Sneezy, Coughy, Phlegmy, Stuffy, Achy. No-Sleepy and Post-Nasal Drippy; and no Doc, which is possibly what led to this column being written. To tell you the truth – and I always do – if I didn’t have stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer, I wouldn’t have given these symptoms a first thought, let alone a second one. But since I do have cancer and it’s mostly all I think about; as much as I tried to pretend otherwise and consider these symptoms unrelated, my lungs/breathing did seem to be affected.
And so after 10 days or so of coughing, then full-blown “colding” and back to coughing again, I acquiesced and scheduled an appointment with my Primary Care physician. After asking me the usual and customary how-I-feel questions – which did not prompt an OMG-type reaction from my doctor, he next unwrapped his stethoscope from around his neck and approached me to listen and presumably learn. He placed his stethoscope on my upper back and then on my chest and of course asked me to “breathe in,” and “breathe out,” repeatedly. Apparently, he heard nothing of consequence. No indications to warrant a chest X-ray, he said; no suspicious sights or sounds to further investigate. As he summarized his assessment: “It’s winter,” which I correctly understood to mean my symptoms were not cancer-related, I exhaled in relief, smiled widely and thanked him for the reassurance. Then he put his hand on my shoulder and said: “Nothing to worry about.” A few minutes later, I left his office with a precautionary prescription for cough medicine and four days of antibiotics; completely normal protocol, lung cancer notwithstanding. But it didn’t stop me from worrying. Cancer sort of has an intent of its own.
And that’s the problem, underlying and overlaying. Everything I say or do or think or write is filtered – unconsciously anymore, through the prism of my being originally diagnosed with a “terminal” form of cancer. If ever there was a disconnect between symptoms, feelings, mortality, etc.; well, there isn’t anymore. We’re (cancer and I) not exactly one big happy family, but we are all living together under one roof, residing in one head; mine, mostly. I’ve had better roommates, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, this is one I can’t simply ask to leave.
Usually, I can manage, except when there’s a blip, something not typically seen or felt on my emotional radar. This most recent bout with the symptoms I’ve described, completely normal and expected almost at this time of the year, probably should not have been neglected by yours truly for as long as they were (seven to 10 days). Some-times, fear has a way of affecting your better judgment, though. In retrospect, I certainly should have acted sooner. Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson. Next time, I won’t ignore the “seasonal seven dwarfs.” I was lucky this time. Life is not a fairy tale. Pretending otherwise could be grim.
Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers.