Slow Progression

Kenneth Lourie

OKAY. It's not exactly what I wanted to read in the email from my oncologist interpreting the results of my July 25th CT Scan. Since August of 2013 when I was hospitalized for a week with fluid in my lungs, "CT stable" has been the recurring message. Now the message is different. My question, which will be addressed Monday afternoon: can I live with 'slow progression?' I would imagine that there are more aggressive characterizations of 'progression.' Nevertheless, I have to wait three more days to find out.

What has been suggested so far by my oncologist is simple enough: reduce the interval of my infusions or change medications. Sounds reasonable and not particularly drastic. What's distressing (but not at all drastic) however, is the fear of the unknown. Not having had a reason to change in five years, I've grown awfully comfortable and confident in the ebb and flow of my life vis-à-vis my cancer treatment/side effects. I've known what to expect and when to expect it. For a terminal cancer patient still undergoing treatment, this kind of regularity/normalcy is as good as it gets. Accordingly, I've been able to live a relatively manageable life.

And by 'manageable' I mean a life worth living and one not consumed by, if I may retrieve a phrase from last week's column: "cancer centricity." Not that I don't have deficits or spiritual, emotional or psychological problems/complications, I do, but I have so much more than that. I not only have a present, I have a future too. No small caveat when one considers I was given a "13 month to two year" prognosis on February 27, 2009. Over nine years ago - and counting. As Maurice Chevalier sang to Hermione Gingold in "Gigi" (1958): "I remember it well."

So life has indeed gone on and I'd like to think that despite this most recent email from my oncologist, life will continue to go on. I have to think positive; I'm my father's son, and deceased though he may be, he wouldn't have it any other way. Besides, as Dr. Mobley said to Augustus McCray in the epic mini series, "Lonesome Dove," (1989) when Gus refused to let him amputate his remaining leg: "I assure the alternative is gloomy." Well, Gus was rarely gloomy and considering my circumstances, neither have I been gloomy. There's just no future in it.

Right now, it's the present I'm concerned about. Specifically, Monday afternoon when my oncologist and I (we, actually; my wife, Dina will be on the phone as well) will talk. Having a three participant phone conversation is a little awkward. The questions and answers might not flow as easily as if the three of us were siting together in an examining room. But since that's what's happening/been scheduled, we'll endeavor to make the best of it.

What probably will help, oddly enough, is the three days Dina and I will have to think about what concerns we have, what questions we'll ask and what answers from the oncologist we anticipate hearing. Then, with the doctor's encouragement, together we'll be able to make an intelligent decision concerning a prudent course of action/treatment going forward. A discussion we've had many times before. And given our respective history over the last nine-plus years, there's no reason to think we can't achieve similar success living forward.

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


Sending positive vibes to you and hope you, your wife and docs come up with a treatment plan that works!!


Three years ago I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer (after being hit by a car while trying to cross a street) and my doctor said he could maintain me for two years. My body does not seem to respond to chemo or immunotherapy. I have been “stable” and started showing signs of very slow growth about 7 months ago. Our stories seem very similar.

Thank You for sharing your journey, it has brought me encouragememt. My thoughts & prayers are with you and yours.

Hi Kenneth - I just read your column in the August 15 Arlington Connection. Your words really resonated with me. I am a 10 year breast cancer survivor with no evidence of disease. However, the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop never leaves me. It is not a bad feeling but one of a changed reality from before December 10, 2008 when I heard those words "You have cancer". Most people don't understand this. Thanks for your column. I really enjoy and look for it.

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