Too Patient a Patient

Too Patient a Patient

Since I’m in the honesty business (as you regular readers know; and based on many of the e-mails I receive, commended on being so), if I were to admit anything concerning my behavior during these last five-plus years as a lung cancer survivor, it would have to be my continual tendency to minimize new symptoms, and in turn, not contact my oncologist (which from the very beginning is the exact opposite of what we are told to do). Stupid, stubborn, scared, naive, in denial; you pick.

I mention this subject/behavior because over the last month or so, I’ve noticed some changes in my breathing. Not characteristic of or similar at all to the symptoms I experienced last July – which led to an eight-day, seven-night stay at a local hospital during which 4.5 liters of fluid were drained from my left lung – still, there have been some challenges/abnormalities of which I have been aware. Challenges which, when they involve your breathing AND YOU HAVE LUNG CANCER, are probably best NOT IGNORED. And certainly I didn’t ignore them. I acknowledged them; I simply neglected to do anything about them (now I have, but that’s not the point of this column).

Now before you ask the obvious rhetorical question: “How could you (meaning me) be so stupid?,” let me try to explain, or for those who know me: rationalize my behavior. I am not assigning any blame here whatsoever. This is my doing, or rather not doing; hopefully which won’t lead to my undoing. To invoke and quote Moe Howard from a Three Stooges episode where The Stooges were thought to have kidnapped a baby: “It was my idea and I don’t think much of it.” The decision (or non decision), the responsibility and/or the consequences fall on me.

As to the specific reasons how I could be so stupid, considering my circumstances, read on, McDuff. It’s easy when you’re scared. Part of my irrational thinking is (A) these new symptoms are much different from and somewhat less obvious (ergo, easier to dismiss) than those I experienced last August. So maybe it’s not as serious? Maybe it’s the pollen count? Maybe, maybe maybe. Now before you even think it, obviously I know that there are many cancer-related symptoms and not having a recurrence of one certainly doesn’t (shouldn’t) minimize or marginalize the others. But from the date of diagnosis, you’re in a sort of self-preservation mode; this is yet another example. As George Costanza advised Jerry Seinfeld on how to beat a lie detector test: “It’s not a lie, if you don’t believe it.” So I try not to believe the symptoms are relevant. And (B) if I don’t tell the oncologist about these new symptoms, then he can’t tell me that my cancer – which has already metastasized and is inoperable (stage IV), has reasserted itself and I really am terminal and really should get my things in order. Similar to what he initially advised Team Lourie back on February 27, 2009.

Thinking “(A)” and behaving like “(B)” has finally brought me to “(C).” I am now seeing doctors for an evaluation/assessment, completing lab work and taking diagnostic tests, and waiting for further instructions. And though I may have been late to this party, hopefully, it will have been fashionable, not fatal.