For those of you unfamiliar with my column: in Burke, Springfield, Fairfax, Fairfax Station/Clifton/Lorton, Mount Vernon and Alexandria, welcome aboard the Kenny train. I have been writing a weekly column for Connection Newspapers since December 1997 appearing primarily in our “Tuesday papers,” as we call them: Vienna/Oakton, McLean, Great Falls, Reston, Oak Hill/Herndon, Arlington, Chantilly, Centre View and Potomac. The question has persisted among friends and family: Ken he continue to, as my older brother Richard jokes, “churn out this dribble?” Apparently so, if the last 19 and half years are any indication.
Back in the day when I first had to characterize my column for various local yearly Press Association editorial contests (of which I have won nearly a dozen awards), I would write “Everything in general about nothing in particular.” A great friend of mine, Edward Faine, himself an accomplished author — of children’s and jazz books, and a small press publisher as well, has described my columns as “Thoughtful humor and insightful commentary.” Perhaps between these two quotes you’ll get a sense of what you’re likely to get from my weekly wondering.
And so it continued until June 2009. That’s when I published my first column about a diagnostic process which had been ongoing since New Years Day which ultimately lead to a lung cancer diagnosis delivered to “Team Lourie” on Feb. 27, 2009 (you bet you remember the date). That column, entitled “Dying to Find Out, Sort Of,” chronicled the process, excruciating as it was/is that one often endures attempting to determine the cause of a medical problem; in my case, a pain in my left-side rib cage which a day or so later, migrated to my right-side and eventually took my breath away — almost literally, especially when inhaling and/or bending over. This difficulty forced me off the couch and into my car for a drive over to the Emergency Room. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, I wrote another column entitled “Dying to Tell You, Sort Of” which detailed the findings of the nearly eight weeks the process took to specify my diagnosis: stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Out of the blue, I had become “terminal,” as my oncologist described me, and given a “13 month to two-year” prognosis to boot. Surreal, which is a common description offered by many in similar situations, is how one feels after receiving news of this kind, and only begins to tell the tale of the change and evolution in the individual’s life living forward into treatment and subsequently beyond into the great unknown.
This ‘great unknown’ is mostly what I have written about and published ever since; “cancer columns” (original I know) is what I call them. Occasionally, I will write a non-cancer column, one a month or so, depending on my experiences. These columns will address non-cancer issues of the day, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Most recently topics have included the movie “The Exorcist:’ “Exercising a Demon,” paying for things with a credit card: “Credit the Card,” reacting to advertising for grass seed and riding mowers: “And So It Begins,” and buying in bulk: “Bulky Boy,” but never/well, almost never do I write about my wife, Dina; I have been warned.
Though the recurring theme of these columns is cancer, the content is rarely morbid or dare I say, self-indulgent, believe it or not. I try to make fun a very “unfun” set of circumstances. I’m still writing about life; now however, it’s life in the cancer lane, a road unlike any I had ever traveled before. Nevertheless, I’ve gotten through eight years and nearly three months of it relatively incident free, save for a week in the hospital three and a half years ago. And yes, I am still undergoing treatment.
I hope you readers will be semi amused at the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune upon which my columns are based. Please know: the significance of their content is not that it is me writing them, it is that cancer is being written about.