Opinion: Column: Scared to…

Opinion: Column: Scared to…

…And that's what worries me. There's a part of me (too big a part, I'll admit), that rationalizes not going to the doctor as a means of preventing an untimely death.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I go to the doctor as often as needed. In fact, I've been commended as being a very "compliant" patient, meaning I show up for my appointments (apparently some patients don't). And I will continue to do so.

However, this column is not about the appointments I do make, it's about the ones I don't make.


Let me clarify. I am referring to the voluntary-type appointments that I schedule myself – at my discretion, when some symptom or other, relating to cancer or not, manifests itself. The symptom which forces me to consider my own mortality because it's "presenting" at a time and place at which my oncologist is unaware.

The kind of symptom which, were I not a cancer patient, I wouldn't give a second thought (let alone a first thought). But since I am a cancer patient, whatever the symptom is – and I mean any and all symptoms: small, medium or large – it must be "the cancer" as "Forrest, Forrest Gump" characterized his mother's cause of death, and therefore, can't be minimized. In point of alternative fact, it must be maximized, and in that maximization comes anxiety and fear and every other stress-related emotion you can imagine.

Nevertheless, just as George advised Jerry in a long-ago "Seinfeld" episode on how to beat a lie detector test: "It's not a lie if you believe it," so too do I employ a similar strategy: if I don't go to the doctor and get evaluated, then the symptoms I'm experiencing can't be confirmed as cancer. And if my symptoms can't be confirmed as cancer, then I have much to less to worry about than if they were. The symptoms are simply the same kind and frequency as non-cancer patients experience and do not represent a slippery slope for yours truly.

I suppose there's a part of me (the irrational, unreasonable and illogical part) that believes if I don't make any extra-curricular-type visits to any of my doctors, then my cancer can't get worse and I can continue to go on living as if I've not been diagnosed with a terminal disease: non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV.

It reminds me of my late father's philosophy concerning automobile maintenance. If he never takes the car in for service, the mechanics will never find anything wrong with it. It's a version of what you don't know can't hurt you.

Well, in the cancer world in which I live 24/7, it all can hurt you and it can do so on its own timetable; when you least expect it and when you most fear it.

As yet another attempt to explain why this column has been written. For the past three weeks I've had persistent cold symptoms.

Since the symptoms never got any worse (though my fear did), I went along, tissue in hand, until my voice got so hoarse and weak that my wife, Dina – to her credit – insisted that I visit my internal medicine doctor and email my status as well to my oncologist. All of which I've done.

So far, nothing conclusive to report.

I've been prescribed some pre-pneumonia pills, have had a CT scan of the neck (per my oncologist's direction), results for which have not YET been received, am seeing an ENT doctor next week and am puffing Flonase into each nostril twice a day. My symptoms have not totally subsided but neither have they gotten worse – unlike my anxiety.

I really don't think there's anything wrong with me medically; mentally however, is another matter.