Opinion: Column: The Road Very Much Traveled

Opinion: Column: The Road Very Much Traveled

Not that I haven't been down this road before, random though its occurrence may have been, but when schedules collide: 24-hour urine collection, pre-chemotherapy lab work, every-three-week infusion, quarterly CT scan and semi annual brain MRI; and of course the follow-up appointment with my oncologist a week or so later to finish the fortnight-long festivities.

The daze leading up to that final Friday are hardly the stuff with which dreams are made. More like nightmares, actually; certainly sleepless nights.

But as you regular readers know from previous columns, there's no real point fretting about it. I mean, what's done is done (what's scanned is scanned) and though I may not want the chips to fall, for the moment, they've already fallen.

Not to be fatalistic, but sometimes, as a cancer patient, ceding control to the realities (you'll note I didn't say "inevitable realities") is part of the process; "going with the flow," as my wife, Dina would say.

At this point, all I can do is wait and hope. I can't do one thing about any of it. I'll know soon enough and if the news is discouraging, I'll deal with it then. I see no advantage in being miserable a week earlier than necessary.

Still, all of these diagnostic demands occurring simultaneously is a bit much. Unfortunately, there's nothing to be done other than to grin (a wry smile, really) and bear it. The calendar/schedule with which my life has become all too familiar (I'm also not saying "consumed"), can hardly be adjusted simply because I don't feel like it.

My life is at stake here. I can't treat it like a household chore. It needs to be adhered to. Wanting circumstances to be different serves no purpose. Accepting reality and integrating the cancer-patient responsibilities into your routine seems a more reasonable course of action.

A few years into my cancer treatment, I remember meeting some of the staff at an off-site cancer-centric function. After exchanging pleasantries, one staff member commended me as being a "very compliant patient."

Not being completely sure what she meant, I asked her to clarify. She said I made all my appointments, inferring that some cancer patients don't. Incredulous, I asked further. She sort of half-snickered and said I'd be surprised, which of course I was.

She offered no statistics or anything empirical, but from her reaction, it was not an unusual occurrence. I remember thinking, how do you not be compliant when doctors are working to save your life? Seemed counter-intuitive, almost.

So yes, I've been compliant. Extremely so, I'm proud to say.

After my initial diagnosis, I felt I had been given an assignment, so to speak; to save (at least extend) my own life, and I was going to follow doctor's orders accordingly. And even though, over the years, I've integrated many non-Western alternatives into my routine, so far as my primary care team (internal medicine doctor and oncologist) was concerned, I've supplemented rather than replaced.

All of which leads me to where I am today: waiting to hear from my oncologist about last week's scans, while swallowing 60-odd pills a day, drinking alkaline water, standing in front of an infrared bulb, and trying to detoxify whenever possible in the hope that together, conventional and non-conventional pursuits will make my immune system stronger and create an environment less hospitable to the growth and movement of the cancer cells that have already been triggered somehow.

The only persistent problem I have is compartmentalizing the presumptive fact that since I was given a "terminal" diagnosis in late February 2009, how is it that I just keep on keepin' on?

Life goes on, generally, I realize, but that's not what I was told would happen. After nearly 10 years, I suppose I'm just a little road-weary.