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Kenneth B. Lourie

Stories by Kenneth B.

Column: The Fact Is Not Yet The Matter

I don’t know which is worse: the extra-special, extra-expensive, dental cleaning (the kind that requires Novocain and involves the actual dentist, not merely the hygienist) that I have scheduled for April 8th – or my next hopefully-not-do-or-die CT Scan, moved up a month from my usual three-month interval because of a suspicious formation seen on my most recent scan back in mid-February.

Column: Manifest Destiny

I wouldn’t say I have symptoms (why would I say that? If I said that, I’d have to admit that cancer is having an effect on me.

Column: Health Matters More

I realize money doesn’t buy happiness, although I wouldn’t mind renting it.

Column: Money Matters

It always does, and there always are; especially if you have to work for a living and cancer is a part of that living.

Column: How Lucky Am I

You’ll note there’s no question mark after the “I.”

Column: Sole-Searching

There’s no denying the emotional fact that the CT Scan results I received and wrote about last week were a bit of a disappointment.

Column: Not So Late This Time

But real-time once again: February 20, 11 hours, approximately, after our regularly-scheduled, post-scan meeting with the oncologist at 10:00 this morning.

Column: Real-Time, Really Late

I’m not a night owl. More of an early bird, worms notwithstanding. But given the contents of last week’s column, “Scantsy,” I find it difficult to write about anything else while waiting for the results of my CT Scan.

Column: ‘Scantsy’

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to characterize the feelings I regularly experience during the final few weeks leading up to my every-three-month CT Scan, and even more so the feelings I experience waiting the following week or so to see my oncologist to discuss the results.

Column: The Past Future is Now Present

Presumably, maybe even obviously, nearly six years into a “terminal” diagnosis, arrangements for a smooth transition of power should have been made already.

Column: Traffic Caught

If I were writing this column in Massachusetts – where I was born and mostly educated (K-12), and had a thick Boston accent, that’s how court would likely be pronounced; changing a noun into a verb.

Column: Seasonal Seven Dwarfs

Sneezy, Coughy, Phlegmy, Stuffy, Achy. No-Sleepy and Post-Nasal Drippy; and no Doc, which is possibly what led to this column being written.

Column: $32.99 Plus Shipping

For one box of 54 petite Belgian waffle cookies in three delicious flavors: milk chocolate, dark chocolate and vanilla; an extravagance to be sure, available during the holidays; this recipient (actually, my wife, Dina, was the recipient) very happy to oblige and indulge.

Column: Down and Not Out, Yet

Thankfully (so far as I know, which isn’t very far), after a five-week interval between infusions, which included two additional weeks of pre-chemotherapy lab work and an out-of-the-ordinary 24-hour urine collection (“creatinine clearance”) to boot – to more accurately measure my kidney function in hopes of meeting a 1.6 threshold – muster was finally passed, and I was subsequently infused without any further adieu.

Column: Level Best

If I wanted to rationalize the benefit of delaying my heretofore every-three-week chemotherapy infusion from three weeks to four and now on to five, possibly six – and that’s dependent on improved results from a second/maybe even third retest upcoming (this retest a bit more involved than drawing blood) – I would say it’s only fitting that I should have a break/brake; after all, it is the holiday season when all good things; yada, yada, yada. If only it were that simple.

Column: The New Normal

Loosey goosey, I suppose. As much as one might prefer some predictability in their life (certainly a cancer patient would – I know I would), I may be entering a cycle of permanent unpredictability.

Column: A Level That’s Anything But

This is not a home improvement reference, but this is most definitely a do-it-yourself column.

Column: ‘Quality of Life’

If I’ve heard it once – from my oncologist – I’ve probably heard it a dozen times over the last nearly-six years.

Column: Since It Ain’t Broken...

Apparently, at least in the near term, we’re (meaning my oncologist) not going to fix it. And by fix it, I am referring to my chemotherapy infusion, which will continue to be every three weeks, as it has been for almost six years; save for a year or so when I was able to take pills at home, and on-site infusions were not necessary.

