Tuesday, April 22, 2014
"I’m sitting in the rocking chair, good buddy," (a "Smokey and The Bandit" reference, if you’re not of a certain vintage), between two 18-wheelers where the police radar can’t find me – further referencing the C.B. radio days. Updating to the "Kenny-with-cancer" days, I’m a month or so past my last very encouraging CT Scan, the one I wrote about when my oncologist offered me a congratulatory handshake, a gesture he had not made in the five-plus years since we’ve been tangling with this damn disease; and I’m approximately seven weeks away from my next CT scan, "intervaled" every three months at present. Seven weeks is far enough away where I’m not even thinking about it, or the possibility of its discouraging results that I’ll know about on or about June 9th. I am cruising, emotionally, and savoring the excellent results from the last scan and not yet worrying, wondering, hoping, praying (too much) about my next scan. This means, at the moment – or moments, I should say, I am enjoying a relatively stress-free and blissful ignorance to what may – or hopefully may not, be happening in my lungs. I am, to quote a Three Stooges line: "as safe as in my mother’s arms."
Let me admit for the record, when you’re originally scheduled as terminal by your oncologist ("13 months to two years"), grasping at straws, rationalizing, wishful thinking and denial (which as you regular readers know is more than just a river in Egypt…an "NYPD" reference), become de rigueur, a sort of standard operating procedure – whether you intend it to be or not. And whether these days – or should I further admit and characterize them as daze – are simply a grand illusion, or a type of non-arrogant delusion, is another distinction I’m not the least bit worried about. The reality, for me, is that I can breathe easily – figuratively and literally, thank God? (And to be fair, thanks also go to my oncologist and to myself as well; for we’ve both played a part in this cancer battle.)
And why shouldn’t I be exceedingly – and perhaps naively – grateful, for my still being alive and reasonably well. Only 16 percent of lung cancer patients survive beyond five years; I’m at five years and two months now. Whatever good news I receive, whatever positive spin I can give my results, whatever smiles and handshakes I elicit are crucial to this pursuit of life that I live every day. The only recurring and disturbing thought I have, now that I’m past this statistically relevant five-year survivability measure (and this is not about being in remission, which I’m not; I’m still undergoing chemotherapy) is: I can’t help juggling in my mind whether being five years post-diagnosis makes me closer to the end of my life or further away from it. As such, when I experience a kind of break in my action, when I’m between halves, so to speak, when the past and future of my cancer life is not front and center but instead more off to the side, these are days to relish and I don’t even like condiments. But that’s what a cancer diagnosis, particularly a terminal one, will do: change everything. Rolling with the punches is how one has to learn to live: good with the bad, bad with the good, the last scan, the next scan, comparing the results from your ongoing lab work and your occasional face-to-face appointments/exams with the oncologist are what drive this cancer bus that you’d rather never have been on. But you’re on it, all the time. This experience is a never-ending (hopefully never ending, let’s be honest) roller coaster-type ride of emotions, treatment options, preoccupations and mental gymnastics. Anything and everything I can do to find some peace in the life-expectancy challenged and very unexpected medical circumstances in which I find myself so immersed, is what I do. I’m in a good place right now. It won’t last given the timing of what my life’s cycle is at present (scans and all), but no matter. I’m not stressing backwards or worrying forwards. This is as good as it gets, realistically speaking.