A Patient Learns to Breathe Again After Lung Cancer
Mike Scrodin of Colchester, VT, is a veteran who served in the Vietnam War and came to Vermont in 1990 from Colorado. In October 2016, he got a diagnosis that changed his life. This is his story in his own words.
How did you learn that you had lung cancer?
Mike Scrodin: I was a smoker for 45 years. I wanted to get Chantix to quit smoking. My doctor told me I had to get a CAT scan first. So I got the CAT scan, I come home and about fifteen minutes later she called me up and told me I had lung cancer. It was stage 1. They caught it early. They took out my center lobe and fifteen lymph nodes, too. I am now cancer-free. I spent five days in the hospital. When I first got home, I was shocked at how much that took out of me.
Why did you go to Pulmonary Rehabilitation?
Mike Scrodin: I didn’t want to initially. My surgeon and respiratory therapist, Julia O’Shea, convinced me to participate in a few rehab programs. I started out in Steps to Wellness. That was twelve weeks. I signed up for pulmonary rehab, which is another eight weeks. And I continue to go there. The more I go to the gym, the stronger my body becomes. And more oxygen is needed to support a healthy body. That’s why I am now on oxygen. Initially, I wasn’t on oxygen, but they tested me and my O2 level dropped to the low eighties. The oxygen level to support health should be in the nineties.
What do you do at the gym?
Mike Scrodin: I spend a minimum of forty-five minutes on a treadmill. They have weight machines, treadmills, and bikes, and I change things up periodically. Normally, I’d go there Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then Saturday. There are some days where I don’t want to be on the treadmill. It’s tough, but Julia made it work for me. Now, I look forward to going.
What is the impact of Pulmonary Rehabilitation on your life?
Mike Scrodin: I started building my strength up and confidence that I was going to be able to continue on with my life. I was excited about it. And the support from the patients there, plus the staff, encouraged me and motivated me. The program has positively affected my attitude and energy levels. It helped me tackle depression.
Do you plan to keep going?
Mike Scrodin: Yup. Because forty dollars a month to continue going there was worth it.
What did you learn about your lungs through Pulmonary Rehabilitation?
Mike Scrodin: We did a lot of classes. We learned about the mechanics of the body and of the lungs and where your lungs actually are. I didn’t know at the time that you have part of your lung on your back, and it was very intriguing. We learned what transpired the body and then we had a long class on how to use your inhalers correctly.
I learned breathing techniques to breathe correctly. Turns out I’d been doing it wrong my whole life. That’s a hard thing to change. You’re supposed to do close-mouth breathing. So if you breathe correctly, you’re supposed to breathe in deep and then exhale everything you possibly can out of your lungs.
What is your advice to other patients?
Mike Scrodin: Please give this program a try for your physical and mental health. I will be there! I will be the one wearing O2 with a hydration backpack. I am smiling today because of this program. I do not have bad days anymore.
Learn more about Pulmonary Rehabilitation at the University of Vermont Medical Center.