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  1. #1
    Senior Member woodenidol's Avatar
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    Riding after lung surgery

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    Hello all, (this was posted in the general section, but suggested I post here, even though Im not quite in the club yet, though I hold out hope I will be in time. smile)

    I have never posted much here, though I read quite a bit.

    Anyway, Im 47, 1.5 years off colon cancer, sugery and chemo. Two spots since showed up in my lungs, and I had the lower right lob cut out 2 weeks ago.

    I knew the engine was going to take a hit, but today I got back on the bike. While Im definetly not where I was, It was not as bad as I had feared. Kinda of like riding at altitude, but worse.

    My question is, is anyone else riding with a similar loss of lung capacity? If so, did you ride before and what have you found since? Im guessing I may be alone in this, hopefully so, as its not a lot of fun, but if anyone has anything to share on it, I would be interested.

    The surgeon really couldnt give me much of an idea either, as in his words.............no one in good shape like you, has there lungs cut on. Fair enough, though it does leave one wondering what I can expect upon full recovery.

    I have a week long tour coming up in 4 months with some significant climbing, so it should be quite an adventure getting ready.

  2. #2
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    47 is close enough. Feel free to drop in anytime.

    If you are just two weeks out from surgery, it is probably much too early to tell how much of the effect on your breathing is from reduced lung volume and how much is from the process of recovering from the surgical trauma and inactivity.

    I'm impressed that you got out and rode so soon and think that it is a good sign that you are able to do that and not feel godawful. Keep riding.

  3. #3
    Senior Member woodenidol's Avatar
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    I had a VATS (Video assisted thorocadamy, sp?) lobectomy. No massive muscle cuts, just four incisions. Still pretty sore, but thats to be expected.

    I agree, its early to tell, some is definatly surgical weakness, and I was told the other two lobes tend to expand some. In theory its about a 20% reduction, in practice the surgeon says it tests closer to 10. That in general is for an older and less healthy population.

    My ride was nothing earth shattering for sure. Just 6 miles of flat slowish riding. I didnt feel to bad after, I seem to be getting decent at this recoverying after surgery or chemo thing, a dubious skill at best. lol.

  4. #4
    Wheezing Geezer Bud Bent's Avatar
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    I was diagnosed with lung cancer in November, 2007, and the next month, on December 20th, had the upper lobe of my left lung removed. My surgery was the open thoracotomy, with a long incision between ribs. It's a much tougher surgery than VATS, but I was back on the bike 16 days later, one day after they removed 40 staples from my side. I did three rounds of chemo in early 2008, which knocked down my riding miles, again.

    I found the same thing, that there seems to be pretty much no one doing serious riding missing lung tissue. I was a randonneur, and I still do long distance rides. My longest ride since the surgery was a 200 mile ride last October.

    I found that my base miles served me well; my endurance came back quickly, and is as good as before the surgery. I was not a great climber even before the surgery, and my climbing ability did take a hit. I added lower gearing to all my bikes, and have only had to walk one hill since my surgery. If I tackled hills that were as tough as those ridden by many forum members here, it would happen more often.

    I have trouble quickly getting my heart rate high, and so attempting interval training doesn't seem to help at all. Tempo riding seemed to be the best way to get my strength back. Anyway, I guess the bottom line is that your sprint speed and climbing ability will never be as good as before, but I haven't found any other limits. Good luck, and keep us posted on your progress. Feel free to pm me if you'd like.
    Last edited by Bud Bent; 05-12-09 at 08:40 AM.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member woodenidol's Avatar
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    Well, Im trying to stay pretty positive. I actually was a very good climber in my youth, and a decent climber now as well. Steady state riding I can see will come back, and should be fine with possibly a bit more attention to my exertion level. Climbing is just brutal now. I go from fine to unable to catch my breath in short order. Im actually having a bit more difficulty climbing now than after chemo.

    However, your story is encouraging, and I plan to just keep working at it. The tour Im taking this year has 21k feet of climbing, so I ma a bit concerned.

    Thanks for sharing your story Bud.

  6. #6
    Wheezing Geezer Bud Bent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodenidol View Post
    Well, Im trying to stay pretty positive. I actually was a very good climber in my youth, and a decent climber now as well. Steady state riding I can see will come back, and should be fine with possibly a bit more attention to my exertion level. Climbing is just brutal now. I go from fine to unable to catch my breath in short order. Im actually having a bit more difficulty climbing now than after chemo.

    However, your story is encouraging, and I plan to just keep working at it. The tour Im taking this year has 21k feet of climbing, so I ma a bit concerned.

    Thanks for sharing your story Bud.
    Yes, the shortness of breath before anything else on a climb is really bothersome. Even now, 18 months later, I can't get a decent lactic burn in my legs; shortness of breath shows up first. I think the big problem is that your body is trained to expect more from your lungs, and it tries to demand it, and your lungs come up short.

