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Column: A False Sense of Security

Not that there’s anything wrong with that; in fact, as a four-year, stage IV, non-small-cell lung cancer survivor, it’s amazing to have any security, false or otherwise, whatsoever. And that’s the point, really: how amazingly fortunate yours truly is to still be writing columns, if you know what I mean? Moreover, being relatively asymptomatic (as I’ve mostly been) is all it’s cracked up to be, and I say that with utmost respect, sincerity and appreciation. Yet, unless this particular survivor is delusional, incredibly naive (my two main self-preservation/defense mechanisms) or a lucky aberration beyond any statistical reference (within my limited knowledge of such references), one day – sooner rather than later, the other shoe will most likely drop; and you do know what I mean, don’t you?

A few weeks back, I published a column entitled, “Definition of Slippery Slope,” which discussed the range and depth of emotions a cancer patient/survivor (let’s be honest: this cancer patient/survivor) feels waiting to hear back from the oncologist concerning the results of his most recent diagnostic scan (“CT” for me), the results of which will determine your most immediate future (I’d say between living and dying, but that sounds so dramatic). I readily admit though, I can now absolutely appreciate the anxiety many woman feel awaiting the results of their mammogram. Been there, and thankfully, still doing that.

One of my standard answers to queries about my overall health is: “I’m fine until they tell me otherwise;” this column’s true context and another place I can go – figuratively speaking (sort of like “Strawberry Fields” and “A Glass Onion”) to endure the ongoing stresses and pressures of being a terminal cancer patient who has so far outlived his oncologist’s original prognosis: “13 months to two years.” Even though living remains the best reward (I did not say revenge), it also exerts the greatest sense of inevitability, if certain statistical measures/references are to be considered (nor did I say, believed).

Not that I want to buy into that “sense of inevitability,” but cancer is likely not most persons’ favorite word, and presumably one of their least favorite diagnoses – for a reason. Though more and more cancer patients are living longer (see graph referenced in a previous column entitled “14.8 Percent” citing a National Cancer Institute SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2009), you’d just as soon not take your chances with a malignancy. But sometimes, maybe oftentimes for all I know (and I know very little), diseases/diagnoses really are just a function of chance (nature vs. nurture?) and perhaps so too is surviving beyond the mean (and I don’t “mean” unpleasant, either) number of years or months “prognosed” at one’s original date of diagnosis (rationalizing is another one of my tools).

I guess what I’m looking for is a guarantee, or at least a fair warning before – you know what (and I’m assuming you know “what” is) But I don’t suppose that’s realistic, so trying to enjoy the good days and not worry/anticipate the bad days ahead is my M.O.; which I imagine is somewhere between a wish and hope. And in between of course is “a false sense of security,” the bane of my existence.