Not exactly “like a frightened turtle” as “similed” on a long-ago Seinfeld episode by Jerry himself; this shrinkage is the good kind, the kind you hope a radiological oncologist characterizes when viewing your CT Scan (computed tomography). Specifically, the exact kind of scan I get every three months to assess and evaluate the tumors, and fluid, in my stage IV, non-small cell cancer-affected lungs. The actual scanning itself takes about 30 seconds of “breathe in,” “hold it,” and “breathe out” to determine if my life is on hold – in a good way – or in jeopardy (not a belated reference back to last week’s column). The week-long wait until we have our face-to-face appointment with my oncologist to learn the results is not as interminable as you might think. Over time, we have gotten used to the experience. After all, living with cancer means living, not dying, and adapting and compartmentalizing cancer’s effects – mentally, physically and spiritually; all keys to surviving and enduring the good, bad and ugly that daily can traumatize those of us “characterized as terminal” who frequent the Infusion Centers hoping for a miracle cure.
Since March, 2009, I’ve been treated with nearly non-stop chemotherapy, infused mostly, except for 12 months or so when I was able to take a targeted therapy pill at home and only had to show up at the Center for scans and doctor’s appointments. Six years ago almost, this process began; I can’t say it seems like yesterday, because there are yesterdays – due to the effect of chemotherapy – that I simply don’t remember (“chemo brain” is the accepted condition/characterization), but time flies when you’re having fun or rather, you’re still alive against all odds. And so it seems as if I still have a few tomorrows. Tomorrows that were hardly promised to me back at the original Team Lourie meeting in late February, 2009. Somehow, through a variety of fits and starts, I have survived: my DNA, my family history, my attitude, my pills, my supplements, my alkaline water, my diet and lifestyle changes, my above-average luck, whatever, however, I am still present and accounted for. And though “stable” is a radiologist’s/oncologist’s description I have come to hope and pray for and embrace over these past six years, “shrinkage” is a description “most welcome” as Hercule Poirot might say and one I rarely anticipated hearing – considering my stage IV circumstances.
But I can take it. Though I’m not cancer-free and certainly not in remission, I am doing reasonably well. I am, as a good friend says: “in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in.” The scan results are results with which I can live (Duh!) and so I intend to – until three months hence when we do this scan dance all over again. Granted, this cycle of gloom and doom and results-not-soon-enough is hardly ideal, but it is a living and a living I was not “prognosed” to have (“13 months to two years” was the original prognosis) when first diagnosed. I’m nowhere near home free; I’m still in for the fight of my life – for my life, but for the moment, at least, for this quarter, due to the shrinkage, I can take a bit of a break, which if you want to know the truth, I can certainly use.