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Column: Living Longer, Sort of Prospering

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Kenneth B. Lourie

Though my column has appeared in the newspaper as usual the last few weeks, I haven’t felt much like writing. Typically, I’m weeks ahead with my column inventory, having regularly found the time and inclination to put pen to paper and provide the prose you regular readers have come to expect. To say I haven’t been in the mood lately would be an oversimplification of epic proportions. To say that I’ve been depressed and dealing with the weight (subconsciously for sure, consciously for maybe) of my diagnosis, prognosis, life expectancy, and life as a cancer patient in general, would be more accurate. It’s an admission I take no pride in making. I never wanted to be a victim of my own circumstances (unless I was quoting Curly Howard from The Three Stooges) and I never wanted to use my having cancer for an excuse/explanation for anything. However, given my mood and manner these last few weeks and minimal literary output, that’s exactly what I’m now doing; and I’m not too happy about it either, which almost makes its use even more disturbing.

Obviously, living with a terminal disease is heavy duty. To think I could shrug it off – all the time, is a bit naive. Not that cancer has a mind of its own, but it does find a way to infiltrate your defenses and occasionally bring you to your knees, literally and figuratively. After all, I am human, not Vulcan. I am ruled by emotion, not logic. Though the good of the many outweigh the good of the one, this one is weighed down pretty good by the one not being so good. When I see and read and hear about real people and even fake people (television, movies, etc.) dying of cancer (and lung cancer is a particularly pernicious player), it’s impossible for me, after repeated exposure, to not take it personally; as in: you’re next!

So yes, I feel it. And the longer I live beyond my original prognosis, the heavier the weight of inevitability becomes. In spite of lifestyle choices and changes I’ve made, and the miscellaneous supplements and homeopathic-type remedies I’ve employed, there does seem to be a reality that one would be hard-pressed to ignore: a terminal diagnosis (which stage IV lung cancer is) is not identified as such because of where one was diagnosed (at the airport), it’s how long one can expect to live based on the best medical and statistical information known at the time. And as much as I want to believe that such prognostications are merely educated guesses and subject to interpretation – and reinterpretation (which of course they are, to a degree), there is some reasonably acceptable medical data to support the notion that cancer kills.Though dismissing that notion and maintaining a positive attitude has thus far been my approach, there are days – and weeks, like now, where that approach seems arrogant and pretentious, and I suffer accordingly, mentally mostly.

Not because of any recent change in my health or results (although this new chemo drug I’m on is exhausting me), it’s more about the evolution of the reality: one can’t live with terminal cancer forever, can they? I mean, it wouldn’t be terminal if you could. There must be an end in sight. Otherwise, the end wouldn’t have been mentioned at the beginning, during the original Team Lourie meeting with my oncologist. Sure, doctors can be wrong and I could be an anomaly: “the exception,” as my brother, Richard has said, “that proves the rule,” statistically speaking, anyway. But betting against long odds seems illogical; and if my years of faithful “Star Trek” viewing have showed me anything, it’s that one’s feelings can sometimes get in the way of how one acts, and not always with great results.

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