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Column: A Pill a Day…

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Kenneth B. Lourie

Hopefully will keep the cancer at bay. (I’d say “away,” but let’s be realistic, three and a half years past a NSCLC diagnosis, there is no way, generally speaking, that stage IV lung cancer disappears into the ether; it’s classified as stage IV for a reason. However, there are many – and varied – non-traditional and not particularly Western and/or A.M.A./American Cancer Society-approved alternatives to fight this insidious disease, many of which, about 20 or so, I have incorporated into my overall treatment regimen. Moreover, if my continuing survival reflects anything, it is an affirmation of what former N.C. State basketball coach Jim Valvano said in 1993, in one of his last public appearances before succumbing to bone cancer, on ESPN’s inaugural ESPYs Award show, as the first recipient of the “Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award”: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” And so I haven’t.)

Besides, where’s the future in giving up or giving in? That’s not to infer that the last few years haven’t been incredibly challenging, because they have. Emotionally for sure, physically not quite as much. Although chemotherapy is all it’s cracked up to be; some treatment (drugs) were definitely worse (side effects/quality of life) than others. Fortunately for me, amazingly in fact, through it all, I have been relatively asymptomatic with minimal/manageable side-effects and zero hospitalizations. Nevertheless, cancer’s reputation as a killer is well-documented and hardly the kind of diagnosis one can ever take with a grain of salt – maybe better taken with a grain of alcohol.

Every day, every doctor’s appointment, every scan, every time you have your blood drawn, every change in how you think and how you feel, relate to the undeniable fact (and believe me, I’ve tried to deny it; it’s a good defense/self-preservation mechanism) that you (meaning me) have cancer, and not just a garden variety, but rather the incurable kind, according to my oncologist: stage IV. Defined as metastasized, inoperable, with a “13-month to two-year prognosis.” (Given to me late February, 2009.)

But here I am, still. I have outlived my prognosis (but hopefully not my usefulness) by a significant – to me, length of time: years, depending how you calculate. However, does that significance move me closer than ever to the end of my writing all these lines? I don’t want to think that, but whatever cancer does to you physically, it’s equally bad – in my experience/opinion on your mind/thought process. Thinking straight, thinking clearly, thinking objectively, thinking unselfishly; all become collateral damage as a result of your cancer diagnosis. Fighting through these difficult-to-control emotions is the bane of my existence, an existence I’m lucky to still have. My next CT Scan is in September, two months after I will have been taking my daily “targeted therapy” chemotherapy-type pill. Then I’ll know how I really feel. Until then, life goes on. And so far, this pill seems not to be making a bad situation any worse; a non-side effect for which I am extremely grateful.

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