It Wasn’t Fun While It Lasted

It Wasn’t Fun While It Lasted

But it was only a week, and I was able to leave under my own power, assisted by a wheelchair, which is of course standard procedure when leaving a hospital after an admission, so it wasn’t a total loss. It was three months ago today, Friday, August 2nd that I was "ambulanced " to Holy Cross Hospital where I spent the beginning of my seven, first-ever nights in a hospital; pretty fortunate track record for someone my age. Now, however, with a terminal cancer diagnosis, the tables may have slightly turned (you think?) and hospital admissions may not be so few and far between. Hopefully not, but appointments with oncologists in chemotherapy infusion centers while being I.V.-injected with cancer-fighting drugs have a way of cutting all other extraneous interruptions to the quick. When that needle goes in, the light definitely goes on: pay attention, your life is officially at stake.

Oddly though, this three-month anniversary seemed to grab my attention/focus more than my usual 27th-of-the-month anniversary – of my original diagnosis, always does. The 27th is the anniversary (some anniversary) of when I first met my oncologist and received confirmation that I had a malignant growth in my lungs that had metastasized and when I was given my 13-month to two-year prognosis. That was four years and eight months ago, I’m proud to say. And as such, I note it every month. Not exactly another "notch on my lipstick case" but an acknowledgment nonetheless of how well I’ve done and how lucky I am. With the help of friends, family and health care professionals, I have survived, mostly even thrived, under these most unfortunate of circumstances. But I digress.

The point of this column was/is that this most recent hospital anniversary completely overshadowed/took mental precedence over my still-being-alive-nearly-five-years-later anniversary on the 27th, which rarely happens. In fact, I completely forgot about it; didn’t even note it on the calendar or mention it to my wife, Dina or my brother, Richard – which I always do. It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized I had not made my usual reinforcing mention of my status still being quo. Unusual, in that a terminal diagnosis tends to stick with you and occupy lots of mental space, so forgetting about the circumstances that are likely shortening your presumptive, normal life expectancy is perplexing. These circumstances would seem to be a front and center, dominant part of your day that you NEVER forget.

But I did. And I don’t know if that’s healthy, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of enlightenment, naiveté, delusions of a grander future, mental gymnastics, compartmentalization at work or just plain forgetfulness; as in, even for a cancer patients: life can still be normal. Or maybe, after four and a half years, this whole cancer thing has become sort of ho-hum. Not exactly passé, but certainly familiar and part of my daily routine. But a hospital stay, that was different, that was traumatic, that was scary. The cancer used to be scary. But I’ve been there and have done that for a while now. I had not been previously hospitalized, however. That may have been when my circumstances again reared their ugly, realistic head. Just another reminder that I didn’t really need