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Article Archive >> Community

Daze of My Life: Why me?

Daze of My Life
Why me?
By Kenneth B. Lourie

"Why not?" is the short answer. The long answer is the rest of this column, and it's not what you think.
I have never, in my cancer-affected life, asked this question of myself or anybody else. Nor have I ever "woe-is-me'd." I have accepted my circumstances and attempted, through my treatment and miscellaneous health and fitness, lifestyle and diet changes, to fight this fight and try not to get bogged down by the physical and emotional toll a terminal disease can take.
Moreover, my mental approach in dealing with all the medical tests, scans, appointments, chemotherapy (which continues still, every three weeks) has been to roll with the punches; take the good with the bad and more importantly, take the bad with the good. I have tried to maintain a balance in my life believing that it is nothing until it is something, rather than being something until it's nothing. Anyone who knows me would say I've mostly succeeded in this effort over the past 18 months. I can't do much, but this I can do.
As you regular readers know, or presumably have determined, I am a rather thoughtful and introspective person. I think through my decisions - and assessments, rarely "knee-jerking" a decision but certainly trusting my instincts. If certain options seem reasonable, all things considered, I can decide quickly. As a result, my care has not been about fits and starts or changes in direction; it has been fairly routine and predictable, a pattern that sort of suits me.
Part of my regular, recurring role as a cancer patient has been to be diagnostically updated quarterly; to include a CT scan, an MRI and a bone scan, to give my oncologist a current picture, "radiologically" speaking, as to what my cancer is doing - or hopefully - not doing.
And amazingly, I am here to report that, according to my oncologist, my most recent scans showed no growth and no movement, in effect: no activity. Dumbfounded - and incredulous - by what my oncologist was telling us, and what we (my wife and I) were hearing, especially after the mention of scar tissue and my sternum, we asked him for a simpler, more straightforward explanation, something us laypersons might understand. Which led me to ask the doctor my "Am I still in the woods?" question (as opposed to out of the woods, meaning safety, to me; metaphorically speaking). Sensing our confusion - or non-belief, my oncologist said the following: "Let me summarize for you: partial stable remission. You may be one of the lucky ones and live five years."
WHAT? I thought. Why is this happening to me? What did I do? Now what? As odd as it may sound, it was a little difficult to process what we were hearing. But for the moment, I was given a reprieve. In three months, when I'm scanned again, I could be writing a very different column. But for the present, at least, I'm off the endangered species list. Now, as my publisher joked, I have real problems. Everything else in life that I had "back-burnered," - for obvious reasons, I may have to reposition.
And one of those problems is, I now find myself saying something, or not being able to stop myself from saying, something, that I had never said the previous 18 months: "Why me?" Yet I can't stop from saying it now. And it feels like a betrayal of sorts, a betrayal of the self-discipline I've maintained since Dec. 31, 2008 when I first went to the Emergency Room due to the pain in my side. There's a Yiddish word that explains perfectly the confusion I feel: "farmisht," meaning "mixed up emotionally."
Certainly the news could have been worse. Still, I'm struggling a bit, and I find myself asking, of all questions: "why me? Why me?" I don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth, but apparently, I need an explanation.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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