Column: The New Normal

Column: The New Normal


Kenneth B. Lourie

Loosey goosey, I suppose. As much as one might prefer some predictability in their life (certainly a cancer patient would – I know I would), I may be entering a cycle of permanent unpredictability. Whereas my previous schedule was chemotherapy every three weeks, a CT Scan every three months, followed up by a face-to-face appointment/examination/assessment with my oncologist sometime during the next week (in effect, every three months as well), my most recent abnormal lab results may very well be upsetting my apple cart. However, rather than change my infusion schedule to every four weeks due to recurring high creatinine levels showing up in my current every-three-week, pre-chemotherapy lab work, my oncologist wants to keep me on the same track. His thinking is, since my most recent CT Scan showed “shrinkage,” he wants to continue treating my cancer as aggressively as possible, since we’re having some success – so long as my body tolerates the drug, that is. My worry is that, from what little I understand, these last two lab results are indications that my body (kidneys) may in fact no longer be tolerating the treatment and that my future treatment is subject to change, shall we say.

For the moment however, the change will not be in the drug I’m infusing but with the frequency. I will still be scheduled for my chemotherapy every three weeks, with my usual pre-chemotherapy lab work the Wednesday before the Friday. If my creatinine level is too high on that first test, we will delay the infusion by one week and I will return to the lab the following Wednesday and hope for an improved result. What this means to me is, I can’t ever know, given the variability in my last two lab results, whether I can plan on chemotherapy every three weeks, every four weeks or some reasonable facsimile thereof. What little control I thought I had over my life: the predictability/regularity of my infusions, apparently is over. Now, so long as my creatinine goes down on the subsequent retests, I will live with the consequences – happily. Still, I have lost something very important in my life, something with which I have become quite accustomed these last few years: knowing who, what, when and where. Why this is happening, and whether or not a slope has become slippery all of a sudden (“all of a sudden” – after six years, nothing is all of a sudden) is the big question, a question/scenario that my oncologist will likely blame the cancer for causing (simple, isn’t it?). Because, that’s sort of what cancer does, he’ll probably say.

Part of me understands that “If It Ain’t Broke” there’s no need to fix it; we just need to work in some flexibility. And if the flexibility keeps me alive, I’m all for it. Nevertheless, this change will affect my life, my future. I can never know – for sure, and anticipate accordingly – what my lab results will be (as I have been able to these last few years) and plan/schedule/arrange my non-cancer activities. I will once again become a victim of my own circumstances. I will never know until I’m told (e-mailed actually; I’ll know by the results whether that next chemotherapy appointment will be put off) whether I’m busy two days hence or not. Moreover, I’ll likely repeat the cycle the following week and beyond. Maybe the regularity of the irregularity will become my new routine? Maybe breaking up the every-three-week schedule – sometimes – will give me and my body some much needed/appreciated rest. I can only hope so. I don’t want to think that it’s not so. I’ve gotten used to my life. And though this is definitely a blip, I’m thankful to still be showing up on the radar.

Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers.