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Column: Weight For It

This reference is not about pounds, per se. It is about the two largest tumors in my lungs, inoperable in that they are located between the two halves which make up the whole lung. “Inoperable” defines stage IV lung cancer, along with the cancer having moved from its primary location (still unknown at this time) to a secondary location (my lungs) where we certainly have become familiar with it, but oddly enough, not symptomatic because of it.

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Kenneth B. Lourie

One of the first questions my oncologist asked me way back when, at our initial Team Lourie meeting, was if I felt anything heavy in my chest. I said I did feel a weight/heaviness in the middle of my chest; in the exact spot he said, after I pointed it out, where the tumors were located, sort of confirming what all the test results and biopsy had indicated: a growth (determined to be malignant) where it wasn’t supposed to be. To this day, 44 months later, the most recurring question my oncologist asks me when we meet is whether I feel that “heaviness” in my chest. More often than not, my answer has been “No,” a clear indication, along with the results from my regular CT Scan, that the tumors that have been weighing on my mind were, for that particular two-month interval of treatment, not growing (appreciably, anyway; I try to be realistic). “News with which,” as I so often say, “I can live.”

I remember three and a half years ago when the significance of this heaviness issue became more obvious to me. It was at the first appointment I had with my oncologist after I had been infused with two or three rounds (six hours+ per round) of heavy-duty chemotherapy. Once the standard pleasantries and how-are-you-feelings were out of the way, we got into more detailed doctor-patient talk: “Kenny,” my oncologist asked,” do you not feel anything?” Repeating the question out loud and sort of scoffing at its ambiguity, I found myself, saying/snickering: “Do I not feel anything? Well, I sort of don’t feel that weight in my chest.” To which my doctor enthusiastically replied: “That’s great! That’s where the tumors are located. The chemotherapy seems to be working.” (To say we were all a bit encouraged at the time would be the understatement of the universe. Little did we know, the roller coaster had only just begun.)

And so, this same “weight/heaviness” question has continued to be asked at every appointment (now bi-monthly). And every minute of every day, I am self-assessing any weight that I may feel in my chest and/or any other sensations originating from where I know the tumors are situated. What little I know now is, if I feel weight in my chest, perhaps the tumors are growing – or maybe not (ergo my ongoing Memorex-type problem: “Is it real or is it…?”) Maybe it’s fluid in my lungs or scar tissue scabbing over a shrinking tumor or nothing-in-particular-just-something-I’m-super-sensitive-to because of my age or circumstances? Either way, I’m always waiting and wondering if the weight of the world need be on my shoulders, if occasionally it’s not in my chest.

What this all means is, confusion. As much as you want a straight answer and a clear understanding of what was happening to you – and why, and what might happen still, the day you were diagnosed with the cancer was the day all of that ended. And to complicate matters further, under such stressful circumstances as a terminal diagnosis, I can readily admit: One’s mind has a mind of its own, and control of it, as with your television – made famous during the beginning of “The Outer Limits” (a mid-60s classic), doesn’t belong to you. (Unfortunately, unlike the television show, control does not return in an hour.)

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