Opinion: Column: Progressing, But So Am I

Opinion: Column: Progressing, But So Am I

"Slow progression" does not mean we are now progressing slowly. Quite the opposite in fact. During this past Monday's "Phoning It In" appointment when the three semi-amigos – me, my wife Dina, and my oncologist – discussed/assessed my most recent CT scan results, a decision was made to fight potential cancer fire with treatment fire.

In effect, we are doubling down, decreasing my present every-seven-week infusion schedule back down to every three weeks and likewise reducing my three-month CT scan interval to two months. All of which changes my "manageable" life to one more cancer centric. Not all appealing but as the South Korean woman driving the white Cadillac told "Hawkeye" in a long-ago M.A.S.H. episode: "That's where the water is."

And so we are returning to the scene of the crime (three week intervals) so to speak, and hoping we can nip this tumor growth in the bud thereby enabling yours truly to live longer and hopefully prosper (and live long enough as well to see the new Star Trek series with Patrick Stewart returning as Jean Luc Picard).

I don't want to be totally naive and presume that since the same medication has worked for five years, there's no reason to think, with a little tweaking, it can't continue to work for another five years. However, my oncologist did say he's had patients where a similar approach worked to slow/stop the growth (after an unspecified period of stability like me) so to quote my late father: "The idea has merit."

Ergo, the honeymoon is over. Now the hard part begins, again. One week not feeling well, two weeks feeling pretty well. Then waiting for scan results as if my life depended on it (duh!).

It's nothing my family and I haven't experienced off and on going on nine and half years since my diagnosis/prognosis. Still, after the last five years of relative calm (since I was hospitalized and began the "miracle" drug alimta), life has been normal-ish with infusion intervals widening and scan results indicating some initial shrinkage ("like a frightened turtle), followed by nearly five years of "stable" CT scans.

But so what else is new in the cancer-patient world? (That's a rhetorical question.)

Cancer returning with or without a vengeance to patients who perhaps had expected otherwise. Cancer is not exactly a disease you forget you had or one that you presume you'll never see or worry about again. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth being: you are scarred for life – sort of. You become a lifelong member of the biggest club in the world. A club, as Grouch Marx might joke, you'd rather not join, especially if they'd have you as a member.

"Cancer Sucks" as a meme is the most insincere form of flattery – for a reason: people die. Cancer leaves a wake and in its path devastation and destruction. Its swath cuts across generations, cultures, demographics, ethnic backgrounds and gender identifications.

If there's any fear we share collectively it is a diagnosis of cancer. Living with it and trying not to die from it has been the bane of my existence – and millions more, many of whom have already succumbed to its ravages. Continuing research into the cause and effect has given me years my oncologist told me I probably didn't have. ("13 months to two years" was my original prognosis.)

How lucky am I. (Not a rhetorical question.)

Now I face another hurdle. Or rather, more of the same hurdle I've managed to jump over for nine-plus years. Whether the 10 percent-ish tumor growth is the real deal or merely just a blip on the cancer radar, only time and treatment will tell. This is the uncertainty all of us cancer patients endure. It's not ideal, but ideal left the building on Feb. 27, 2009.