So here I go again; heavy-duty chemotherapy for the first time in nearly three years. As such, I thought I’d try and write another column while actually sitting in the Barcalounger at The Infusion Center (as I did three years ago: “Chemo-Cocktailing at the Depot” was that column’s title) and see what my pen has to say.
In the last few months, out of the blue, I have received electronic correspondence from each of my three oldest childhood friends (none of whom have remained adulthood friends, though all three remain of interest to me) commenting on my cancer diagnosis; each having stumbled across one of my cancer columns online, presumably after initiating a Google-type search for yours truly.
The Beatles sang it on their “Revolver” album back in the mid 60s. My wife and I danced to it in the late 70s when we selected it as “first song as husband and wife” – in 1978. And recently we felt it, three years after my stage IV lung cancer diagnosis, as our reaction/assessment to the many similarly diagnosed individuals who’ve shared their lung cancer stories with us. Who knew?
There’s five words e-mailed from my oncologist that I can live with (Duh!). Certainly better than the previous nine words e-mailed eight weeks ago regarding my then current CT Scan: “Scan results show progression. We’ll talk more on Friday.”
Well there’s five seconds that fellow super-market-shopper won’t have back anytime soon. The question, the curiosity is: will she have nightmares and/or live to regret staring at me so intently that I think I may have seen the whites of her eyes – and it wasn’t even remotely dark?
I suppose, as a cancer patient, there’s a presumption/understanding that not giving into cancer and its potential ravages is an ongoing battle – to the death, if you will. And I imagine, on many levels, some truer than others, it is. War is indeed waged – so to speak, in hopes of defeating this horrible disease (enemy).
As much as I don’t want to be ever-mindful of today’s date – relative to when I first learned of my diagnosis, that Thursday three years ago this very week, when my Internal Medicine doctor called me with the results of the biopsy (confirming the malignancy); and of course all that had preceded it and all that has happened since.
But not sickness. Not health, either, as last week’s column ended. At least that’s the way I characterize my having stage IV lung cancer. And I don’t know if I’m splitting hairs here, since I’ve never worked in a salon, although I do get my hair cut regularly; but I have been accused of speaking double-talk.
There’s a word – in a medical context, anyway, that you don’t hear every day. And if you’re a stage IV lung cancer survivor – like me, 35 months post-diagnosis, it’s hardly the word you ever want to hear – or see – describing the most recent CT Scan of your lungs (Mediastinum) where your malignant tumors have been in "partial stable remission" going on two-plus years now. "Progression" means growth. Growth means the relative calm under which you’ve existed for the last few years is officially over.
Skipping my monthly targeted treatment (Avastin) because my kidneys are under stress might be a good thing. It might mean my body doesn’t need (it certainly doesn’t want) to be infused.
And a lot of good it’s doing me. I may be able to do what I want, but I don’t really have a clue as to what it is I want to do – or can do.
Obviously I find comfort in writing. Obviously I have some need to put down on paper that which is in my head. In fact, evidence suggests that cancer patients who write about their feelings have some kind of improved quality of life and/or longer life expectancy.
The meaning being: the anxiety one feels waiting for, and awaiting the results of, a diagnostic scan.
How does one not become consumed with something that is all-consuming? Moreover, how does that same one take certain information in stride that potentially is anything but stride-worthy?