perform this procedure.

I hope this helps the next person facing a difficult decision to move forward before it’s too late. Good luck to you.

Note: Bob Hemstreet’s lobectomy was a video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS)

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