And not just Tuesday, either. All week in fact, I'll be waiting to hear the music. One day, I'll hear from my oncologist and on another day, I'll hear from my endocrinologist. What I'll hear first is the status of my underlying non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV (diagnosed February, 2009) and later in the week, I'll get results concerning my most recent party crasher: papillary thyroid cancer, stage II, diagnosed January, 2020. This will be the first time I will have been waiting for results simultaneously, concerning TWO cancers that I now have. (What? One wasn't enough?) And B.B. King thought the thrill was gone. For those of us unlucky enough to have been diagnosed with two different and active cancers, this is the kind of week which tests your mettle and is as far away from thrilling as one could possibly imagine.
C'est la vie, or at least it is because I'm not ready to be morte. Who says taking five years of French between seventh and eleventh grades was a waste? Here I am 50+ years later and I'm still able to dip into that old bag of tricks. I fear however, that the longer I'm still living as an active, still-being-treated cancer patient, the more my health is at risk. Cancer is not exactly a friendly visitor. Rather it's the kind of uninvited guest that takes up residence in your home and never leaves, like dust mites, fleas and mold. In some instances, you know they're present; in other cases, you're told. And the longer they stay, the worse the situation becomes.
My cancer diagnosis was sort of like that, a surprise. A lifelong non-smoker with no immediate family history of cancer, I woke up one day with a pain in my left rib cage. A few days later, after the pain had migrated to the other side, combined with difficulty I was having catching my breath, I decided to go to the Emergency Room. A brief examination followed but revealed very little to the doctor. He suggested I return in a week to see the pulmonologist. Which of course, I did.
By that time, the pain had totally subsided and I remained pain-free for the next eight weeks until I got "the call" from my internal medicine doctor advising me that the previous week's biopsy confirmed a malignancy. Then I was in pain, emotionally – and afraid, as you can probably imagine.
But here I sit, 11 and one half years later, living proof that a "terminal" diagnosis is not necessarily terminal. Somehow, through a combination of conventional wisdom/treatment, some non-Western alternatives in the form of pills and potions and a good attitude which has meant keeping my glass half full while trying to maintain a good sense of humor, I have been lucky enough to see my beloved Boston Red Sox win their third and fourth World Series Championships of the 21st century. (Their first two championships in 2004 and 2007 were pre-Kenny's cancer diagnosis.)
But looking backward, as gratifying and rewarding as it can sometimes be, has not been my modus operandi. My 'operandi' has been to walk quietly, laugh heartily and be positive (like our friend, Ray's blood type) and not presume any facts which are not yet in evidence. Moreover, try taking any and all news in stride and be a patient patient (which is not double talk) and put one foot in front of the other and see where it leads.
For me, it has led to a future that I wasn't supposed to have and a present for which I am eternally grateful, even during weeks such as these when I'm about to enter when my life, vis-a-vis what I am told by my oncologist and endocrinologist, is hanging in the balance not once, but twice. Really, twice is a bit much, don't you think? I mean, I think I'm doing my unhealthy bit by having one type of cancer. There's really no extra credit/extra benefit in having two types, especially at the same time. Nor is there any BOGO-type discount on my health insurance costs. Quite the contrary, actually. But if I'm still alive to complain about it, then I'm still alive and that's nothing to complain about.