Thursday, May 18, 2006


One of the surgeries I had last October is called a bilateral paratracheal dissection.

In this operation, the surgeon removes two muscles at the front of the neck. The muscles were not infiltrated with cancer; they were just in the way. There were cancerous nodes in my central compartment, and getting to the nodes while preserving those muscles is not possible.

The main effect of removing these muscles is that my neck kind of caves in just above my collar bone, because the muscles aren't there to hold it out anymore. The typical slight depression that most people have is a little more pronounced on me, but not so much more that anyone would typically notice it. So, basically, it's a cosmetic thing.

But every so often, I have this feeling that my throat has collapsed on itself, like a tube that's been flattened out. Can't breathe, can't swallow. It's the weirdest feeling, and when it happens I have to shut down my brain immediately, because my instinct is to panic, and that's not helpful. I just have to remember to breathe, and take a drink of water, and that's usually enough to wash away the weirdness in my neck.

Last night, my hips were bothering me (no news there) so I was lying on my back in bed and fell asleep that way. I woke up literally unable to breathe. It was scary. I immediately flipped over so that gravity could help, and tried to suck in some air. Nope. Managed to cough a little, grabbed some air that way, then managed to cough some more and get enough of a breath so I could take a drink of water.

My theory is that my post-nasal drip essentially glued my throat shut. If I hadn't had the surgery, that wouldn't have happened. I also have either scar tissue or nodes or something pushing against my trachea from the other side, so with gravity pulling down the top of the tube, and whatever-that-is pushing up the bottom, there wasn't much wiggle room there, so to speak.

Seeing the ENT on Monday; we'll see what he says about the Sinus Infection from Hell, the choking thing, and oh, yeah, that biopsy. In the meantime: absolutely no falling asleep on my back.

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