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Kenneth B. Lourie

How does one not become consumed with something that is all-consuming? Moreover, how does that same one take certain information in stride that potentially is anything but stride-worthy? And if one were not to be all-consumed by the information that, disturbing as it was, was in fact taken in stride, how does that one not feel guilty and/or responsible about neglecting to act – if there was even anything to be done about the unsettling news that may have spawned this initial paragraph?

I don’t. I can’t. I won’t. Somehow.

Not that I received any news of late that was particularly jarring or life-abbreviating but, as a terminal patient, so far as I know (and how far do I really know, since I’ve never been a terminal patient before), information that is not positive is negative (almost by definition) and the fine line of life upon which I straddle every minute of every day becomes that much more difficult to sustain, especially if the negative begins to overtake the positive. I have equated the sensation to taking the first few curious steps across a newly frozen pond – in winter, each step more precarious than the last, waiting for the cracking – or not, and the associated fear. You want to go forward, but not at your own peril. Yet going backward seems equally ill-advised. I mean, you’ve been there and done that. Backwards represents the past. Forward represents the future. Personally, I don’t want to live in the past. I want to live in the present/future. Receiving results which prevent you from going forward – which may stop you in your tracks, are not so much safe as they are insecure. For me, it’s all about momentum. I don’t want to lose what progress I’ve gained, nor do I want to retrace my steps. However, survival may be about knowing when to redirect those energies/treatment, to rest and/or retreat (to fight another day) and to work with your body, not against it.

But who knows? For a terminal patient, changes in anything are disproportionately significant. It could mean anything. It could mean nothing. Objectivity disappears the day your oncologist tells you have an incurable disease. Accordingly, it’s extremely difficult to shrug off any abnormal medical findings. How do I not think that the beginning of the end starts at the end of the beginning? The point at which my body begins to weaken and reveal indicators that reflect a body in distress and one whose underlying diagnosis is starting to assert itself and break down all the barriers that have been constructed (metaphorically speaking) over the previous 34 months?

In summary, how do I interpret change? For the better? The worse? Meaningful? Meaningless? As a cancer patient who has now outlived his original prognosis (“13 months to two years”) by a rather significant amount of time, how do I remain objective about lab work, urine specimens, diagnostic scans, etc.? I can’t. However, worrying about any or all of it likely produces no real tangible benefit either, whereas not worrying about it, not stressing about it might, anecdotally speaking, anyway. Unfortunately, worrying and stressing are not simply emotions I can switch off, especially when you’re consumed by a terminal disease, whether figuratively or worse, literally.

Diagnosis to date, my cancer-related problems have been figurative, mostly. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to not react negatively when results are changing right before your eyes, literally. Yet somehow, I have to. If I don’t, I’ll likely make matters worse. And given my underlying stage IV lung-cancer diagnosis, I probably don’t need to go out of my way to cause any more trouble. It’s already found me.

Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers.