Meaning: If I’m terminal, why deprive myself because of cost? If, in fact, I’m only living once – as the old saying goes, and somewhat less of a life than I had anticipated, shouldn’t I, at the very least, “Pull my pants down and slide on the ice,” as prescribed by Dr. Sidney Freedman in an episode of M*ASH, way back when? I mean, what am I waiting for? Godot? It seems fairly clear, after having received the diagnosis: stage IV non-small cell lung cancer, and the prognosis: “13 months to two years” back in late February, 2009, that time was not exactly on my side. Nevertheless, I’ve tried to live my life like I wasn’t dying (to bastardize Chris Allen’s debut single). However, doing so is sort of like serving two masters. I can’t live today like there’s no tomorrow if a part of me is living as normally as I can today as a strategy for there being a tomorrow. It’s somewhere between taking one step forward and then two steps backward and/or doing the Hokey Pokey. You’re getting nowhere fast, but at least you’re getting somewhere. Huh?
I can’t tell you, although I attempt to every week in these cancer columns, how confusing the uncertainty of being a terminal cancer patient can be. I want to believe the means that I’m employing to survive is not simply a fool’s errand/alternative to the same fate that awaits us all. Moreover, I want to act responsibly and prudently in the face of this killer disease. But sacrificing today for tomorrow, a tomorrow that 44 months ago lost its guarantee, seems counter-productive, almost counter-intuitive anymore. There are certain consequences to actions – or inactions quite frankly, that perhaps I don’t need to consider as I did when I was p.c. (pre-cancer). If I’m living on borrowed time, so to speak, I don’t need to pay the “vig” (vigorish). What’s the point of paying interest, metaphorically speaking? What interest I should be paying is for any and all things that bring me happiness now – while I’m alive and still kicking. Later, apparently, is being taken care of, or so I’ve been told by my oncologist – if you know what I mean? (One of his suggestions to me at the initial Team Lourie meeting was to: “Take that vacation I’ve always dreamed of,” as in: since you’re dying sooner rather than later, there’s no time like the present, literally).
But I was always put off by that notion and the bucket with the lists. I never wanted to check off any lists. I simply wanted to live like I always had, hoping that the normalcy and familiarity of what I was doing would help sustain me through the inevitable dark days to follow. (Generally speaking, a cancer diagnosis doesn’t exactly spread joy in its wake.) I didn’t want to live like I was dying. I wanted to live like I was/had been living. (“Denial,” as they say, “is more than just a river in Egypt.”)
The only problem: being diagnosed with a terminal disease is a hell of a thing. Change is coming: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and everything in between and all around, too; and control of any and all of it becomes increasingly more difficult. I know what I want to do, but sometimes the cancer has other ideas. And even though some of these ideas are not mine, occasionally, they just might be for the best. Who knew? Live and learn. Thank God!
Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers