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Column: Definition of “Slippery Slope”

Figuratively speaking, of course. That definition being: a late stage cancer patient/survivor previously characterized as “terminal” awaiting the results of their most recent diagnostic scan. A scan that will indicate whether the tumors have grown, moved or God forbid, appeared somewhere new. If your life hung in the balance before the scan, waiting for results of this however-many-months-interval-scan will most assuredly loosen your figurative grip on your equilibrium and your most literal grip on your sanity. This is a domain, unlike the one referred to in one of the more infamous Seinfeld episodes, that one cannot master. To invoke and slightly rework Dan Patrick’s “catch” phrase: You can’t stop it, you can only hope to contain it.

Unfortunately, for many of us cancer patients, cancer is the big dog, and if it wants to get off the porch, it will. Our staying put on the porch, however, won’t likely protect those of us inflicted with this most insidious disease. In fact, standing pat – on or off the porch, isn’t likely to have much effect, either. In many cases (make that individuals) cancer is in control. In the medical profession, as much as it has researched and studied, and as many dollars as it has committed in the pursuit of eradicating cancer, the reality is there is much work yet to be done. Though many improvements in diagnosis and treatment have occurred, thereby lengthening life expectancies (I’m living proof of that); still, in many (make that most, let’s be honest) instances, “cancer” is the last word anyone wants to hear associated with whatever symptoms manifested themselves that led to their seeking a medical evaluation in the first place.

I wouldn’t say that a terminal patient’s day-to-day existence is chaotic, but neither would I characterize it as the most predictable set of circumstances. I imagine it’s a bit like living in the wild, where you have to live by your wits and trust your instincts. Moreover, I don’t know of any Living with Cancer for Dummies-type book full of wit and wisdom that exists for the newly diagnosed cancer patient. Being there – diagnosed and treated for cancer previously – and currently, and having already done that (lived/evolved with a terminal prognosis), certainly helps moving forward, but it’s hardly a desirable location and certainly not a cure-all (I wouldn’t mind if it were a cure-this-one, though). However, given the choices, I’d rather have the experience (meaning I’ve survived) than not (the definition of DUH). Avoiding it altogether is the goal. However, as this lifelong non-smoker with no immediate family history of cancer can attest: that is much easier written than realized.

But as you regular readers know, I don’t complain. It’s a miracle/amazing/extremely fortunate/inexplicable almost, that I am still sitting here – upright and fairly productive, four years into a “13-month to two-year prognosis.” I wouldn’t describe my diagnosis-to-date, Kenny-with-cancer life as having been a walk in the park; more like a series of mini challenges, akin to crossing a stream dotted with stepping stones. Still, it is life, and I am living it, and I’m certainly not going to let a few stones – figuratively or literally, get in my way. Cancer be damned.