Column: How Lucky Am I

Column: How Lucky Am I


Kenneth B. Lourie

You’ll note there’s no question mark after the “I.” If any grammatical mark, there could be an exclamation point, but that’s overstating my reaction a bit. I am not referring to the usual happy-lucky-grateful to be alive sentiment I regularly express in this space; no, this is micro more than macro. What I am specifically referring to is the winter weather and its predictable effects on appointments: cancellations in general, chemotherapy cancellations to be Kenny-column specific.

Yesterday, March 5, the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area received approximately six inches of snow, give or take, complicated further by the previous days’ ever-unpopular “wintry mix.” Ergo, governments and schools were closed and many lives were put on hold, for a day at least, as many activities/appointments were likely to be re-scheduled. All well and good, mostly, except when you’re a “terminal” cancer patient and your chemotherapy infusion (your presumptive life-saving/sustaining treatment) is to be administered that day – then it’s not so good. Then your life passes before you even faster than when your oncologist first advised you of your extremely unexpected, abbreviated life expectancy/prognosis (for me, it was “13 months to two years”).

Fortunately, Thursdays are not my chemotherapy day; Fridays are. But what brought this column’s subject into focus was a call I received Thursday evening from the Infusion Center providing me/patients with a special inclement-weather phone number to call to find out if the Center would be open the next day, what hours, etc. This was the first time – in six years of non-stop treatment – when I was given such a specific number/circumstance to call. Previously, I would have simply called the Center or “cell-phoned” my oncology nurse (I have his number on speed dial), to learn of any closures or delays. But, and this is the luck I referred to in the title, never had I experienced any weather-related/affected reason to stress/call. Never experienced the anxiety of wondering, worrying and waiting to learn if my hoped-for, life-saving treatment could go in as scheduled.

Now, whether skipping/delaying treatment really matters in the medical world’s reality, I can tell you this: in my world, the patient’s world, it seems like it matters an awful lot. Rescheduling feels like you’re losing days of your life. What little I know (and it’s very little; it’s mostly what I feel and think) is that any change in frequency, duration, reduction in medicine and/or protocol, all of which so far has kept me alive way past my original expiration date, can’t be a good thing, certainly not a preferred thing; again, in my head, anyway.

And it’s these feelings that can complicate the cancer experience: knowing what to make of things externally, and of course, internally. Controlling one’s emotions so as not to exacerbate an already difficult situation is my macro cross to bear. However, sometimes small things can weaken that resolve. After six years, I should know better, and usually I do. But receiving that phone call last evening was a reminder of how fortunate and yet sort of clueless I’ve been about what has happened to other patients and what hasn’t happened to me.

Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers.