Opinion: Column: And the “Scancer” Is...

Opinion: Column: And the “Scancer” Is...

...stable, with a side of shrinkage, however modest. No jeopardy here, final or otherwise. Simply more of the same here, but hardly ho hum. A status quo with which I am fond of writing: I can live. Promises and guarantees left the building on that fateful day in late February, 2009 when an oncologist who I had previously never met summarized my condition and identified it as stage IV, non small cell lung cancer. A "terminal" disease if there ever was one, and of course there are many. And along with that bombshell came the excruciatingly unpopular prognosis: "13 months to two years." I was 54 and a half with no history of cancer in my immediate family.

Much has happened and many medications prescribed since I infused my initial chemotherapy back in early March, 2009. Most of which you regular readers know. If you recall anything from my 12 years of weekly cancer columns, it is that regular diagnostic scans: CT scans, bone scans, P.E.T. scans and MRIs have been recurring nightmares. Every three months, I am scheduled for some type of scan, sometimes more than one ("BOGO, I call it) which based on its findings will determine my subsequent course of treatment. If the results are encouraging, a change in my treatment is unlikely. If however, tumors are growing, newly appearing or spreading then it's "Katy bar the door," as we say in New England. Which means, hang onto your hat, among other things, as a new health situation presents, and one without an automatic solution. After years of conversations with my oncologist, I've learned: The best one can hope for is a definite maybe. It's this unpredictability which fills my day – and night.

Nevertheless, my life has gone on way longer than my oncologist anticipated. It may be because I was misdiagnosed (as a Georgetown Cancer Center oncologist suggested) and had a slow moving form of papillary thyroid cancer rather than an aggressive form of lung cancer which kills more often than it cures. Or, I may simply be my oncologist's "third miracle," as he's fond of saying. Presumably my positive attitude and good humor about my circumstances in conjunction with the many supplements I ingest with alkaline water exclusively have contributed to my unexpected survival. Regardless, as Frankenstein might have said: "I'm alive."

As scary as Frankenstein, Dracula or Lon Chaney ever was, a cancer diagnosis tops them all. Being told by a doctor you have never met that you have two years to live, at best, is as you might imagine, nearly impossible to process. It's not exactly what you had planned on or expected hearing when you sat in the doctor's office. Yet, as Ralph Edwards used to say; "This is your life." And as many others have said: "You're stuck with it." And as grim as you feel about your future, this is no fairy tale. As always, reality beats make-believe any day, and in this instance, not in a good way.

But I am in a good way. I am still typing, among other activities. And after having just received a "looks good" comment from my oncologist concerning this week's CT and bone scan, my warranty has been extended for another 90 days, when the results of my next quarterly scan will be emailed. Until then, I am in high cotton. To say I'm not worried is of course naive, but in the interim, between scans, I am in "the rocking chair, good buddy," to invoke a familiar CB-ism. This is how many cancer patients live: from one scan to the next. It's not ideal, but it is a living, and one for which I'm extremely grateful and fortunate to still have. It may not have been the life I expected, but I'm glad to live it nonetheless.