Opinion: Column: Woe I'll Never Be

Opinion: Column: Woe I'll Never Be

Not on hold with the Oncology department today. Not elbowing Twinkle or Biscuit off my writing tablet as I sit and write this week's column. And not going hungry from the previous Friday's infusion (a week plus has passed, so the worst side effect of the treatment has passed).

In general, aside from waiting for my upcoming CT scan on Sept. 26, I am glad that soon I can get on with my life.

You'll note I didn't say fate. That word has too negative a connotation. And my nature, as you regular readers know, is as a positive/glass half full kind of person. So, as I approach this next milestone, I view it not so much as a millstone but more as just another rock that hopefully leaves me not in a very hard place.

The pre-existing cancer diagnosis is already hard enough. But after living with it for so long and enduring as many rounds of chemotherapy, side effects, lab work, diagnostic scans, 24-hour urine collection and all the associated anxiety surrounding a "terminal" diagnosis as I have, one – at least this one – has learned to live with the miscellaneous demands.

It's not to imply that doing so is easy, but not doing so is so much more difficult. To that end, which ultimately won't be my end, assimilating the good, bad and the incredibly worrisome into some sort of mental spreadsheet seems the only logical pursuit.

Either you learn to take it in stride or you'll die not trying.

And since dying, so far as we know anyhow, is so much less appealing than living, I'm striving to balance my equilibrium and never get too high or too low no matter the news. (Yes. I'm a Libra, so balance is very much a part of my process.)

That's not to say that there aren't incredible pressures and challenges that us cancer patients have to manage, it's more to say that laughing in the face of death is not a sign of weakness, but more a sign of enlightened strength.

Part of that strength is respecting the process with which cancer patients are all too familiar, and moreover, and most importantly, understanding and respecting what we don't have control over. There's an element of letting go which enhances one's quality of life and minimizes obstacles as well.

Doing what you can and not fretting about what you can't, in addition to keeping an open mind, combines to smooth out the rough edges and to focus on the path ahead. The “path ahead” being the goal.

I remember that exact philosophy being expressed by my oncologist at the original Team Lourie meeting back in late February 2009. When it was suggested that my mother's smoking of Chesterfield King cigarettes in my youth or my dalliances in college in the ’70s might be relevant/have had an impact on my lung cancer diagnosis, my oncologist would have none of it.

Retrieving fragments of history and/or assigning blame for less-than-ideal behavior was irrelevant to him. His concern was not the past, it was the present/future. We were to be looking/planning ahead and treating forward.

And so here I sit, very much having been treated forward.

At present, I am my oncologist's prize cow, a stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer survivor, alive and reasonably well nine years and nearly seven months into an initial "13-month to two-year" prognosis. After hearing that grim prognosis, I never would have imagined that in August 2018, I'd still be alive.

But here I am. Not a victim of my own circumstances.