As a stage IV non-small cell lung cancer diagnosee/patient/survivor/anomaly, living long--whether prospering or not, is not the simple and presumptive proposition I had anticipated. No more do I anticipate living the same number of years and in the same relative good health that my parents (both deceased), experienced well into their 80s. Now, my life revolves around my oncologist and the CT Scans and lab work that precede our recurring appointments. Whether I think I feel, or hope I don’t feel, or worry about what I do feel, or wonder if what I felt meant that my greatest fear has been realized: tumors growing, moving, medication not working and/or causing collateral damage to internal organs, visits (and I use that term loosely) with my oncologist will certainly cut through any emotional clutter.
Presuming that this cancer thing (routine I now live) is unlikely to change, I probably need to enjoy the good reports/appointments as much as possible, because let’s face it: this is an extremely serious situation I find myself in. However, just as it is said that fame is fleeting and money can’t buy happiness, one “stable” CT Scan followed up by a widely grinning oncologist saying how “pleased” he is with my results does not a future guarantee or remission make. It is what it is: good, make that excellent news, but it’s hardly a corner that’s being turned, it’s simply a road less traveled: that being a lung cancer patient outliving his original prognosis and beyond any protocols/clinical studies available to determine a prescribed/acceptable course of treatment. The short version: I’m still alive. Now what?
“Now what,” for me, since I don’t worry or second guess what my oncologist is advising/how I am being treated, is to embrace the highs more (and no, I’ve never been prescribed medical marijuana) and stop being so damn neutral anticipating the next low (tumors growing/moving) trying to maintain my even disposition. Intellectually, logically, it makes sense. Still, I can’t get a particular Henny Youngman joke out of my head, that in my head, seems/feels relevant, especially given the various intervals of scans and appointments and all the associated medical expenses that I incur: “A doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn’t pay his bill; the doctor gave him another six months.”
Every day, every symptom, every lab result, every diagnostic scan might cause my doctor to tell me--as he did originally back in late February, 2009 (“13 months to two years”) that I only have so many more months to live. And presumably, he won’t be joking. For me however, finding humor somewhere, anywhere, during this whole cancer business has been how I’ve rolled. Perhaps it’s time, 45 months post diagnosis, to consider the seriousness of my situation and when I receive some less-than-distressing-better-than-I have-a-right-to-expect scan results: love it, live it, appreciate it; don’t joke about it. My oncologist was smiling when he saw me. That’s not funny. That’s amazing. I can worry--and be negative about, later--later. Right now is what counts. Tomorrow is promised to no one, especially terminal cancer patients. The future will get here soon enough. I need to savor the present. It probably won’t kill me to do so.