Opinion: Column: Worried About What Awaits

Opinion: Column: Worried About What Awaits

Not that there's anything wrong with me – other than having cancer that is – but I've been going to see doctors – other than my oncologist – fairly regularly in the past few months: internal medicine, three times; otolaryngologist, two times.

The reason/symptoms vary, but in general, nearly 10 years into my "13 month to two year" prognosis, I am finally erring on the side of taking a precaution and scheduling appointments with doctors as often as I see fit. Apparently, waiting isn't the hardest part after all, it's the dumbest part – if you have cancer.

So far, in all five instances, the various symptoms were not cancer-related, they were life-related. Meaning, they had nothing to do at all with my having cancer and/or its progression, and everything to do with living life outside of the bubble.

However, surviving life inside the cancer world for as long as I have has now made me a bit trigger happy, so to speak. At the drop of a hat or for most any other reason, I am scheduling an appointment with my primary care physician to confirm or debunk any medical suspicions that I might have.

Henceforth, I am going to let the professionals tell me what I need to know and what I need not worry about. It has become time for me to no longer fool around with my health presuming that whatever ails me is merely a blip when in fact it could be a sign of things potentially to follow.

Sort of like the oil warning light illuminating on your car's dashboard – it likely means the damage has already occurred. And the next steps you take might even be too little, too late.

As concerns my health, there is no warning light as such. Knowing there's only so much I can do to preempt (some of which I've been doing) what trouble possibly awaits, at the very least I shouldn't be stupid or stubborn anymore. Instead I have to be vigilant and proactive.

Since my life is at stake here, I can't worry too much about what the doctor might say when I show up at my appointment with less-than-life altering/cancer-connected symptoms. Until they tell me otherwise, which they haven't yet, I will continue to overreact to any symptoms I experience, because for all I know about such matters, it just might matter.

And lately, when my exams have indicated there was nothing to matter, I've often felt the need to apologize for taking up the doctor's time. Time which I realize is very valuable. But they would hear none of it. Instead, they have encouraged me not to hesitate making future appointments should the need arise.

And I suppose that's the issue: "should the need arise."

But how will I know when the need arises? How will I know if the need is genuine? How will I know if the need is cancer-related or merely life-related, and should I act differently depending on the answer? Or should I not care about any of these questions and simply schedule appointments as soon as possible because, as I was advised years ago when I was first diagnosed: "It's all about you now, Kenny."

In thinking about where all this anxiety is coming from, I believe it has something to do with my switching to an immunotherapy drug – which we've been discussing for a few months – and being aware of the many possible side effects. Side effects about which, should they manifest, I am to contact my oncologist immediately.

My concern is, however, will I know and will I be too early or too late? Or maybe it won't matter, and that's what scares me. Moreover, I'm afraid we might not be able to stop what we've already started.

Granted, it's all speculation, and it's all premature.

Either the side effects prevent me from infusing the drug or they don't. And if I am able to be infused, the tumors, especially the "Adam's Apple" tumor, shrink in the process. And if I have to see multiple doctors during my treatment, so be it.

This is no time to wait and see. It's time to be seen without waiting.