Column: ‘Shrinkage’

Not exactly “like a frightened turtle” as “similed” on a long-ago Seinfeld episode by Jerry himself; this shrinkage is the good kind, the kind you hope a radiological oncologist characterizes when viewing your CT Scan (computed tomography).

And The “Scancer” Is…

Unknown at this date – Saturday, November 15. In fact, it will be six days from now until we’ll know the results. As it is always scheduled, a week or so after my quarterly CT Scan, we will have our usual follow-up, face-to-face appointment with my oncologist. At this meeting, I am examined, and of course, the radiologist’s report of the most recent scan is discussed, and plans for the future – stay the course and/or adjust or switch altogether – are considered.

“Shrinkage”

Not exactly “like a frightened turtle” as “similed” on a long-ago Seinfeld episode by Jerry himself; this shrinkage is the good kind, the kind you hope a radiological oncologist characterizes when viewing your CT Scan (computed tomography). Specifically, the exact kind of scan I get every three months to assess and evaluate the tumors, and fluid, in my stage IV, non-small cell cancer-affected lungs.

Column: And The “Scancer” Is…

Unknown at this date – Saturday, November 15. In fact, it will be six days from now until we’ll know the results. As it is always scheduled, a week or so after my quarterly CT Scan, we will have our usual follow-up, face-to-face appointment with my oncologist.

Excuse Me

Early on during my indoctrination/assimilation into the cancer-patient world in which I now reside, I remember asking a fellow cancer patient/friend if I could use cancer as an excuse for whatever it was needed excusing (directly or indirectly related), and she said: absolutely, “blame the cancer.” Years later, after a chemotherapy infusion, I saw my oncologist walking through the Infusion Center and asked him if my thinning hair might be a result of this most recent chemotherapy drug (not all chemotherapy results in hair loss). His response was similar to what my friend had advised me in 2009. He said: “You can blame me,” (which of course, I understood to mean, cancer/the treatment of cancer) “for anything.”

Dos, Don’ts and What-Ifs

Instinctively, I am not the most open-to-new-ideas/new-things kind of person. However, an unexpected diagnosis of stage IV, non small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) at age 54 and a half – along with its equally unexpected “13-month to two-year prognosis,” changes a few things. And thanks to a great friend, Rebecca Nenner, whom I have written about previously, I have/have had to become more open, and consequently, have assimilated into my life many non-Western, non-traditional alternatives (pills, supplements, super foods, activities/behaviors, etc.) with which I was totally unfamiliar (I’m a sports and chocolate kind of person), in an attempt to outlive my prognosis.

Column: Excuse Me

Early on during my indoctrination/assimilation into the cancer-patient world in which I now reside, I remember asking a fellow cancer patient/friend if I could use cancer as an excuse for whatever it was needed excusing (directly or indirectly related), and she said: absolutely, “blame the cancer.”

Column: Dos, Don’ts and What-Ifs

Instinctively, I am not the most open-to-new-ideas/new-things kind of person. However, an unexpected diagnosis of stage IV, non small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) at age 54 and a half – along with its equally unexpected “13-month to two-year prognosis,” changes a few things.

Running Out of Efficacy

Not that I’m the least bit worried (actually, I’m the most bit worried), but surviving a terminal cancer diagnosis years beyond one’s original prognosis does present its own unique set of problems. Most notably, and most personally for me, they concern treatment options. Specifically, what drugs, targeted or otherwise, can be infused and/or swallowed (when in pill form, like Tarceva) and for how long, when signs of internal organ damage are indicated on regular lab tests?

Column: Running Out of Efficacy

Not that I’m the least bit worried (actually, I’m the most bit worried), but surviving a terminal cancer diagnosis years beyond one’s original prognosis does present its own unique set of problems.

Column: Self-Indulgent or Self-Effacing

After re-reading last week’s column: “Not in the Mood,” I began wondering if that column had strayed beyond the boundaries, so to speak, and was too much about me and not enough about my circumstances.

