For the next six weeks or so, until mid-July, when my bi-monthly CT scan reminder arrives in my inbox, I am on easy street/living the life of Riley. The email will confirm time and place when scans – and face-to-face appointments with my oncologist – are scheduled. Reminders which I really don't need.
I mean, my life is at stake here. What kind of moron ("Why? Is there more than one kind?" to quote Curly Howard of The Three Stooges) forgets/neglects medical appointments related to one's life when death is looming?
And death for me has been looming since late February, 2009. That's when an (now my) oncologist dropped the figurative hammer on Team Lourie after a nearly two-month pursuit to determine the truth for just us: "Non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV," with a "13-month-to-two-year" prognosis.
Talk about devastating news. To say we were all stunned does a disservice to the word “stunned.”
To invoke Yoda from "Star Wars," speechless we were.
That was a long time ago, however, and much has occurred. The details of which are somewhere between being lost in the ether and lodged in my brain, generally retrievable should the need arise. A need which I often have when writing this column, but one which doesn't manifest itself too much in my daily activities.
Yes, I have cancer, but I try not to make a big or central thing about it. To say, "It is what it is" isn't meant to trivialize the overwhelming nature of a "terminal diagnosis;" it's more an attempt to compartmentalize it somehow. (I just hope the compartment has an infinite amount of space. Otherwise, I fear I'll be in trouble fairly soon.)
But not for the next six weeks. For the next six weeks, I am on cruise control. I will be going about my regular business without too much emotional interference.
I wouldn't exactly say I'm on cruise-control/"passengering" in a self-driving car, but I am able to function without consulting the manual.
This "honeymoon" is as good as it gets for a patient whose life is lived from one diagnostic scan to the next, not knowing, generally, if the you-know-what has hit the fan. It's the sword of Damocles on steroids.
But what else is new?
For a cancer patient? Not much.
This is the life, a life which for us fortunate few, we have to live, despite the initial words to the contrary spoken by our respective oncologists – who were consulting the manual: If patient "X" presents with such and such then his/her prognosis is so-so.
Just last week, my oncologist told me the average life expectancy "for lung cancer patients is one year." And even though I've lived an unexpected life – and met many others who likewise have lived beyond expectations, his assessment of my fellow lung cancer "diagnoses" was still horrifying. (Why not me? I think there's been a misspelling somewhere.)
Misspelling or not, I'll go on pretending life in the cancer lane, as bumpy and in as need of repair as any you can imagine – or have read about in this space – goes on without further adieu, so to speak.
My philosophy has been: "Until they tell me otherwise, and even if they do ... . " I have tried, and hope I will continue to try, especially if the future news is not so good, to not become a victim of my own circumstances. And though I have occasionally received some discouraging news, I have tried not to give in to it.
"It's nothing until it's something and even if it's something, it still could be nothing." That's how I roll.
For the past 10 years plus, I've rolled along managing the "slings and arrows" of my outrageous misfortune: a life-long non-smoker with no immediate family history of cancer diagnosed with an incurable form of lung cancer.
Lucky me. You bet I am.
Alive and reasonably well a decade after the hammer came down.