As much as I don’t want to be cognizant of date, time and place, relative to February 27, 2009 when Team Lourie first received the stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis on yours truly, I am (a terminal diagnosis will do that to you). Moreover, as often as I write about the need to live forward, rather than die backward (if you know what I mean), I still struggle with the application. Not that I want to be preoccupied with it, but every day, every date presents opportunities, shall we say: anniversaries, birthdays, ages I thought I’d never be, appointments, scans, pills; constant reminders I am not in Kansas any more (in fact, I’m in Indiana as I write this column). Unfortunately, out of town doesn’t put cancer out of mind. Though it may obfuscate its effect a little bit, I kind of feel like Al Pacino – as Michael Corleone in “Godfather III” (1990) – when frustrated by his attempts to legitimize the family business, he said: “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in again.” And it’s not as if I’m ever very far from my cancer reality anyway. The prospect of getting out (finding a cure) is probably less likely than the Corleone family going legit. Nevertheless, as I’m fond of admitting: it sure beats the alternative. So far, so good. Five and a half years and still counting.
Thankfully, life goes on and still I hope. And beholden to that hope is the recognition of the underlying facts: stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer is, as my oncologist said, “a terminal disease;” he could “treat me but he couldn’t cure me.” Meaning, at least to me, at that time: that a normal life expectancy had just left the building, especially since the prognosis I received from him was “13 months to two years.” Now let me ask you this: how does one bury that statement of presumptive medical fact and go about your business/life as if everything is hunky dory? You don’t, and as often and as consistently as I have attempted to bury that lead, the reality is, there are circumstances at nearly every turn, backwards and forwards, up and down, which make it nearly impossible to live as if I’m cancer-free. As much as I’d like to forget and live life as if the world were my oyster and that I had everything to gain and nothing to lose, the truth is, it’s much easier said and written than actually done. And just like “Gold Hat” (portrayed by Alfonso Bedoya) didn’t “need no stinkin’ badges” in the 1948 film “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” neither do I need any reminders, “stinkin’” or otherwise, that I have cancer.
Most of the time, I can overcome them. Sometimes I can’t, though. No one said this cancer experience was going to be easy; in fact a close friend and fellow cancer survivor told me quite the opposite: that this would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and of course, she was 100-percent correct; and I’m reminded of that reality every single day, whether I want to be or not.