I wouldn’t say I have symptoms (why would I say that? If I said that, I’d have to admit that cancer is having an effect on me. And I wouldn’t want to admit that; admitting that would acknowledge my destiny and perhaps even hasten my decline); no, more like manifestations. Yeah, “manifestations,” I think I can live (no pun intended) with that admission. At least I hope so.
The manifestations to which I refer – in the abstract, are not exactly new or out of my ordinary (again, if I said they were in fact new and out of my ordinary, I might have to believe that my underlying problem/diagnosis: stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer, is manifesting itself in a potentially life-altering way), but they are something. The question is: is my body telling me something l already know, or am I looking for trouble in all the familiar places?
I’d rather not be looking for trouble, given that trouble has already found me. I’d rather be minding my own business and not introspecting so much. But the day I received a cancer diagnosis is the day I lost the ability to turn the introspection switch off (if only it were that simple). I can dim it, though, except when I experience some of my manifestations. Then I’m reminded that I’m not in Kansas anymore, especially every third Friday (lab results allowing) when I’m at The Infusion Center receiving my 10 minutes of Alimta intravenously. On those days, I am indeed a victim of my circumstances, and regardless of what I tell myself – repeatedly, in an attempt to blur my reality – when my oncology nurse, Ron, inserts a needle into a vein in my arm and the i.v. starts dripping, the truth does not exactly set me free.
Still, I’m happy to be there (heck, I’m happy to be anywhere, symptoms-I’m-unwilling-to-admit-I-may-have notwithstanding). It’s more the inevitability of my diagnosis that wears on me. I wasn’t given a “terminal” diagnosis because I was treated at an airport. I was given it because I have malignant tumors that apparently have moved/metastasized from one lung to the other and are inoperable. (Nor was I/am I a candidate for radiation. The tumors are too spread out, I was told, and thus the treatment would prove ineffective.) This diagnosis and related prognosis is hardly for the weak of heart (fortunately I’ve never been treated for a weak heart; a weak back, maybe). But diseases are sort of like your family: you can’t pick them. Hopefully you can live with them, because living without them would likely make an incredibly difficult situation worse. And if there’s one thing a diagnosed-as-terminal patient doesn’t need is external complications; we already have enough internal complications.
My internal complications are mostly “manifestations,” as I’ve described them, symptoms that occasionally go bump in the night and often cause me to grind during the day (“grind” is an emotional reference). I want to think, I’m desperate to think, that the things I feel are not cancer-related but instead are being-sixty-years-old-related. But since I’ve never been 60 before with or without cancer, (and neither have I ever experienced six years of non-stop chemotherapy), I don’t know whether my cancer is manifesting itself and my predicted future is finally present, or whether I’m destined for an unexpected long life with all the associated symptoms. Certainly I hope for the latter, but it’s the former that seems to be driving this bus. And though the bus may need some paint and a bit of an overhaul, the wheels have yet to come off.
Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers.