Daze of My Life: Phase two (year two, diagnosis to date)
Daze of My Life
Phase two (year two, diagnosis to date)
By Kenneth B. Lourie
Now that year one is over, what next? Ergo, the problem. So much of year one (post diagnosis) is spent assimilating; facts, feelings, and figuring out all the new people, places and things that cancer and its treatment present. Eventually, for me, anyway, it all becomes routine, second nature, almost. The mental energy/capacity needed to coordinate, arrange and integrate all the cancer elements into your life has lessened as year one has come to an end. No longer am I stressing over where do I go, who do I see, how do I get there and when will I know, whatever; now it has simply become, what happens next?
However, it's that uncertainty concerning what does happen next, which is likely responsible for the malaise, the ennui, and the lack of drive that has characterized my attitude/behavior over the past month or two. Originally I thought my missing motivation was simply a natural reaction to the cable-computer disconnect. Now, I'm beginning to think that the neutral in which I'm stuck might be more symptomatic and probably characteristic of cancer patients who've been given 13-month to two-year life expectancies; at some point, reality has to take its toll. As I find myself saying recently (and regularly) in trying to explain my feelings, I can be naive or I can be in denial, but I don't think I can be both. I have a serious situation here and pretending/presuming that somehow it's not, is hardly a long-term solution.
But it has been a year-one solution. However, that year is up and so too is the effectiveness of that solution. So now, I have to come up with a year-two solution, a solution, which has been difficult to find, and one whose non-existence is likely responsible for my less-than-chipper mood of late. Fortunately, this mood is not the result of any new pain or deficit that I'm experiencing. Generally speaking, my symptoms remain relatively manageable, all things considered, and have not changed appreciably. My problem is more mental than physical. I'm in the second year of a diagnosis whose original prognosis was that patients rarely, if ever, live beyond two years. As my Oncologist said, "There are no parades for lung cancer survivors;" (in fairness, it was in response to one of our questions). Nevertheless, am I supposed to ignore that medical (albeit statistical) fact and forget that I ever heard it just because I feel - and look - pretty good?
What really complicates finding a year-two solution is that much of what was new and difficult and emotionally overwhelming in year one for me, after becoming a cancer patient; (again, I feel I have to qualify since I can't speak for all or any other cancer patients) is not nearly so in year two. As a consequence, I now have "brain space" available, space that previously was filled with all sorts of cancer treatment/lifestyle stuff. It's not exactly gone but, it has found its own level, and in that leveling, has enabled my brain (subconsciously and consciously; heck, maybe even unconsciously) to wander the emotional landscape and begin to consider and assess the past, present and hopefully future of, Kenny-the-cancer patient/survivor. Considerations that were beyond its reach/grasp while dealing with all the cancer clutter of year one.
And it's wearing on me. I wouldn't say I'm worrying about dying it but it's getting increasingly more difficult to ignore certain facts/arrangements - medical, financial, insurance, funeral etc. - that might need to be made, and better made in advance, presumably. If you think I need some help, you're probably right. At the least, I needed to write about it. It's a start, anyway. Thanks for reading.
Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.