Aside from the fatigue I experienced a few columns ago, this immunotherapy infusion is, and has been, quite manageable. My biggest take away so far is that I've had no real quality of life issues, as had been the case with my previous chemotherapy/alimta infusions. With that drug, I had post-infusion eating challenges and for nearly a week after the fact, felt less than mediocre. Moreover, I wouldn't say I felt like I had cancer, but I certainly was reminded of it, if that makes any sense? And even though I do have some minor side effects from my current immunotherapy infusion, I am reminded nevertheless, that I have cancer. Not because of how I feel, as was the case previously, but because of how I look - and because of what I feel. I am referring to my "Adam's apple" tumor. Not only can/do I 'look' it all the time but quite often, depending on how I move my head: forward/downward, I can feel it too.
I have to tell you, feeling it as I do, and looking at it as often as I do every day, is unsettling. My whole approach to this living-with-cancer life has been to compartmentalize it a la Jerry Seinfeld and "the vault." Out of sight has helped keep some things out of mind. And when things are out of mind, it's much easier to make believe. And making believe has been one of my methods of "operandi" since February 20, 2009. That's the date (you bet I remember) when my internal medicine doctor called me at work with the results of my previous week's biopsy: "malignant," he said. Up until that call, the previous six weeks' diagnostic pursuit had been interesting in a curious kind of way wondering what all the going ons were about and when all these inconveniences would end. And not for a minute during this entire process did I ever think I'd be diagnosed with a "terminal" disease: non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV. I figured, to the extent I figured at all, that the process would result in much having been done about nothing. Boy was I wrong!
I still remember - and laugh - when I recall the phone conversation I had with my thoracic surgeon after he had received the results of my PET scan: "You lit that thing up like a Christmas tree," he said. Presuming that wasn't good news, I replied: "I hear there are false positives all the time, which is why these scans aren't used a lot." (A perfect example of a little knowledge in the wrong mouth.) I can't recall if the doctor snickered before he said the following: "Well, then your scan was a world record false positive." I don't know if I grasped the obvious at that point but soon a surgical biopsy was ordered and the rest is Kenny-with-cancer history, a history with which many of you regular readers are all too familiar.
And that's a familiarity which I hope has not bred contempt. Because even though it's my life - and I'm stuck with it (as the old saying says), it need not be yours. I can well imagine and appreciate how living with and/or seeking out negativity is not likely to improve any one's lot in life. (I try to avoid it every day.) To that end, I have always tried to tread lightly and write with a soft touch since I've been cancer-centric beginning June 10, 2009, when I published my first column on the subject: "Dying To Tell You, Sort Of." And in so doing, I've tried to see the light amid the darkness and be thankful for any in between. I can't say it's been fun, but it's funny how things have turned out: alive and reasonably well, 10-plus years later.
"This column is my life as one of the fortunate few, a lung cancer anomaly: a stage IV lung cancer patient who has outlived his doctor’s original prognosis; and I’m glad to share it. It seems to help me cope writing about it. Perhaps it will help you relate reading about it."