This is an easy week. No 24-hour urine collection on Tuesday. No pre-chemotherapy lab work on Wednesday. No stress on Thursday waiting for the lab results (to determine if I go in for chemotherapy on Friday). No chemotherapy infusion on Friday. No subsequent side effects: fatigue, general discomfort, eating challenges, etc., for the following Saturday to 10-days-later-Monday. No CT Scan. No P.E.T. Scan. No M.R.I. of the brain and/or liver. No anxiety concerning the results, and no follow-up appointment with the oncologist to assess the damage/discuss the results from all of the above. And most importantly, no strategy session (with my oncologist) to consider the treatment options because things have changed for the worse, which at least for this quarterly moment in time, they have not! For a cancer patient undergoing treatment for an incurable disease, this week is as good as it gets.
Given my chemotherapy infusion intervals: alternating between four and five weeks; my CT Scan intervals: occurring quarterly; my P.E.T. Scan and M.R.I. intervals: every six months – and not every infusion/scan is on a similar day/date schedule, I probably experience the kind of relative calm I described in the opening paragraph, one to two weeks out of every four or five weeks (depending on my infusion schedule) per quarter. Every third month, this ‘relative calm’ is interrupted by my recurring scans and M.R.I.s. To try and summarize, I would say there’s probably three to five of these one-to-two- week intervals over the course of six months when I can semi inhale and breathe normally (lung cancer-related issues notwithstanding). Hey, I’m not complaining; it’s a living and one I’m incredibly lucky to still have, nearly eight years post diagnosis. I’m just saying.
And though I’m generally not in the chicken-counting business (nor am I in the collecting my eggs-in-one-basket business, either), I am happy take my life one day at a time, and count myself fortunate to do so, never presuming any facts not in evidence. Nor do I expect any guarantees or clarification concerning my present/future treatment and/or any side effects, challenges, compromises, relating to yours truly having cancer. As Linda Hunt as Stella, a k a “The Midnight Star” (she “always shines at night”) said to Kevin Kline – as Paden, in a bar scene from the movie “Silverado:” “The world is what you make of it friend. If it doesn’t fit, you make alterations.”
As a cancer patient, ‘alterations’ is exactly what you make. Every day. Every night. Every lab. Every infusion. Every scan. Every appointment with your oncologist. Change, as has often been said, is the one constant. To expect consistency or predictability – or dare I say, normalcy, in your cancer life, is out of the question and beyond the realm of possibility. Thinking otherwise is creating additional stress regarding an outcome/eventuality which not only is beyond your control, but totally unrealistic, too.
Cancer is like a roller coaster, but one without any tracks; and one that rarely returns to the station to allow you to get off and get your bearings. For cancer patients, the trip is non-stop, with few opportunities to change direction. All you can do is buckle up and enjoy the ride, sort of. Much easier said than done, I admit. Nevertheless, viewing one’s circumstances without any hope or humor is hardly the positive attitude worth embracing. There’s good, as this column seeks to highlight; and more than enough bad, as any cancer patient/others impacted by this terrible disease knows, to go around. As much as I wish it had gone around somewhere else, the reality is, it hasn’t and it looks as if it’s here to stay; just like me (from my pen to God’s eyes).