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Column: Haven’t I Learned Anything?

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Kenneth B. Lourie

I’m not going to beat myself up too badly; after all, I do have terminal cancer. However, I am disappointed in my behavior of late, especially as it relates to my status as a still-active (thank God!) cancer patient/survivor undergoing treatment. Here I thought I was “Mr. Experience,” a three-years-plus cancer survivor having endured all the ups and downs associated with the diagnosis, prognosis, chemotherapy, diagnostic scans, appointments with my oncologist, lab work, etc., so that blips in any or all of the aforementioned categories wouldn’t faze me, understanding that there’s no future in overreacting to any of it; taking it all in stride and maintaining an even keel as the key to surviving the unrelenting pressure.

And yet, I’ve overreacted; anticipated a negative outcome and worried about a result that has not been confirmed; heck, it hasn’t even been tested for. It’s not even time for it to be tested. Moreover, there are not even indications that when tested, the problem will arise. Still, I’m planning for a negative result and trying to circumvent its treatment and financial impact. In summary, I’m trying to control the uncontrollable (cancer) and in so doing I am making myself miserable. Rather than deal with the consequences as they present themselves, I am attempting to solve them in advance – before they are actual consequences. Part of me feels this is prudent, given my underlying diagnosis, and part of me (I am a Libra) feels that I am putting the cart before the horse, as they say, and creating a problem where as yet one doesn’t exist.

If a problem with my lab work does present itself, it will be bad/complicated enough then. It doesn’t need to be bad/complicated before it actually happens, does it? I’m supposed to be able to deal with the punches. I’ve been punched – so to speak – for over three years now; this is nothing new. Sure, the drug is new, and its potential complication is new, but it’s really just more of the same stuff: cancer, only different. So why am I struggling emotionally? I have been there and I have been doing it. What’s changed?

I would have thought that year one, especially the first few weeks and months of treatment, entering the unknown world of heavy-duty chemotherapy, would have generated more anxiety and deeper emotional troughs than year four: less heavy-duty chemotherapy, more experience being a cancer patient. But that has not been the case. Perhaps the unexpected change in treatment – for better or worse (to be determined) is causing this reaction. Though I’m not in any pain as a result, I do sense a change in momentum, sort of. I imagine I’ll get over it, but I shouldn’t have to “get over it.” I should never have gotten under it. I should have recognized the signs/circumstances and not allowed myself to fall victim to its emotional tentacles. Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 54 is bad enough on its own. I don’t need to make it any worse.

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