Not that I’ve felt that my attitude toward being diagnosed with stage IV (“terminal”) non-small cell lung cancer at age 54-and-one-half was ever to be considered as model behavior, but I do believe, after the initial shock wore off, eventually I assimilated its effects into my routine reasonably well. Not without a million bumps and bruises along the way, however, both physically and emotionally; nevertheless, though time has not healed all that has preceded this column, I’ve managed to find and maintain an extremely delicate balance between “joie de vivre” and “c’est la vie.”
And speaking specifically about the column which preceded this one, published in our July 30, 2014 editions, entitled “CanSir,” framing my approach – and emotional reaction to – being diagnosed with cancer and my method of coping, if you will, as an approach wherein I’ve tried to be respectful and courteous of the disease and never, ever arrogant, presumptuous or particularly over-confident about any unexpectedly good results (lab work, diagnostic scans, physical examinations, etc.), or terribly negative about the disappointing results – I would like to expound upon my approach a bit more. I’ve tried to…wait for it…take it in stride, both the good and the bad. (Although, as you might imagine, the good is much easier to take than the bad; however, taking the bad just as well as one takes the good might actually be more important in the short, middle and long term. Certainly the jury is still out, but so far, after five years and nearly six months, I’m still alive to dispute any notions to the contrary). And you’ll never hear any complaints from me about any of it, good, bad or indifferent, but…
That’s my point, sort of. This column is not espousing a methodology to the madness that cancer patients (or any other patients diagnosed as “terminal” by their doctors) should follow. It’s simply an admission by yours truly of some very personal reflections on how, not why, I’ve survived my original “13-month to two-year prognosis.” At the initial Team Lourie (my wife, Dina and my brother, Richard) meeting with my oncologist, he laid bare my diagnosis/prognosis/abbreviated life expectancy with the following advisory: “I can treat you. But I can’t cure you.” In response to our instinctive, how-could-cancer-happen-to-me question – considering both my parents lived into their mid-eighties WITH NO history of cancer and I had NEVER smoked cigarettes – my doctor’s concern was about moving/treating me forward, not discussing the past, and so we’ve always looked ahead, not behind. Now whether or not the previous treatment protocols for my diagnosis/prognosis were indeed prologue, I was determined, eventually, to not let them be my epilogue, so a journey began which enabled me to live my life in a way most suitable to who I am without making me crazy, nervous, anxious, miserable and stressed out worrying all the time. It wasn’t easy. It’s not easy. Thankfully, amazingly, life has gone on.
What I’ve intended to do, mostly without fail, (although I’ve had my moments, to be sure, as you regular readers have read), is to walk quietly, write regularly, joke way more than I cry and not presume too many facts not in evidence, and try to be positive and believe there are exceptions to every rule. And with respect to medicine and its treatment of patients, stories abound of “exceptional” patients. I may not be “exceptional” yet, but I’m sure happy to still be writing these columns, if you know what I mean.