I suppose, given that Feb. 27, 2017 is the eight-year anniversary of my original nonsmall cell lung cancer, stage IV diagnosis, followed up almost immediately with my “13 month to two-year” prognosis, I should make mention of it. Not that I need any reminding, but perhaps you regular readers who don’t exactly know my history, might be curious as to how long I’ve been droning on about cancer. Strictly speaking, it was June 2009 when my first cancer-type (it was the diagnostic process, actually) column was published: “Dying to Find Out, Sort Of.” And I’ve been self-indulging myself ever since save for the odd occasion when my mind wanders elsewhere and I’m able to write outside the cancer bubble.
Which is probably a good thing, as is venting every week about the good, bad and the ugly, concerning my having cancer and learning how to live with it. Not that the content is particularly informative, factually, but it is an honest description of the anxieties and fears a patient experiences. Occasionally, I will include a few facts, but as a sports- and chocolate-person, medicine/science and my knowledge and understanding, and ability to explain them are mutually exclusive at best and an oxymoron at worst, with yours truly being the moron. What kind of moron you ask? As Curly Howard of The Three Stooges answered in a long-ago “two-reeler:” “Why? Are there more than one kind?”
Nonetheless, in spite of myself, life has gone on as I’m proud and extremely fortunate to say. As to where I am in the cancer-survivor scheme of things? Somewhere between slim and none. When I was first diagnosed, my oncologist said the survival rate for similarly staged patients (stage IV) after five years was in the low single digits (as in 1 to 2 percent). When my wife, Dina, asked him why aren’t there any parades for lung cancer survivors (as is so often the case with breast cancer survivors), he answered quite succinctly: “Because there aren’t any,” (survivors, that is). I appreciated his honesty and told him so. I was clueless however, as to what my immediate future would really be like. I would know soon enough as it was recommended that I start chemotherapy as soon as possible. I remember my brother, Richard, asking the oncologist what would he do if it was his brother diagnosed with lung cancer; his answer was to begin infusions without delay and so a week later, we began.
And so here I am, nearly eight years later, still minding my own business and sharing it with you all every week. My infusions now occur every five weeks, CT Scans every three months. My face-to-face appointments with my oncologist occur quarterly as well, a week or so after the scan to discuss the results. So far, mostly so good. Oh sure, I’ve had my moments (tumor growth, fluid build-up in both lungs followed by a week-long stay in the hospital, ongoing kidney concerns, no surgery though), but for the most part, I’ve been incredibly lucky (my oncologist calls me his “third miracle”).
As to what I’m doing to help myself and hurt the cancer? Not nothing. In addition to the standard fare offered by my oncologist, I have supplemented my treatment with a variety of non-Western alternatives, many of which I’ve mentioned in previous columns. Are they working? They’re not hurting, I can tell you that. Could I do more? Probably. Should I do more? Absolutely! Am I doing more or less than I used to? Less, I’m afraid. But as Popeye the Sailor Man said so often: “I ‘yam what I ‘yam.” And come Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, I’ll have “yamed” myself into an eight-year lung cancer survivor. Do I hear nine? Hopefully, I hear a lot more than that. From my pen to God’s ears.