It always does, and there always are; especially if you have to work for a living and cancer is a part of that living. Granted, I’m extremely happy to be able to still make a living, cancer diagnosis notwithstanding, but a cancer diagnosis, particularly a “terminal” one, is hardly “notwithstanding.” In fact, it is almost impossible to withstand. Oh sure, there are good days, and of course bad days, but mostly – for me, anyway, there is a daze in between. And that “between” is what’s rocky about this hard place.
Since most things cost money, and money doesn’t grow on trees (nor is it made from trees by the way); allocating it, when you have cancer, is complicated. Do I spend it now (whether I have it or not), as a means of reinforcing a positive but premature end? Or do I not spend it and plan for a longer-than-predicted life expectancy while depriving myself of the pleasure in the interim? Or do I rationalize the expenditure and reward myself for good behavior – so to speak, figuring that the high will be more beneficial than the low and create exactly the kind of energy my body needs to combat the cancer? Or do I minimize all of it and live my life as normally as possible? If only it were that simple.
“Normally as possible” left the building on February 27, 2009, the date I received my stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis (my ground zero) with its “13-month to two-year prognosis.” At that point, your brain stops functioning as it has for the entirety of your previous life (54 1⁄2 years for me). Life, as you knew it, is sort of over; not done, but most assuredly, it will be different, and your perspective and emotional underpinnings will be changed forever – whether you expect them to be or not.
It doesn’t mean, as an example, that you’ll never laugh again or make self-effacing jokes, but neither can you look at, or live, life as naively as you have. Living forward becomes way more complicated, and viewing it all, planning for it all, can only be considered through the prism of cancer. And though certainly I can boast of some success surviving six-plus years post-diagnosis, it really has been mind over matter. Even though cancer is constantly on my mind, I’ve tried not to let it matter. (Much easier written about than actually managed.)
Juggling emotions has been difficult enough, but managing money, allocating resources and planning a financial future while living a precarious present, is all it’s cracked up to be. Yet, if I don’t find a way to maintain my status quo/balance emotionally, I may very well become a victim of my own circumstance. As much as I’d like to invoke Curly Howard (while looking in the mirror): “I’m too young to die, too handsome; well, too young, anyway” as an arbiter of reason, the reality is: cancer is the big dog and I’m just sitting here on the porch.
Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers.