What is it like to live with one lung?

Hi. I'm new to this site. I was diagnosed with a 3.5 cm tumor on my left mainstem bronchus in the place where my heart sits between my lungs, in June 2004. I was going to be a stem cell donor for my brother, I had no symptoms and was very healthy. I have been afraid to have a biopsy because of the potential for the tumor to leak and spread to other parts of my body. I've seen several doctors, had lots of xrays, CT scans and PET scans. The reports all say it hasn't grown but is metabolically active, probably carcinoid cancer. For some reason, although nothing has changed, with my last CT/PET scan I became more nervous. One of my doctors was emphasizing that even though the tumor hasn't changed doesn't mean it isn't metastisizing. The treatment for my case seems to be complete removal of my entire left lung.

I am looking for survival stories of people who are living with one lung. I am a physically active, healthy 55 year old woman. Most people think I am 10 years younger than my age. I have 2 children 12 and 15. I want to enjoy my future grandchildren as well as hiking, skiing and swimming. I would be grateful if any of you would respond and let me know how things have gone for you.

Thanks and best wishes to you, Marcia in California

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hi, im a male 22 years of age! although i dont have cancer i have a disease that has affected my life tremendously! In about two weeks im going to have my whole left lung removed! I am nervous and scared and do not kno what to expect! I found this site by browsing and looking for answers. So i was wondering if you can help me out and give me some tips! I would appreciate your help very much! Thank you!!

Scared In Texas!

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Hi Marcia - I am about to find out what that is like - I am having my entire right lung removed this Thursday! - my greatest hope right now is to have the cancer removed - I want you to trust your instincts - go for the biopsy - get it removed - I think for me the most difficult thing is knowing that it is still inside me growing - possbly spreading - I have read many comments on this site that have given me hope for the future - read and believe - eveyone is so positive and they have all been where you and I are right now - have faith - be strong - my prayers are with you!!!!!

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Hello Unopulmo,

I had upper lobe of left lung removed two and a half years ago. I still have a lot of chest pain and sometimes shoulder pain. Still have discomfort from the surgery scar. I have trouble with certain weather changes - change to cold weather or damp weather - I cough and have trouble getting deep breath. The first year was very hard but it got easier after that. I don't have trouble with stairs. Last summer I had trouble with a really big hill in really hot weather. But usually I can keep up with anyone.

Congratulations on your marathon. That is quite an accomplishment, even with two lungs!


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Hi Marcia. I had my left lung removed 15 years ago due to adenocarcinoma. It was confined to the lung, so I didn't require chemo or radiation. I was terrified when I woke up from the surgery and was told my left lung was gone...I couldn't imagine how I was going to live. But, I was so thankful to have that cancer out of me! I gradually got stronger, and could do quite a bit of what I did before the surgery. I lived without problems an almost perfectly normal life, just having to pace myself with strenuous activities. In fact, a lot of people were amazed when they found out I only had 1 lung.
Last September, I developed sciatica in my right leg, very painful, and just just continued to worsen, and then numbness started to occur in my leg and foot. I went to my Dr, after about 3-4 weeks of suffering, and had an MRI done. My Dr called me in my office the very next morning...Not a good sign. There was about a 2 inch mass in my lower spine pressing against my sciatic nerve...hence the sciatica. Well, once my workup was comleted with the oncologist who treated me 15 years aqgo, I learned that I had 2 small tumors in my right lung that had spread to my lower spine. And I had been seeing a pulmonologist (lung ) Dr since my left lung was removed. So, this new cancer in my right lung got by him, and spread to my spine making this an advanced stage of NSCLC. Surgery was not an option, so I did radiation on my lower spine to shrink the mass to relieve the pain, then did chemo with Taxol and Carboplatin. This being an advanced staged of cancer (stage IV) treatment is considered palliative and not curative. I was absolutely amazed that I was not sick with the chemo! I did develope an aspiration pneumonia just before I started chemo, and was hospitalized for almost a month. That stay just really knocked my stamina and any staying power I had way down. I'm now under hospice care, have been for 5 months, still working as much as I can, still trying to live like I am not dying.......I lived like I was a dying man for a while after diagnosed this time, but found I just needed to be thankful to God for giving me 15 years after my first cancer, and I feel I am truly blessed by that.
You CAN live almost a normal life with only 1 lung Marcia. It is a scary thought, but getting that cancer out feels so good. You will have some life changes, some permanent and some short time, but they don't compare to the alternative. And you will return to almost normal within about 8-10 months. Just don't baby yourself or feel sorry for yourself and try living the way you used to, realizing there will be limitations that weren't there before.

God Bless you Marcia! Please let us know how things are going. My email is magigwn@yahoo.com if you want to email me.


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Sorry I didn't give my age. I was 36 when my first cancer occurred, and am now 51.


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Hey everyone!

I came to this site because I'm soon to be living with one lung, but I do not have cancer. I hope to find some information since this surgery is really worrying me.

Anyway I'm 24 years old. I had one lobe removed from my right lung back in 2003 due to a gunshot wound. Everything seemed to be fine for all these years until I started coughing up small amounts of blood 6 months ago. Since then it has worsened and now the coughing up blood comes a whole lot more.

One day about 2 weeks ago I coughed up almost a full cup of blood and blood clots. I've been seeing Doctors since the first time it happened taking Cat/Scans and X-Rays all the time. But I could never get any good help.

Every now and then they tried anti-biotics but none have worked. Right now I have phenumonia in the lung and cough up nasty yellish colored stuff all day long. So 2 months ago I saw a lung specialist who did a bioposy. Whats weird though is he said he didn't see too much wrong.

