Daze of My Life: I could care more

Daze of My Life
I could care more
By Kenneth B. Lourie

As a stage IV lung cancer patient given a less than optimistic diagnosis/prognosis in February 2009, my view of the world and the things in it that matter - to me, has shrunk/narrowed considerably. Not that it all begins and ends with me, but I'm certainly the one most involved. As such, the relative and/or comparative significance of many things in my life has changed. In a peculiar twist of unexpected fate, this reduction has in fact simplified my life and accordingly, reduced the amount of the overall stress in that life. The net effect, I feel, especially for a cancer patient, has been: the less stress, the better. It may very well be the cause and positive effect on my body that has my oncologist characterizing my status as "partial stable remission;" a condition - and characterization - which can still change, at anytime. Ergo, the stress I do feel most.
However, as easy and much less complicated as my life has become, diagnosis to date, I do acknowledge how difficult it likely has become for my wife, Dina. She still wants to live a normal life ("normal" meaning Kenny not having cancer). She still wants things to matter. She still has hopes and dreams. Unfortunately for her, getting me to initiate/follow through - care even, about any of it, is almost impossible. It's almost as if my "caring" gene has disappeared. My explanation - and rationalization - has always been: cancer will do that. And as much as one tries and is encouraged to live that "normal" life and view the world "normally;" (not cancer-affected), a cancer diagnosis will change a few things, physically certainly, but mentally perhaps even more.
And it's not as if I'm unable to articulate my feelings concerning this 180-degree change in my priorities/areas of interest, it's more that the change is almost beyond my control. Not imperceptible, because I'm completely aware of my decision-making concerning all the things that formerly mattered in my life that now don't matter nearly so much, but it's still difficult to prevent. It's almost like having a new instinct, a knee jerk-type of mental response where I react without thinking. Although, I am thinking and still thoughtful in those responses. I'm just different now. I may look the same, sound the same, dress the same (still a point of contention), but that sameness is deceiving because I don't feel the same - in my head. And when you're terminal (or have been told you're terminal), doing things you really don't want to do, which may interest or benefit others more than it does you, becomes increasingly difficult as your original prognosis/time line approaches. As I've been told once (heck, I've been told it a hundred times) by health care providers, friends, family and fellow cancer patient/survivors: "It's all about you, Ken." Those words resonate deeply when spoken by people working to keep you alive.
As a result, I find it increasingly challenging to prioritize things. If it's not health-related/pertaining to my treatment, its significance in my world is minimal - generally speaking. Granted, there are moments of normalcy where I'm not bogged down by the weight - and wait, of my diagnosis/prognosis, and it's better for me when I'm not bogged down by it. Still, it's hard to forget the facts.
I haven't given up hope or anything like that. All things considered, I'm doing remarkably well and will likely outlive my original diagnosis. However, it doesn't make living any easier and it doesn't help me to care about things that I don't care about any more. I wish it were different, but it's not. I don't blame myself, though. I blame the cancer. Sometimes, the side effects are worse than you anticipated.

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