And speaking, a few weeks late, of my “whirled,” (see July 5, 2017 column, “Not an Auto-Matic Fix”); at least as it relates to my next week or so: 24-hour urine collection on Tuesday, pre-chemotherapy lab work on Wednesday, in the Connection office on Thursday, chemotherapy infusion on Friday, continuing anxiety concerning the previous Wednesday’s CT Scan/awaiting results from my oncologist followed by our usual post-scan appointment with him Friday a week later to discuss my future: status quo or the great unknown; coinciding with the typical eating challenges/post-chemo side effect which lasts a week to 10 days after treatment. If this cycle of gloom doesn’t sound like fun, you’re right, but it’s a living/my life and I’m extraordinarily (I didn’t want to say “damn”) lucky to be able to live it.
And recently having spoken to a new stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer “diagnosee,” who’s on a 24-hour morphine drip and Percocet every four hours because he’s in constant pain, I know how amazingly fortunate I am/have been since being originally diagnosed in late February, 2009. Sure, I’ve had my share of pain and discomfort, but in the medical-measuring system I’d give it a “1.” Hardly the stuff with which nightmares are made (see column in a few weeks, as yet untitled).
I’ve always been a great believer in context. Not so much comparison because what you see and what you get are not necessarily relevant, comparatively speaking, but more that the circumstances are all relative. It takes me back to Popeye the Sailor Man, who apologizing to no one, always said: “I ‘yam what I ‘yam.” And so am I. When I see other cancer patients at the Infusion Center, when I talk to cancer survivors, when I hear or read of other cancer patient circumstances, I try to live and learn, not take it personally, and count my blessings. Given the hand that I was dealt back on Feb. 27, 2009 I wouldn’t say “Wild” Bill Hickok (and his black aces and black eights) came to mind, but my life, according to the “11 month to two-year” prognosis I was given, certainly passed before me – and much sooner than I had anticipated.
In spite of my diagnosis/prognosis, and the miscellaneous ups and downs that I and most cancer patients endure, I’ve never given in to my oncologist’s initial assessment. It was so unbelievable hearing such grim news, especially considering that I was age 54 and a half, that it almost seemed like an out-of-body experience, sort of like Scrooge in Charles Dickens “novella, “A Christmas Carol.” Sure we were listening attentively and asked our share of questions, but it didn’t seem real or even about me, sort of. I mean at this juncture, I had no pain and no symptoms and no family history of cancer – and I was a life long non-smoker. Yet here I was, in the bulls eye of a dreaded disease with no known cure receiving a modest life expectancy/two percent chance of living beyond five years.
But eight years and five months later, here I sit, breathe and try to write some wrongs about a life mostly unexpected, and one in which I haven’t sweated too many details nor concerned myself with the “nattering nabobs of negativism,” to quote former Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew, specifically as it relates to lung cancer outcomes. Which are dramatically improving.
New drug approvals and increased funding for lung cancer research has infused hope into lung cancer patient’s lives. Routines with which us lung cancer patients/survivors have become accustomed will be less routine and will make our lives more fulfilling. It might not be perfect, but it’s definitely a life worth living.