Not that I ever want to use my having cancer as an excuse, but you have to admit, it’s a doozy. And it’s probably the best thing about the diagnosis/prognosis. However, it’s not as if there are a number of other advantages to the disease. Nevertheless, having such a readily-available, go-to, slam dunk of an excuse is not exactly like a “Get-out-of-jail” card made desirable in the original Monopoly board game, but let’s be realistic: us cancer patients need/deserve all the help we can get. And just like a little compassion goes a long way toward fluffing our pillow, so too does having a beyond-reproach excuse occasionally simplify a muddled state of affairs, personally and professionally. It’s an equal opportunity “excuser.”
And “muddled;” morning, noon or night; conscious, subconscious and probably even unconscious, is how this cancer patient, as most others I would bet, live their lives. Whether you want to or not, it is impossible – with a capitol “I,” to not view your new cancer-diagnosed life/life expectancy through the prism of your diagnosis. Not that that prism has to make you a prisoner of your prognosis (or alliteration), but to think it’s not going to change your perspective, your priorities and your decision-making is to not accept your new reality. And accepting that new reality doesn’t mean compromising your principals or giving in or giving up or even yielding the floor. It simply means that you’re able to move on. Resistance is not futile. Cancer is not “The Borg.” Moreover, assimilating this terrible fact into your head and heart and not obsessing about it opens up your life to more potentially fulfilling and rewarding experiences that might actually enable you to survive and maybe even thrive. Otherwise, as the doctor in Miles City, Montana Territory (at the time) said to Augustus McCray in part IV of “Lonesome Dove” after Gus refused to let him amputate his remaining infected leg – which would ultimately lead to his death: “I assure you, sir, the alternative is gloomy.” But Gus wasn’t gloomy. He was thoughtful and self-effacing. He explained his refusal for not allowing a second amputation: “I like to kick a pig every once in a while. How would I do that?”
Well, as much as possible, even though I have been diagnosed with a “terminal” form of cancer: stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer, I am not going to be a negative Nellie or a dismal Jimmy. I’m going to try and remain an upbeat Kenny. Certainly I’m not thrilled about my circumstances and I do have my moments when I’m not great company. Still, making fun of an incredibly heavy burden is the only way I know how to lighten the load. And lightening the load is my path of least resistance. It’s not futile at all. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. Now if the cancer will just continue to cooperate, we can all live forward and have a few laughs.