Daze of My Life: Make Mine A Double

Daze of My Life
Make Mine A Double

Wow! My oncologist sure sobered me up the other day and I hadn't even drinking. But I sure felt like grabbing a stiff one - or three - after we spoke. What he said wasn't anything he hadn't said previously, but it was something I hadn't heard in a long time, 11 months to be exact. It was cancer related. It was responsible - and perhaps even considerate, of him to tell me. It was my future as the statistical averages see it. It was straight forward (as my doctor knows I prefer to hear it). It was, if nothing else, a reminder, and an advisory to boot (not really a kick at all, though).
What he suggested was, since my appointments with him are now scheduled to be every three months instead of every three weeks (as they have been for the past year), that I try to make those appointments after I've completed my quarterly scans (MRI, CT and Bone) and to bring along a family member as well, in case there's bad news. (WHAT!) Then, in response to my usual life expectancy/prognosis question, he reiterated that cancer patients with my diagnosis live, on average (and he was careful to explain what average really meant, using a cliff reference) 13 months to two years (this appointment occurring around the 12-month anniversary - some anniversary!). We then proceeded with my physical exam, which I passed with flying colors. After which, we exchanged our final pleasantries ending with the doctor saying casually: he "hopes to see me in three months." "HOPES!" I knee-jerked out loud. "What do you mean, 'hopes?' You're not supposed to say 'hopes,' you're supposed to say you'll see me in three months or something like that." Unsettled didn't begin to describe my emotional state (state of panic, state of anxiety, state of fear cumulatively, might have though).
In fairness, none of this was/is new information. In fact, it's old news. News my wife, my brother and I were given on March 5, 2009, the date of our initial Team-Lourie meeting with my oncologist. And it wasn't given then, any more then it was given now, for shock value or affect even. It was provided then as now, as useful and timely information, crucial information, for a stage IV lung cancer patient to have. However, it was a conversation we hadn't had in almost a year. And not that I forgot much from that first life-changing doctor-patient exchange, but after the last year of treatment, scans, medical appointments, lab work, and all, it's not all that I have to remember, so its place, its dominance in my brain/life has become less intense. I have learned to live with my diagnosis and all the cancer-related activities, as previous columns have indicated.
Still, there's nothing quite like a metaphorical 2x4 to the head to shake out the mental cobwebs. Not that I thought I was getting - or had become complacent in my coexistence with cancer, but given my mental state after this thwack, perhaps I had. I mean, the light's always been on, definitely, but maybe I haven't been home as often as I think/thought.
But that's how I've coped - and hoped; by focusing less on the negative and more on the positive. I haven't obsessed about cancer and as a result, I don't believe I've regressed because of it. Life has gone on (thank God!) and I'm grateful that it has. The uncertainty of the future (heck, the present, too) remains a constant and disturbing companion, however. The doctor's courtesy/responsibility in reviewing my timetable the other day struck directly at the heart of that day-to-day existence which scares the living daylights out of me (if you want to know the truth). I know exactly why I wanted that drink, to forget.

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