As far as anniversaries go–and I hope this one “goes” a lot further; acknowledging, dare I say celebrating my four-year survival anniversary from “terminal” stage IV (inoperable, metastasized) non-small cell lung cancer, a diagnosis I initially received on Feb. 27, 2009, along with a “13-month to two-year prognosis” from my oncologist, is certainly column-worthy.
Not that I haven’t mined these emotional depths before–end of years one, two and three if truth be told, but I’m sure I can be given a pass, given the subject matter. And what matters more than a characterized-as-terminal cancer patient outliving his prognosis by years? Not too much, from my perspective. Quite frankly, this is the content of a column I can get used to writing repeatedly, if need be, and I’m hoping the need be. Oh, I don’t suppose I’ll be recycling material from previous anniversary columns, even though the sentiment would be familiar: amazing good fortune, gratitude, anxiety concerning an unpredictable future, etc. Nevertheless, I’ll risk expressing some feelings here that might be somewhat reminiscent of columns and anniversaries gone by.
Being diagnosed with lung cancer two and a half months after my widowed mother succumbed to her old age–thereby making my brother Richard and I orphans, as it were (my father had died two years earlier, almost to the day of my mother’s passing)–seemed a bit unfair, especially considering how much my brother and I had sacrificed as we cared and concerned ourselves with the last years of our parents’ less-than-ideal lives. But “fair” has never really entered into my equation. That’s not how I look at things. I look at things the way I’ve heard (on sports talk radio, anyway) how football players describe their attitude toward a starting player being injured: “Next man up.” There are no excuses. It’s not exactly poker, but you play the cards you’ve been dealt. And so, in my four years of living with cancer since February, 2009, I have not pursued justice, nor have I declared my independence, but I have tried to live my life with good humor–and liberty and happiness when I could manage it.
Not always have I achieved these goals or maintained the balance necessary to counter the emotional weight and physical toll receiving a terminal diagnosis–and the treatment protocol–can impose. I’ve had my moments, to be sure, but overall, I’m proud of how I’ve changed for the better and persevered. Though cancer has proven over the years to be an equal-opportunity-disease, my diagnosis has never caused me to feel doomed (a little gloomy, maybe). Moreover, I’ve always felt hopeful and as such have tried to be proactive, open and compliant in order to give myself every possible advantage in this life yet to be lived.
Woe is not me. Why is of no concern. How it could have happened is of no particular interest. Reviewing my past transgressions never mattered to my oncologist. His only concern was the future and treating me forward. For the most part, I have embraced that/his philosophy, except at this time of the year: my still-living-with-cancer anniversary when I revisit the past–hopefully as a prelude for the future. That’s my intent, anyway.