It’s not as if I haven’t written about this date: 2/27, before (try last week, Ken), but as I sit at my desk and stare at the calendar hanging on the wall to my front right, the date jumps out at me. Not that I approach it with any fear or trepidation, but I do approach it for days, weeks and even months, calculating my past and contemplating my future. Cancer has a way of marking time, and leaving marks — figuratively and literally.
Mostly I have weathered the cancer storm, eight years and counting/hoping. And as much as I don’t want to define myself as a cancer patient/survivor and live my life waiting for the other shoe to drop, it’s difficult not to when your feet are so swollen from years of chemotherapy that you’re now forced to wear your sneakers without laces. What I lose in support, I gain in comfort. Shoes I can’t wear any more. The leather soles don’t cushion my feet enough to not fatigue my legs. The shoe can’t drop if I’m not wearing it, right? Hardly. It can drop at any time. Certainly it can drop after my quarterly scans, hearing that tumor and/or fluid growth has recurred or anytime in between when new symptoms appear and persist (for two to three weeks, my oncologist has advised). The trick is; heck, there is no trick.
And as much as I’d like to live this date as any other, the date on which one is diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV and given a “13-month to two-year” prognosis by an oncologist, is a date that cannot be lived normally. February 27, 2009 is a date, to invoke Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that will live in my infamy. February 27, 2009 was a Friday. We had scheduled a mid-morning appointment. My brother, Richard (my one surviving immediate family member), met my wife, Dina and I (Team Lourie as I’ve become accustomed to calling us) in the lobby of the HMO and together we took the elevator up to the third floor (can you say somber?) where we were to meet an oncologist — a man whom I had never met or heard of before, to learn exactly what the previous week’s biopsy being malignant, meant.
After the awkward introductions, the oncologist spent the next 10 minutes or so examining me in an adjacent room. Upon completing the examination, we all reassembled in the doctor’s office where he proceeded to review/read the results/assessments from the previous seven weeks of tests/examinations from the pulmonologist, the radiologist, the thoracic surgeon and the associated diagnostic procedures completed: X-Rays, CT Scan, P.E.T. Scan, and of course, the biopsy. The medical opinions started off bad and got worse: stage IV, non small cell lung cancer, a “terminal” disease. In listening to the reports, there seemed to be little doubt as to the diagnosis. And so it was clear to my oncologist how to proceed: chemotherapy infusions to begin as soon as possible; to occur every three weeks for six cycles with face-to-face appointments and CT Scans to follow. And though it wasn’t, and it hasn’t been pretty, generally it has — presumably, kept me alive and in reasonably good spirits, all things considered, and some of those things considered have included some nonWestern alternatives.
So here I am, nearly eight years to the date when my old life (pre-diagnosis) ended and my new life — as a cancer patient, began. I wouldn’t call it a metamorphosis, more like an upheaval. Somehow though, as the time, treatment and routine passed, I began to assimilate and integrate my new reality into my age 54 and a half head and figure a way forward. I can’t say it’s been fun, but the more I can laugh and find humor in my less-than-ideal circumstances, the more positive I can be about the negative. A negative which has already done enough damage on its own.