Opinion: Column: Stepping Back From the Precipice

Opinion: Column: Stepping Back From the Precipice

Not so bad, even though it's been nearly 10 years on the cancer trail – and two columns, recently, courting my imminent demise.

The appointment with the otolaryngologist to assess the presumptive damage/my decline was instead wonderfully uplifting: "nothing worrisome in the throat." What symptoms I was experiencing (basically seasonal-type cold and flu to go along with a scratchy and extremely hoarse voice) had nothing to do with cancer and more so to do with the time of the year.

Meaning, I wasn't going to die as a result; just sneeze, cough and so forth like everyone else, which as I've been told, repeatedly, I'm not.

Cancer patients might not have the benefit of doubt or delay like the rest of you. Time may not be of the essence, but one never knows. Cancer cells sort of have a mind/process of their own.

It's not so much a lesson learned as it has been a lesson reminded.

My oncologist has frequently advised me that should a new symptom appear and persist for two to three weeks, I should email him and alert him to my status/situation. I might have been a week or so late this time, but fortunately not too many dollars short.

My oncologist responded immediately, as did my primary care physician. Each doctor making arrangements for me within a matter of hours: a face-to-face appointment with my internal medicine doctor – which led to the referral for the otolaryngologist (who called to schedule an appointment before I even got a chance to); and a referral as well by my oncologist for a CT scan of my neck.

Having now been examined and results interpreted, I am glad to report that as scared as I have been for the past two columns, my symptoms were not indicative of my lung cancer progressing. Rather it was more indicative of a cancer patient being stupid and stubborn.

Not wanting to ever believe that my life hangs in the balance and could be severely endangered by my neglect, I tend to go about my health-related business as I would guess the rest of you do who are healthy and not cancer-diagnosed: I wait out the symptoms and try not to go negative.

As has been said recently to me, nothing could be less appropriate, given my stage IV lung cancer. Being negative might actually save my life.

The reality is: I am compromised and subject to risks and complications many of you are not. My immune system has likely been weakened by this most recent every-three-week infusion interval recommended to shrink a relatively new tumor – and in so treating, hopefully will not have allowed any existing cancer cells to trigger and mutate and cause even more trouble.

After all, cancer is likely in control here, and giving them an inch, so to speak, has never been part of our plan.

Even though my cancer had already metastasized in 2009, its movement seems to have been confined to my lungs, and amazingly has remained there ever since. Still, if I've finally learned anything with this most recent scare, it is that I can't turn a blind eye or a deaf ear, metaphorically writing, to common sense or doctor's orders.

I'm not supposed to wait for the ambulance, if you know what I mean? I'm supposed to be smarter than that and act like my life matters: making arrangements much sooner rather than way later. Denying, pretending and hoping that new symptoms are benign because many other people experience them is, for a cancer patient, as foolish as it gets.

The last, and I mean the absolute last thing a cancer patient should think is that they are like everybody else. They are not. We are not. I am not.

You get it, Kenny?