Which apparently, according to my oncologist, is not unusual. In fact, he’s had them, too. What I am referring to, in a general sense, are cancer dreams. The ‘cancer dream’ I had was my first. Actually, it was not so much a dream, with a beginning, middle and an end, as it was a fragment; a moment in subconscious time that provided (illuminated would be too strong a characterization) an opportunity to possibly see my future and prepare accordingly.
Before I share my dream, let me give you a bit of context relating to my cancer condition. I am nearly five months into my ninth year post diagnosis. I have stage IV non-small cell lung cancer, the terminal kind. Stage IV, if you don’t know (and I certainly didn’t know stage IV from stage left until my oncologist told me in late February, 2009) means the tumors have metastasized (moved from its original location, which is rarely good) and are inoperable (which means surgery is not an option/recommended/reasonable). Ergo, the “13 month to two year” prognosis I was given and the associated two-percent chance of survival beyond five years. To say then that cancer/my mortality is constantly on my mind is an understatement of epic proportions.
Given the unlikely still-living situation in which amazingly I find myself, I am regularly waiting for disappointing/discouraging health-related symptoms/news. With every five-week cycle of pre-chemotherapy lab work/24-hour urine collection and chemotherapy infusion, followed by quarterly CT Scans and semi annual brain and/or lower abdomen MRIs, I am at the mercy of results – which at this juncture rarely manifest themselves in any symptomatic/life-changing way. In short, I rarely know what the cancer is doing until my oncologist tells me. So far, mostly so good. As a result of this general lack of symptoms, I am always anticipating the day when I am not so lucky and wondering how it will happen/how I’ll react when “the cancer,” as “Forrest, Forrest Gump” said it, asserts its insidious hold. This was the dream fragment I had.
The only real symptom of my lung cancer/treatment shows up in my lab work: specifically my creatinine level, which measures kidney function. And kidney function, per conversations with my oncologist, is a major concern. The damage I’ve incurred already is irreparable and likely to get worse and a constant worry (I’ve recently had a “liquid biopsy” in an attempt to determine non-surgically the genetic mutation of my tumors which could possibly enable me to switch my chemotherapy to one which is not filtered through the kidneys). In the interim however, or until there is an “actionable” match, I am stilt preoccupied with this risk. The fear of dialysis/a kidney replacement weighs heavily on my mind.
In my dream, I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. As I stood over the commode to “pass water,” as my father-in-law calls it, I saw blood in my urine. And what little I know is: blood in the urine, stool, phlegm, etc., is not good, generally speaking. Now whether it’s related to my lung cancer/kidney function or not, at that subconscious moment, I was convinced that my cancer had taken an extremely deadly turn and that my life would soon be very different.
My reaction: I believe I swore and then nearly crumpled to the floor, my left arm extended against the adjacent wall to keep me from falling. Then the dream, as much as I remember it, faded.
Fortunately, my most recent scan indicated the tumors have not moved or grown and that my kidney function has not gotten worse. Nevertheless, I do feel as if I’ve seen my future. And though it might not be great, I do feel as if I’m better prepared.