Self-Indulgent or Self-Effacing

After re-reading last week’s column: “Not in the Mood,” I began wondering if that column had strayed beyond the boundaries, so to speak, and was too much about me and not enough about my circumstances. Certainly I understand, given my column’s recurring theme, that the subjects of me and my circumstances – and the personal stories I share with you regular readers – are basically the same. Still, I never want the content to be considered important because it’s MY life that’s being profiled. Quite the contrary. If the columns were any more about me, you wouldn’t be interested.

Not in the Mood

Sometimes, believe it or not, I’m not in the mood to be a terminal cancer patient (duh). Not that the effect is particularly tangible, but the weight of it, as well as the associated waits I’ve occasionally written about, can get awfully heavy. Moreover, in spite of my best psychological efforts, generally speaking, there seems little I can do to diminish its effect. More often than not, it’s merely time; simply time passing and/or time spent trying to talk myself out-of how I feel and in-to how I haven’t failed.

Column: Not in the Mood

Sometimes, believe it or not, I’m not in the mood to be a terminal cancer patient (duh). Not that the effect is particularly tangible, but the weight of it, as well as the associated waits I’ve occasionally written about, can get awfully heavy.

Column: Week Of, Weak On, Week Off

This column completes the three-week arc which describes what I have endured mostly successfully for approximately five years now: chemotherapy every three weeks – with one year off for good behavior (not really good behavior; the year off was to switch to a twice-daily pill, Tarceva, to be taken at home, since the previous treatment was no longer stemming the tide). It’s been my experience that these anti-cancer drugs don’t exactly work forever.

Column: Pre-Chemo Peek

I realize, given last week’s column: “Post-Chemo Week,” this week’s column about the preceding week (week-of, actually) of chemotherapy might be a bit bass-ackward, but it seemed reasonable to me that if you regular readers had an interest in the week-after, perhaps you’d have a similar interest in the week-before.

Post-Chemo Weak

For the past year, every three weeks I have been infused with a chemotherapy drug called Alimta, “the last miracle drug,” to quote my oncologist, and a drug with which I hadn’t previously been infused.

Scared, Hopefully Not to Death

One of my greatest fears (or regrets, if I am in fact the cause of my own decline) is that my own stubbornness, stupidity, “male blockheadedness” and/or refusal to believe/pay attention to signs, symptoms, indications and instructions/health advisories from my oncologist about my health will lead to my premature death.

Time Sensitive

As much as I don’t want to be cognizant of date, time and place, relative to February 27, 2009 when Team Lourie first received the stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis on yours truly, I am (a terminal diagnosis will do that to you). Moreover, as often as I write about the need to live forward, rather than die backward (if you know what I mean), I still struggle with the application.

I Scream

…for ice cream; from Brigham’s in Boston, the local New England establishment of my youth where I spent dollars – although it was likely cents back in those days – many afternoons, evenings and weekends.

And Another Thing I’m “Righting” On

Not only did last week’s CT Scan indicate shrinkage, where necessary – and stability, where hoped for – it also accomplished these hoped-for goals after only two months of chemotherapy (still infused every three weeks) rather than the normal three months of chemotherapy. So depending on how the calendar/treatment schedule actually fell, I probably received two fewer infusions than usual, yet all the radiological indications – and interpretations – continue to be encouraging; after five and a half years, no less. I think I’m entitled to use the word amazing – and lucky, too.

All Write For Now

And so it goes, every three months or so; a CT Scan, a week or so of waiting, and then a face-to-face appointment with my oncologist to learn/discuss the results. Thankfully, the results continue to be amazing. My doctor has told me that I’m his third miracle; stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer patients generally don’t live beyond two years. I’m in year six.

Write Now, I Just Don’t Know

The biggest writing problem that I have, other than the ones you regular readers generally know about, is writing a current column on the weekend immediately preceding the next Wednesday’s publication date, when I am still waiting on results from my most recent CT Scan. This isn’t like putting the cart before the horse, this is more like putting the horse in the cart and pulling it.

Stride Right

Not that I’ve felt that my attitude toward being diagnosed with stage IV (“terminal”) non-small cell lung cancer at age 54-and-one-half was ever to be considered as model behavior, but I do believe, after the initial shock wore off, eventually I assimilated its effects into my routine reasonably well. Not without a million bumps and bruises along the way, however, both physically and emotionally; nevertheless, though time has not healed all that has preceded this column, I’ve managed to find and maintain an extremely delicate balance between “joie de vivre” and “c’est la vie.”

