There’s a word – in a medical context, anyway, that you don’t hear every day. And if you’re a stage IV lung cancer survivor – like me, 35 months post-diagnosis, it’s hardly the word you ever want to hear – or see – describing the most recent CT Scan of your lungs (Mediastinum) where your malignant tumors have been in "partial stable remission" going on two-plus years now. "Progression" means growth. Growth means the relative calm under which you’ve existed for the last few years is officially over.
However, as Groundhog Day repeats itself every year, it seems only fitting that this week, due to this "progression", I am writing to say that I too am repeating myself, sort of; I have re-started chemotherapy, so yes, here I go again. Because the previous chemotherapy cocktail worked so well (I’m still here, aren’t I? That’s a ‘yes’ by the way; this column has not been prerecorded), my oncologist has advised – and there were two other options discussed at my most recent appointment; Team Lourie chose the known of the three evils. Our collective thinking being that since I had success originally (the tumors shrunk) and equally important, my body tolerated the treatment reasonably well, repeating the six-time infusion (the second line, as they say) is a prudent blend of proactive presumption: Why wait? Why worry? Why not? And so we have. (It’s not exactly caution to the wind, but nor is it hot air.)
In anticipation of daze gone by (chemotherapy round one), I’ve already gone to the salon and got my "chemo cut;" short but not exactly down to the bone, but closely cropped for a smoother transition to the inevitable baldness too soon to follow. I have also stopped buying – or rather stopped planning to buy – certain personal hygiene products (shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razors) because there will be no hair to wash and condition and no stubble to shave – for the next six months or so, anyway. In a peculiar sort of way, daily maintenance becomes somewhat easier for a chemotherapy patient. And since I’ve been there and done that, (though I didn’t necessarily want to do it again), I feel "very fortunate" as my oncologist described my circumstances; to be present and accounted for (still alive after three years) while preparing for the worst (yet again) and hoping for the best.
Having survived the treatment once provides a sort of comfort and familiarity that does not breed contempt – for me. I am ready, willing and in my opinion, quite able after three years of building up my immune system with more-proper eating, combined with a regular regimen of cancer-fighting additives: baking soda, apple cider vinegar, probiotics, green tea extract, pureed asparagus, alkaline water and diet, miscellaneous spices, pills, supplements and vitamins together with less stress due to work accommodations and disability benefits, to win the day (and hopefully the night, too); and though I don’t anticipate this "second line" around will be any easier than the first, physically; mentally my feeling is, I’ve handled it once and I will handle it again.
And all things considered, as I typically consider things, I am fortunate to still have this choice/opportunity. Scared of course, to be honest, but experience is a wonderful teacher and since I have mostly been paying attention these past three years, I am going where this man has gone before (and not to a Star Trek Convention). I will be walking in footsteps already taken, the impressions of which are clearly mapped out in my head. As the man says in the 5-Hour Energy commercial: "Let’s do this!"
Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers.