Man o’ man was I sick last weekend (that was not a question). It began as a runny nose, followed by an annoying hacking cough, compounded by sneezing and watery eyes, an occasional headache, with zero interest in food and hardly any energy to get myself out of bed where I spent practically the entire two days. I haven’t been that sick/incapacitated since, I don’t know when. Thankfully, there was no temperature, sore throat or nausea to further complicate my inability to move off the bed. And most thankfully, there was no urgency to visit the bathroom (I don’t know if I would have had the wherewithal to even get there). Otherwise, I mighty have actually had to call/email the doctor and/or make an appointment at the Emergency Room. After all, I do have cancer so I really shouldn’t ignore — totally — the times when I’m feeling uncharacteristically bad. This past weekend, had I gone from bad to worse, I would have called.
However, my symptoms, as miserable as they were, especially for two days, didn’t meet the this-is-it threshold as set forth by my oncologist. Though the symptoms were new and different versus the everyday norm, they certainly weren’t uniquely different (lung cancer related) for a seasonal-type cold. Moreover, the pain/discomfort/cough wasn’t coming from my lungs, and the symptoms had only lasted a few days, not a few weeks. I therefore determined that unlike Babe Ruth who felt “just as bad” as he sounded in his famous Babe Ruth Day farewell speech at Yankee Stadium on April 27, 1947, I wasn’t dying. I was just sick with a bad cold, one that was worse than any I remember (although maybe I’ve forgotten. See column titled “I Can’t Forget What I Don’t Remember” published 3/22/17).
Nevertheless, since I’m not a doctor, just a patient, presumably I should know what my body is telling me. However, I may not be so inclined to listen (fear mostly). Though my life may occasionally be at stake, I still struggle with the facts of my case. I delude myself into thinking that if I don’t give in to the pain and suffering — as rare as they usually are, then I won’t suffer the consequences: dying before my time. I don’t want to believe the worst so I don’t. I wouldn’t attribute my above-average life “unexpectancy” since diagnosis (eight years — AND ALWAYS COUNTING) as the power of positive thinking since I never read the book written by Norman Vincent Peale. But I try not focus too much on my diagnostic reality.
I mean, it’s not as if I laugh in the face of death; heck, I cry more than ever, especially while watching programs on television when heartstrings are pulled. Somehow though, I try not to take my cancer personally, if that makes any sense? I try to take it the same way Curly Howard of The Three Stooges took his many slapstick pratfalls: “I’m a victim of soycumstance.”
But when I get sick, whether or not I feel anything in my chest/lungs, I cross over into an entirely new realm. No more am I able to talk/humor myself into or out of things, no more am I able to deny my cancer reality and no more am I able to pretend that all is right in my world. It’s during these situations when the metaphorical/proverbial you know what hits my emotional fan that I suffer the most. Unfortunately, there’s not a shut-off button. I just have to ride it out, as bumpy as it typically is, and hope I come out the other end in better shape than when I went in.
So far, so good. Although I’m still coughing a bit and blowing my nose, all the other symptoms have subsided and no more do I feel worse for the wear. I don’t suppose it’s cancer-related, but of course, what do I know? What I do know is this: if the remaining symptoms linger, I’ll worry, and on Wednesday, April 19 — and for the following week, I’ll worry even more awaiting the results from the CT Scan and lower abdomen MRI I have scheduled that day (it’s a special: two for one). Granted, these tests are not any newer than catching a cold, but still, I can’t help wondering: since I was diagnosed as “terminal,” this can’t keep going on forever, can it?