I Can't Forget What I Don't Remember

Kenneth Lourie

Four score and several years ago, in the course of human marital events, history which had been made/experienced between and husband and a wife was not recalled quite the same, which likely led to a disagreement. Without there being a video tape then - or now, or a Warner Wolf, insults and recriminations may have flown, and not just the coop. Practically speaking, how does one - or two, actually, solve this most unsolvable of problems?

This is not a declaration of independence or the announcement of a change of address from Burtonsville to Gettysburg, but it is a bit of a query as to how one manages times from one's relatively distant past. After a substantial while, and I would say 40 years qualifies, it's particularly challenging to remember the facts and the feelings that corroborate a memory: Who was there. What was said. How it sounded. Why was it even happening.

And after all these years, the recollections are not exactly black and white - for either party. One - or both, are either viewing them through the looking glass, a prism, a filter, a haze, or in my case as a cancer patient, through a now clinically-confirmed side effect of chemotherapy: "chemo brain." A consequence of treatment which erases/alters memories in some disputable way. A way in which what was once front and center is now back and to the rear, or not at all. And not only are these memories irretrievable, when spoken and heard, they are sometimes not believable either. 

I know what I remember. I'm clear in my thinking. Time and place and context are all familiar but the assessment and interpretation of the facts and feelings are different. I realize that simply remembering where I was and what I was doing/saying (or not to be fair), doesn't guarantee accuracy or agreement, but neither should it be discounted. I mean, being present and accounted for counts for something. The question is/remains: What am I missing?

I will admit though, knowing part of the underlying cause of some of these "recollection-disputes" does minimize the stress of it. Nevertheless, most of the recollections to which I'm referring (in the abstract) are not gone (in my opinion), it's more that they're rearranged, maybe even "misremembered," to invoke Baseball great, Roger Clemens, in his sworn testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, given back in February 2008. The "Rocket's" situation/status wasn't resolved then any more than my situation has been resolved now. It's a work in progress - for all of us.

But I'm happy and fortunate to say: I can live with it. As a nearly nine-year stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer survivor; in fact, I am now my oncologist's longest living lung cancer patient, I can deal with most things cancer-affected and/or life-related. Because in having so obliterated the "13 month to two year" prognosis I was given back in late February, 2009, I wouldn't say I'm living on a borrowed time exactly, but I would say that I'm living on unexpected time.

So what's a few missing memories or a few historical references out of context? Not much when you consider the alternative. Besides, life's too short (don't I know it) to long for what I can't remember or worry about what I may have forgot.


Kenneth Lourie"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."

Blog category: 
Living with lung cancer

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