As I was completing last week’s column ("I Thought I Was a Goner") and thanking my oncology nurse, Ron, in the process, for the excellent care he has provided me for nearly five years now; a week after I wrote a column thanking my Certified Holistic Health Coach, Rebecca Nenner, for the health and fitness-type knowledge she has given me over those same five years; it dawned on me that perhaps my subconscious mind knew something that my conscious mind didn’t: that I should move closer to the undertaker like Radar’s Uncle Ernest did two days before he died, in the M*ASH episode titled "Novacaine Mutiny" from season four.
I don’t want to think that, and I certainly don’t want to believe it; nevertheless, I thought it an interesting point to address: as a terminal cancer patient, as much as I fight against it mentally and physically, the presumptive death sentence that a "13-month to two-year prognosis" portends is the kind of news that’s difficult – make that impossible – to ignore. And as much as I try to defend myself, as you know, with humor, a positive attitude and a variety of self-preservation, defense-type mechanisms – still, at the end of the day (heck, at the beginning and middle, too), I may talk and write a good game, but one’s mind often interferes. The trick is knowing whether that interference (subconscious) is real or imagined. I struggle with that assessment every day, as I presume most characterized-as-terminal patients do as well.
As my struggle enters its sixth year, let me assure you, its familiarity has not bred content (nor contempt, either). Though I certainly know the warning signs, the dos and don’ts, and my responsibility in all of it, that doesn’t mask – to me, anyway, the underlying reality: lung cancer kills. The survival rates, especially five years post-diagnosis, are in the low single digits. Fairly grim, I admit. Yet I am extremely happy and fortunate to say that I am one of those low-single-digits (and yes, I have been called worse; not much better though, considering my diagnosis). However, I am not in remission and I’m still receiving chemotherapy. In truth, I am an anomaly, an aberration; and expecting that my life continues without any further cancer-related ado seems naive and from most of what I read, fairly unrealistic. Now as much as I try to compartmentalize all these cancer facts and feelings – successfully for the most part, I’d like to add – the reality of my situation does manifest itself from time to time. This column has attempted to identify a recent example, my last two columns, where these facts and feelings may have collided.
Though nothing in my current health – or recent awareness of it (scans, lab work, physical exam, old symptoms, new symptoms persisting/getting worse, etc.) would indicate a change (a fatal flaw, if you will), there are always things with which I am totally unaware that may have changed and perhaps the way I learn about these changes is through my subconscious. I certainly don’t know how or when I’ll know when I’m at death’s door. Perhaps there will be a knock, perhaps not. Still, I can’t help wondering – and wanting to know – sort of.