    It does get better with time, though, with shortness of breath showing up more gradually instead of all at once, and bugging you less (probably because you've gotten used to it). I'm also seeing a little improvement from my hill training, too (it's still possible to better train whatever you have left, I guess). But you might still need more gears than before.

    I try to keep it all in perspective. 18 months after a lung cancer diagnosis, I feel lucky to be riding at all. My goal this year is 7,000 miles, and I'm on a pace to make it. I hope you'll post reports here. I'd love to read about the tour, and reading about the accomplishments of 50+'ers (and almost 50+'ers) is one of the things that keeps me reading this forum. Good luck.
    Bud
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    They told me it's ok to post mileage over in the commuting forum, so you'll probably find me there these days.

  7. #7
    Just born yesterday
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    lung surgery recovery

    I crashed two years ago in March, broke three ribs and collapsed a lung. Was in great shape at the time of the accident at 52 years old. Had major lung surgery--thoracotomy with decortication for those who know what that is. Accident was 3/10/07, got out of hospital 3/26, got back on bike 4/26, did Death Ride 7/8/07. Initially, I had several times when my lungs and breathing just couldn't keep up. I'd hyperventilate at the top of some short, fast all-out climbs, losing my breath and having a hard time catching it. Very uncomfortable and somewhat scary as I was temporarily afraid I would not catch my breath again. Happend maybe a dozen times. Worked hard and by November I was setting PR's are some climbs.

    Don't know if I lost any lung capacity because I had no pre-accident testing to compare. Hang in there, keep riding and allow yourself easy days to recover.

    Good luck.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Timtruro's Avatar
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    Man, you guys make me feel like I should never complain about an ache or pain or sucking wind going uphill etc. You rock, and from the dialogue you will be rockin' for a long time. The short recovery period noted by the OP is concerning, build up gradually even though your head says move on, listen to the body.
    "If there are no cigars in heaven, I shall not go." -Mark Twain

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  9. #9
    too old for bike shorts? cyclehen's Avatar
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    My admiration is all over you guys!! Bike on!!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Kurt Erlenbach's Avatar
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    I'm really glad to get a followup from Budbent about how things are going. woodenidol - if there is anyone anywhere on this site that you should listen to, it is Bud. I've been through colon cancer surgery and chemo, twice, and it stopped in my liver and didn't make it to the lungs. Livers grow back, lungs (and colons) do not. My lung capacity trouble arose from low hematocrit during chemo, and a little EPO fixed that right up. EPO is magic.

  11. #11
    Member toddtone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclehen View Post
    my admiration is all over you guys!! Bike on!!
    +1!

  12. #12
    Senior Member woodenidol's Avatar
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    Well, I rode my commute today, to be sure I could get up the second of two hills (Before this I probably called them rises, lol). I did, though I had to be carefull not to go past that thresh hold where I start to hyperventilate. I would say I echo JDCowboy's sentiments that when it happens, its uncomfortable and a bit scary. Never before when I was a wrestler, runner or racing the bike, have I had this feeling. Sure lots of times you go over that thresh hold, and have to catch your breath, but it comes back fast, or did. lol.

    Im struggling on technique now. I have always relied on Aerobic capacity rather than strength for climbing. I rarely stay seated from the easiest to the steepest climbs, I just was always happy to expend more aerobic energy than rely on muscling up, or spinning up hills. The next couple months should tell if I do indeed have to lower my gearing. I cringe at the thought, as spinning up hills in very low gears wears on me mentally.

    Well, enough whinning for now, I better go get a hamburger and shake, errr, banana and bran muffin I meant. smile

  13. #13
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodenidol View Post
    The next couple months should tell if I do indeed have to lower my gearing. I cringe at the thought, as spinning up hills in very low gears wears on me mentally.

    Well, enough whinning for now, I better go get a hamburger and shake, errr, banana and bran muffin I meant. smile
    Had a couple of serious ops- and they did hit me physically for quite a time. I was glad of the low gears that I rarely used to use before- so don't be worried that you may be wimping out on the hills by needing lower gears. It's easier to cycle slowly up a hill than push the bike.

    And stay off the hamburgers- On this forum it's PIE. And muffins don't count.
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  14. #14
    Wheezing Geezer Bud Bent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodenidol View Post
    Well, I rode my commute today, to be sure I could get up the second of two hills (Before this I probably called them rises, lol). I did, though I had to be carefull not to go past that thresh hold where I start to hyperventilate. I would say I echo JDCowboy's sentiments that when it happens, its uncomfortable and a bit scary. Never before when I was a wrestler, runner or racing the bike, have I had this feeling. Sure lots of times you go over that thresh hold, and have to catch your breath, but it comes back fast, or did. lol.

    Im struggling on technique now. I have always relied on Aerobic capacity rather than strength for climbing. I rarely stay seated from the easiest to the steepest climbs, I just was always happy to expend more aerobic energy than rely on muscling up, or spinning up hills. The next couple months should tell if I do indeed have to lower my gearing. I cringe at the thought, as spinning up hills in very low gears wears on me mentally.

