But not sickness. Not health, either, as last week’s column ended. At least that’s the way I characterize my having stage IV lung cancer. And I don’t know if I’m splitting hairs here, since I’ve never worked in a salon, although I do get my hair cut regularly; but I have been accused of speaking double-talk. Double entendres and unnecessary redundancies I will admit to, though. Nevertheless, the characterization seems to help me navigate the occasionally treacherous waters that a terminal patient undergoing chemotherapy – again, can expect, both mentally and of course, physically. It’s a game – to me, anyway; how to spin something so terribly unexpected: diagnosed with cancer at age 54 and a half, despite being a lifelong non-smoker from an immediate family with NO cancer history, into something manageable. And for those who know me – or read my columns regularly enough, I think you would admit I manage it reasonably well, something which I am quite proud of, by the way.
And as I continue to psych myself up for the inevitable chemotherapy-related changes – and challenges – ahead (infusions three through six are still ahead), I am eager – sort of, and of course, grateful for surviving this long, post-diagnosis, to have yet another opportunity to slay the dragon (shrink my tumors) again. It sure beats the alternative – no opportunity because, well, you know: I wouldn’t be here writing this column, or anything else for that matter.
But writing I am, and hopeful I remain. Next week’s column will be my three-year anniversary column. When initially diagnosed, back in February, 2009, I was given a "13-month-to-two-year prognosis" (life expectancy), and not given too much hope, if truth be told. Oncologists are not in the business – from what I had been told previously, and have now experienced for myself, of "blowing any sunshine up your skirt," to invoke a quote from M*ASH’s Lt. Col. Henry Blake (the recently deceased McLean Stevenson); honesty for which I asked and have thankfully always received. I’d rather know what I’m up against and work to overcome it than resign myself to its inevitability. And so far, given my post-diagnosis status, (still typing), I would say it – or something in combination with it, is working.
Although I don’t expect the next 10-12 weeks of enduring chemotherapy to be very pleasant, it is nonetheless the best option available to me, given my rather limited knowledge of the subject. However, I am confident and comfortable in my oncologist’s steady hand and ongoing concern as he continues to encourage me treating forward. We get along pretty well, although sometimes my Kenny-speak (unintended though it may be) is perplexing to him, so now what he does to interpret what he thinks I’m asking, is to speak back to me in words and phrases which he’s comfortable using, and then await my reply. It’s a tiny bit of a process – for which obviously we both have time, but it assures us that we’re in complete understanding with what one another is trying to say. Given the fact that I’ve now outlived my original, worst-case prognosis: 13 months, by almost two years, I would say that whatever the doctor and I are doing, however we’re communicating, it’s working. I mean, I’m still alive. So onward and upward we go.
My next fact-to-face appointment with my oncologist is scheduled for February 24th, a week following my next CT Scan, the first scan since I will have re-started this "second line" of chemotherapy; another crossroads moment to be sure. "Progression" started this, perhaps regression (shrinkage) can end it? Two infusions in, four more to go. I still don’t feel anything. But then again, I rarely have.
Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac and The Connection Newspapers.