But now I'm at a lung surgeon getting ready to get the rest of my right lung taken out. I've been real active all my life playing many different types of sports and working out. I'm just worried I'm going to not be able to do these things anymore.

I know it could be a lot worse and I feel bad asking here since I don't have cancer, but I'm really worried on how it's going to be. I appreciate any help and I'll pray for you all. Thanks!

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I think from what you wrote about being active and in good health, you should not have any problems going back to playing some sports and working out. At first it might be slow going, you will have to give your other lung time to adjust to being the only one.
I know there are some people on here who are running every day, even running in marathons. Give yourself time to heal and ease back into your workouts, I think you will be just fine.
I had my right lung removed 1 year ago yesterday. I get winded easily but I also have copd. You have your health and your age, you'll do well.
Good luck with your surgery and my prayers are with you.

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Hi, I just joined today so am new. I found the site because I was so confused about having just one lung. No one has really said what I should be doing. I know that I was doing really good after last summer. I had surgery at the Mayo on June 29, 2007 by a great Dr named Chen. He had to take the entire left lung. Was up wlking the next day and out of hospital by July 3rd. I did love my pain meds and my pillow. Never thought I would ever want to cough again in my whole life. I am told I am still doing good for a 59 yr old guy who used to smoke 3-4 packs a day. But now I am finding that the cold is such a desaster (sp) for me. I seem to have very little breath, no stamina and I almost hyper-ventelate after exertion in the cold. Is the cold bad or is it just me.

I am so lucky I guess as they caught the tumor early, I was smart enough to get out of Des Moines and away from these surgeons here, and took my big ol butt to Mayo Clinic. If I had not gone there the surgeon here would have killed me. BUT, everything happened so fast that I feel it all just passed me by. I feel Like I am in a play watching everything, I go out for popcorn and miss the entire 3rd act. I feel guilty because I am really feeling well when others are so ill. Yet I don't know what to feel as I have never done this before. OK, 1st question is about the cold, do I need to go south in the winter, Larry

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Hi Larry,

I don't know the answer to the cold issue, but if you have decent internet access and speakers, you might find the breathing exercises here to be helpful:



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Thanks, I will try that. Also, I see your in DC. One of my favorite places. I used to come out there a lot when Reagon was in office. Even had my own pass until they changed all that after he got shot. Anyway, I alsways loved politics and the people in it. Most of them anyway. Thanks Larry

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Hi Larry and welcome.
I only have one lung too. The cold gets to me too. I find it very hard to breath in this frigid Wisconsin weather.
Last summer, 6 months out from surgery I did a lot of walking and that seemed to help build up my left lung some. Though there are times that even the slightest exertion makes me huff and puff, especially stairs.
I was told at my last check up that I am at my base line and probably would not see anymore improvement as far as lung capacity goes. Oh well, that's ok I can live with that.
I always try to keep my mouth covered when I do go out, that helps some too.
I am sure you will get all kinds of advice, just take it a day at a time.
Good luck to you.

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Good morning and thanks for you comment. I sure do hate the cold. Granted it has only been 6 1/2 months since my surgery. I then went thru Chemo , 4 treatments ending in November. All my c-scans so far are clear so hope things continue. I am 59 yrs old but now feel 80. Have found myself getting really stuck in the depression zone the last month or so. I kind of am confused as my cancer was caught real earley, they believe they got it all with the surgery and the chemo was just to be sure. I think I am confused by my feelings as I know I should be jumping for joy and feeling like the luckiest person in Iowa. Instead I feel depressed and then I feel bad as I do not feel I have any right to feel that way. Oh well enough of this. I just do not understand why I feel l;ike I do. Thanks for your comments. Larry

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..ok, he only had TB with complications, but after they'd sliced 'n' diced he did 40 years.

..ok, he wasn't a sportsy dad, but we went sailing, fell-walking and climbing together..

..swimming was hard for him, all the scars were an embaressement, till we met a vietnamese lady who'd had the same op, on a nudist beach in France...

..her stitching was cool, his was like a railway marshalling yard..

..dam*, she was soooo cute...

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Hello Marcia
I had my left lung removed in December 2005.This was followed by 5 months of chemotherapy.So far results have been good.I have not been as active as I was and hot humid weather reduces my breathing ability.
In 2007-08 I found employment in a brickworks testing bricks in a lab. It was difficult at first but it became easier to carry around the bricks to do the tests and was not having many problems.I don't feel that I can do what I once did but do as much as I can within my limits.
Hope this has been helpful

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HI Marcia...I had my left lung removed May 09 at 52 years old. I was very healthy (other than a little lung cancer), ate well, worked out religiously, ran a busy business I owned, have 2 sons similar ages to yours. I sailed thru the surgery and recovery (I chose a surgeon that i felt was the best there is) and to this day have very little effect from having only one lung.
I actually forget about it regularly. My "issues" are all orthopedic now. A month after my lung removal I had a met to my L3 vertebrae that fractured it and caused excrutiating pain. I subsequently had spinal fusion surgery and while I am much better every month, i still have a lot of back pain and that is what keeps me back, not the lung at all. If i did not have the vert issue, i would have been excercising the remaining lung and it would be even stronger than it is...

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i now see this post is 2 years old...marcia how are you? and why are such ancient posts still being circulated????

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Marcia, I had my right upper lobe removed in 1989 and am still leading an active life today. I am short of breath at times but I am 67 years old. Get several opinions on what to do and then act, but have no fear you can not only survive,but thrive on one lung.

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