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Column: Diagnosed But Not Sick

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Kenneth B. Lourie

Or so I tell myself – and others, as often as the opportunity presents itself. It’s a distinction with which I can live, a distinction with which I’m comfortable, and a distinction which enables me to live my life as normally as possible; which when one considers my diagnosis: NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancer) and the original, terminal prognosis – received back in Feb. 2009: “13 months to two years,” and my age when all this stuff hit the figurative fan: 54, it’s no wonder I assimilate such delusions and don’t give them a second thought. (The first thought: premature death, is bad enough.)

But it does take a little convincing. And it’s not to say that having cancer isn’t an excuse/explanation for me acting a certain way and/or requiring certain things (not exactly accommodations). Because it is. As much as I don’t want having cancer to seep into my thoughts and/or actions, it is impossible to prevent it from doing so (and you regular readers know how much I try). Its reality has a life of its own, whereby it almost creates new instincts in how I think and feel and react, instincts that I am aware of when they happen, but not quite predisposed to prevent their appearance/occurrence. Being diagnosed with a terminal disease at age 54 and a half tends to narrow your vision and unleash – occasionally – the beast which resides within, a beast with which you’re likely well acquainted but not particularly proud.

As much as I’m able to minimize the damage, collateral or otherwise, from these cancer-driven behaviors (see how easy it is to place blame), I still maintain that these behaviors are not because I’m sick, but rather because I’m diagnosed. My feeling is, once I start using/invoking sickness as an explanation, it might become a slippery slope. And once I’ve begun using and in turn becoming increasingly comfortable with the cause of, and description for, my inappropriate and selfish words and deeds, then the cancer has indeed won; and as a direct result, sooner rather than later these columns will cease as I will have permanently desisted.

I imagine these words probably sound like mind games, and too little too late at that. However, it’s been my experience that being diagnosed with a terminal disease leads to an awful lot of self doubt, recrimination, insecurity, fear, anxiety, stress and non-stop introspection and deals you don’t ever want to make with the devil. Ergo, any little thing I can do – or think, or tell myself – repeatedly, is what I have to do. I suppose it’s a bastardized version of the power of positive thinking, or the act of a desperate man. Either way, I’m still alive and rationalizing my behavior.

If my not calling a spade a spade enables me to deal the cards with which I’ve been dealt a little bit longer, and I’m not cheating anybody but death in the process, then I will continue to do so. Having/being diagnosed with cancer/a terminal disease is neither fun nor funny; however, unless I find some humor or wishful thinking in how I approach this situation, I don’t suppose I’ll be approaching it much longer. To me, it’s always been mind over matter, and even though these matters are rather serious, I still don’t mind.

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