Column: “CanSir”

When it comes to being a cancer patient, even more so a multi-year cancer survivor, I have always erred on the side of caution. And by caution, I mean being respectful to the disease, courteous of its comings and goings, mindful of its potential damage and afraid of its intangibles. And by intangibles, I mean the unexplained and the inexplicable, and most fearfully, its power and unpredictability. Therefore, my behavior toward it has been intended to be as polite as possible; never to be perceived – in any way imaginable – as arrogant, presumptuous, in control, all-knowing and most especially, victorious.

Between Halves

At present, July 12th, I’m halfway, approximately, between my last CT Scan which showed a previously unseen silver-dollar sized growth in my lower left lung and my next CT Scan scheduled for August 6th, one month earlier than my usual three-month interval in order to make an evaluation sooner rather than later; to determine if this is new growth or nothing more than old growth that is now visible due to the combination of shrinking tumors and dissipating fluid opening up the viewing area, so to speak. Apparently, the chemotherapy drug, Alimta, with which I’ve been infused every three weeks since last September appears to be doing its hoped-for job: shrinkage.

Not That I’ll Ever Be Out, But…

“Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.” Although this quote is from Michael Corleone from “The Godfather: Part III,” it very much characterizes my daily struggle being a terminal cancer patient; non small cell lung cancer, NSCLC, is like that, almost always. Even though I don’t want to think about the fact that I have cancer, or not let it affect my judgment on life – or perspective; or let it impede my path to a happier existence, more often than not, it does.

Look Out Below

I think I know what a rampaging bull feels like; and I don’t mean one on Wall Street, either. I mean one in the figurative sense: when one has a need, an overwhelming, unstoppable-type urge, to scratch that itch, to gratify that which has been delayed. What am I talking about? (You sound like my wife, Dina.) I am talking about food. More specifically, I am talking about a side effect I’ve been experiencing of late from the chemotherapy drug Alimta, with which I’ve been infused every three weeks since late September, 2013 (successfully I may add, given the shrinkage noted in my most recent CT Scan).

"One Less Thing"

Forrest Gump knew when he voiced over: "Mama got the cancer and died on a Tuesday. I bought her a new hat with little flowers on it. And that’s all I have to say about that." And if you watched the movie as often as I did (it was one of my mother’s favorites), you may also recall "Mama always said you got to put the past behind you before you can move on."

A Dream Come True, Sort Of

Growing up in the 60s, if you loved sports, as I did/still do, you spent hours listening to games on a transistor radio. There certainly wasn’t “Cable” television back then; heck, there wasn’t even color television, let alone “HD,” “interactive,” or whatever else television technology has evolved into. And of course, there were no “big screen” television sets either. We had a 19" Zenith black and white television and we received three channels: 4, 5 and 7 (in Boston), and as much as sports was/is important in Boston/New England, viewing options, given the limited VHF/UHF band frequencies, meant listening to games on radio – AM radio. Games were regularly televised on weekends, more so if the home team was playing on the road. As the decades have passed, so too have transistor radios, black and white televisions and limited viewing on only three channels. Between “Cable,” computers, and more recently, the introduction of hand-held devices, access to and familiarity with sports has grown exponentially. Add in the explosion of sports-talk radio and the abundance of sports-themed content on television (regardless of whether the games are at home or on the road) and one could be in his “man cave” for hours on end “channeling” his – or her – passion, for any team, in any city, at almost any time.

Column: Something New – or Old, to Consider

And therein lies the anxiety. Although, all things considered – and as you regular readers know, I like, maybe even need, to consider all things – the medical assessment of the most recent CT scan of my upper torso and thorax/lungs showed a new object in my left lung, “approximately the size of a silver dollar,” according to my oncologist. What this object is, exactly, cannot be determined at this juncture; technology prevents such clarity, unfortunately. Nevertheless, its appearance and location are possibly cause for concern, possibly not.

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