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Column: Off Topic, Almost

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Kenneth B. Lourie

If only it were that simple. And as much I’d like to turn the cancer switch off, finding that switch has proven to be extremely challenging. Not that I’m forever looking for it mind you, but if it were to present itself, I hope I wouldn’t be so self-absorbed in its pursuit to not take advantage of its proximity. Under the present circumstances (as I live and breathe, still), a break and/or a brake in all this cancer focus/action would be most welcome. A cure even better, but if nothing else, I am realistic about my cancer diagnosis. I’m not quite ready to admit that I’m consumed by it however (really?), but if I were to be honest, I’d have to say my life is certainly controlled by it.

The enlightened view is of course, given the “terminal” characterization of my diagnosis/prognosis, that as long as I am still controlled by cancer, I am still living with it. And so far as we know, generally speaking it beats the alternative of not living with it. Dying might be a beginning for some, but for me, it sort of represents an end, an end I’d rather not reach, at least not before my pre-cancer diagnosis, life-expectancy age of 85 or so. It just doesn’t seem right (you’ll note I didn’t say fair), to die at a younger age than either of my parents (age 86 and 87) did. Aren’t succeeding generations supposed to naturally evolve and live longer and healthier than those which preceded them?

I know. There’s no guarantee. Oh, there is, actually: “death and taxes,” as the old joke says, (ironic, given my situation). And really, who else am I supposed to be concerned about? Granted, it can’t be all about Kenny all the time; that would be boring (as some of you occasional readers have opined). But unless I start at home, I’ll never make it out on the road. I don’t want to be a metaphorical black hole that sucks all the life and laughter out of a room because I have cancer. I want to be the exact opposite. Part of my intention is that I believe that what goes around comes around, and being positive to others will generate positivity back to me (of that I’m positive). Ultimately, I am being selfish. I need that positivity sent my way. I don’t need to be around any “nattering nabobs of negativism” (Spiro T. Agnew). The other part is, it’s not my nature to be negative, and when it happens that I receive and/or sense negativity, it really drains my emotional wherewithal – which after three-plus years of living with a terminal diagnosis, it is wherewithal which has come and often gone. It’s simply too difficult to overcome. I already have enough physical and medical challenges. I don’t need any matters being made worse.

On the contrary, to prevent further erosion, I need to be over-compensated for my troubles. Apparently, the longer one lives as a cancer survivor/patient, the greater the cumulative weight of the underlying diagnosis. If it’s ever gone (remission), it’s certainly not forgotten – by the patient. One way or another, it’s with you for the rest of your life. And good health guarantees? Right next to your “Get out of jail free card.” Nevertheless, after sifting and sorting through the emotional maze these last three years, I feel as if I have a pretty good handle on what I’m doing and why. The only problem is, cancer doesn’t care; it does what it wants and it causes what it causes. As much as you try, it overwhelms. Some days are worse than others, as you no doubt can read for yourself.

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