    Well, enough whinning for now, I better go get a hamburger and shake, errr, banana and bran muffin I meant. smile

    I've always been a spinner, too, using a fairly high cadence, even on hills. It's better for you, doing the work with your cardiopulmonary system, rather than stressing muscles and joints too much. But since the hit my cardiopulmonary system took, I have lowered my cadence. I'm still trying to keep it high enough so that I don't have all the issues that mashing can give you, but lower than it was before. It has seemed to help a bit.

    One thing that you have going for you is that it was your lower right lobe they took. That's one third of the smaller right lung. The upper left lobe that I lost is much larger, being half of the larger left lung. I'm betting you'll see some gains before you reach your (new) peak condition.

    Your remark about taking longer to catch your breath is exactly what I've seen. So often, I'll hardly lose any ground to a group or other rider by the time we crest a short hill, only to get dropped while I'm trying to catch my breath after the hill. I'm thinking a little humility from being off the back often isn't going to hurt me too much, though.
    Bud
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    They told me it's ok to post mileage over in the commuting forum, so you'll probably find me there these days.

  15. #15
    Senior Member woodenidol's Avatar
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    Im a commuter again, for atleast a day.

    Three weeks and 4 days after surgery, Im back riding to work. It was supposed to be yesterday, a 75 deg, sunshine filled day of triumph! Sigh, airport snafu for wife and airport, and I was delayed until this morning, a damp rainy day with a slight headwind. Seems almost fitting.

    So off I went, its lighter now at 5:30 in the morning, so that was nice. For the first couple blocks, I nearly forgot it was not just another day of commuting, the surgery a buried memory. It was not long before I was reminded, things have changed. Still it felt harder than I figured it should, my suspisions were confirmed by the Burgerville flags, blowing my way. Well, no one said it would be easy, and I pushed on.

    I came to my first little hill. I gazed upon it and it seemed an old friend welcoming me back. I trudged up it without shifting and standing the last bit, as is my customary style. My breathing was ragged and my legs seem to be betraying me already. Onward, what other choice was there.

    I came to the second hill, another old friend smiling at me. I drew closer and realized the smile was not that of a friend, but an adversary, who sensed doubt, trepidation and weakness from an old combatant. Concern, turned to indesicion and my hand floated off the handlebars to the downtube, do I need to drop off the big ring? I looked up, the hill seemed to smile even more. Annoyed I grabbed the handle bars and decided that todays battle, success or failure, would be fought in the same gear I always ride up it in.

    I would like to say I then charged up to the top, throwing off my doubt and feeling no ill effects from the surgery, but I cannot. Already slowed by my indecision, I was forced to stand earlier than usual. I climbed in a cautious measured speed. I crested the steepest section and sat down for the last of it. My breathing had slipped into the hyperventilating mode and I slowed even further. Luckily, it came back faster than before, and while it took me several minutes to recoup, I once again picked up speed, and finished the ride.

    Time is a good thing. Already this mornings struggle is a fading memory, being replaced by the thought, that maybe, just maybe I can manage to get ready for the ride in Sept. I loved climbing, hopefully will again. I used to think of the hills as my friends, the place I was the best. Maybe they never were, maybe they were always there to test, punish and attempt to defeat me. Or maybe they just know, I dont want a friendly hugg and suggestion that I take it easy, maybe I need them looming over me, saying "try me if you dare, just you try".

  16. #16
    Senior Member
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    I've been through colon cancer surgery and chemo, twice, and it stopped in my liver and didn't make it to the lungs.

    I had a colon resection March 10 and the surgeon gave me the green light to start riding after 6 weeks. I just started chemo May 8 with eloxatin and xeloda, 8 cycles X 3 weeks.

    I've stuck to my mountain bike and spun big gears so far as I found pushing on the big chain ring put some strain on the abdomen.

    So far the chemo has not affected me and I've been able to get in 30 to 50 km a day. Getting out on the bike burns off a lot of stress.

    Good to hear from folks who've been there and done that!!!

  17. #17
    Senior Member woodenidol's Avatar
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    Good Luck with the chemo, you are on a differant cocktail than I was, and sounds like you are doing much better on it than I did on mine. I was on Fofox (12 cycles over 24 weeks), and was sicker than a dog the first month (first two treatments). After that brutal fatigue set in, and walking is all I could manage.

    Keep with the bike as long as you can would be my advice. While the best I could do on mine was walking, I felt it contributed to keeping a positive mental state during and atleast some fitness to the end. I was a mess after 6 months. My first ride was three miles, as probably a blistering 10 miles an hour at the most. I nearly puked on finishing and then promptly slept for 3 hours.

    I guess Im a bit of an oddity, as it never hit my liver, and was found in my lungs this last time. There was some hope at first that it was not cancer returned, as I guess its somewhat rare for it to skip the liver. Luck however, was not on my side.

    Hang in there.

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