Column: Cost of Living

As the person primarily responsible for stocking the house with supplies and maintaining miscellaneous inventory, I am frequently in stores (supermarket, drugstore, pet store, etc.) buying the staples (not an office supply reference) our family needs to maintain our lifestyle, such as it is. And if I do say so myself, and I do, I do an excellent job balancing needs, wants and available cash flow to fulfill those various requirements. I don’t know if I should win an award, but I should definitely be nominated for the tasks I regularly undertake and the success I have completing them. Moreover, considering the underlying fact that I have a terminal disease: stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer (the incurable kind), and a cash flow which is hardly guaranteed or predictable, I certainly deserve an "A" for effort.

As much as I don’t/didn’t want to factor my original prognosis: "13 months to two years" into my daily life, especially when allocating resources/spending money, not considering that prognosis/time line has been nearly impossible. The logic goes something like this: why spend money today on an item I might not need in six months (if you know what I mean)? Why deprive/neglect myself today (a definite) in order to prepare/plan for tomorrow (a maybe), a tomorrow that, ever since my February, 2009 diagnosis is no longer guaranteed, or at least no longer anticipated as it was prior to that date – on paper, anyway; given the fact that both of my parents lived into their mid-eighties (I was diagnosed at 54 and half)?

Nevertheless, as my life has gone on, somewhat unexpectedly, considering what my oncologist said to Team Lourie back in early 2009, my attitude about the future has evolved. Whereas once I had one (pre-diagnosis), then didn’t (post diagnosis); now I sort of am having one, subject to change of course and therein lies the rub (although, it’s a heck of a lot more than a "rub," it’s more like a systemic irritation); trying to live/consume normally in the face/context of a terminal cancer diagnosis. It has been and continues to be the bane of my rather fortunate existence. I don’t want to pretend or presume that life goes on as I have said it has – for me, but acting as if it doesn’t is hardly the negative attitude I want to embrace. And for the most part, I haven’t.

This emotional maturity manifested itself recently at the supermarket. I bought multiple items that I didn’t need now (charcoal lighter fluid, two cans of shaving gel; in general, non-perishables), but presumably would need later (months later), but given their sale price, their net cost to me was too appealing to resist, so I bought them – without thinking too much about my life expectancy time line. In fact, the time line thing didn’t hit me until later when I realized that I had made purchases whose ultimate benefit to me (other then the price discount now), when I would actually use/need the items, was not now, but later, much later. A "later" that I’m not 100-percent sure I have, given my semi-precarious cancer-centric existence. The future was once again part of my instinctive planning. And that realization made me feel unburdened somehow.

Mind over matter, I’m sure, since I’ve received no result (lab work, CT Scan, etc. – and certainly no assurance from my oncologist) to indicate that my medical status has changed somehow. Still, it was a good feeling to have and one that gave me hope that my future is indeed more than just an abbreviated version of my past.