Usually I'm able to write my column because something is on my mind, or at least percolating in there somewhere. At the moment, nothing is on my mind or even remotely percolating. The reason for this lack of percolation is that as of Saturday, eight days after my last chemotherapy infusion, I still haven't been able to think clearly in my mind - or out of it, because I've spent the past week wallowing in it.
The post-chemotherapy experience to which I vaguely refer is the primary side effect of the drug with which I am infused. For the week or so following my treatment, I am not quite myself (nor am I anybody else for that matter). I am dull and void. I am not interested in most tasks and less inclined to concern myself with trivialities and/or any responsibilities related or not. I am simply biding time, usually lying on the bed, fully dressed but minimally engaged. Sights and sounds don't bother me but neither do they motivate me in the slightest. I am not exactly a shell of my former self, but the chemotherapy has definitely hollowed out a place for itself. Eating and drinking is very challenging. Consequently, I have difficulty swallowing the 60-odd pills that I take every day. If I'm not careful I will become less medicated and more constipated. As a direct result, I will sleep throughout the day - and night. Furthermore, I risk becoming dehydrated and vitamin and nutrient deficient.
Let me be clear: this column is not about me dying, or the feelings that I have during this post-chemotherapy weak thinking that I am. Hardly. It's more an attempt to explain - and perhaps justify - the minimal creative thinking I've engaged in this past week preparing to write this column. It reminds me of a particular Seinfeld episode when George explained to Jerry why he was unable to lie his way out of dinner with J Peterman: "I dug down and there was nothing there."
All of the previous paragraphs being written, compared to myriad complications I could be experiencing - and am not, as well as the premature death "prognosed" by my oncologist: "13 months to two years" back in late February 2009, I am quite the opposite of a victim of my circumstances. I am a survivor. Nine-plus years. Though still an active patient and one never characterized as a N.E.D. ("no evidence of disease"), I continue to look forward, not backward. My life is ahead of me, not behind. To invoke an old reference: "It beats Bermuda off-season."
When "Team Lourie" asked my oncologist back in early '09 if I could possibly live beyond my prognosis, he was not particularly encouraging. I remember him saying: "Could you be the one? Sure." ("One" being the operative word.) And in the context of all that he was explaining/outlining, hardly was it offered up with any enthusiasm. It was more a verbal life preserver (no pun intended). Something for us to grasp as we continued to discuss and then ultimately decided to begin chemotherapy infusions six days later on the following Wednesday.
And here I still am, June 9, 2018, "Chronic Ken," as I've previously "monikered" myself. I'm living proof of one of the recent goals of lung cancer research: to change a previously terminal diagnosis from a death sentence into a life sentence. And I can live with that, hopefully for many years. I have no doubt that research/clinical studies will make it all a reality. New drugs/treatment protocols are being approved almost daily it seems, by the F.D.A. In fact, as many drugs have been approved in the past few years as had been approved in the previous decade. I have treatment choices now that I've never had before, immunotherapy as but one example. As far as the subject matter for this week's column, this is all I could muster. I hope you don't mind.
"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."