So here I go again; heavy-duty chemotherapy for the first time in nearly three years. As such, I thought I’d try and write another column while actually sitting in the Barcalounger at The Infusion Center (as I did three years ago: “Chemo-Cocktailing at the Depot” was that column’s title) and see what my pen has to say. This is not my first return engagement, however. I have been at this Center nearly every three weeks for the past two and one-half years while being infused with my maintenance drug, Avastin, until a few months back when a diagnostic scan indicated some “progression.” Consequently my oncologist decided to restart the “big” chemotherapy, as I call it, and move on to plan “B.” Moreover, I have made multiple other visits here for miscellaneous scans, doctor’s appointments and Emergency Room visits; I know the route – and I know the routine. “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia” (as was intended to be W. C. Fields’ epitaph), but I’m not. I’m in Rockville. And presumably, my time spent here has kept me alive, way beyond my oncologist’s original “13-month to two-year” prognosis, for which I’d be crazy to complain. And those who know me know I don’t complain.
I do kid though. And as a cancer patient who’s been characterized/determined/diagnosed as “terminal” (when your oncologist advises taking “that vacation you’ve always dreamed of,” you’re terminal), the bloom is definitely off the rose; and as Dorothy said to Toto in “The Wizard of Oz”: “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” Nor am I. We’re in Maryland and we’re in trouble. Considering the fact that stage IV lung cancer patients rarely live beyond five years, and I’m now at the beginning of year four (miraculous in and of itself, I’m told), if ever there was a time to retain one’s sense of humor, it would be, in my opinion, when facing the kind of adversity that statistically speaking, I’m likely to face in the unfortunately not-too-distant future.
But as a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, hope springs eternal. And just as Red Sox Nation was rewarded in 2004 and again in 2007 with World Series Championships breaking the 86-year-old “Curse of the Bambino,” stranger things have happened. Apparently one of which is yours truly still being alive after my oncologist “prognosed” in March of ‘09 that I’d likely be otherwise engaged by now, so I am a believer. In fact, I’m living proof. However, there are hardly any guarantees here. There are, as I sit in this room with half a dozen other individuals being similarly infused, lots of hope and fear – and anxiety. If one doesn’t embrace – or find humor somewhere, while enduring this excruciating mental ordeal, one would be neglecting, anecdotally speaking, the least expensive and most effective treatment available. Humor might not heal, but it likely will do more good than harm; the chemotherapy, in its infinite design wisdom and effect, is probably doing enough of that. As my Publisher – and fellow cancer survivor, Mary Kimm, is fond of saying about chemotherapy: “Kenny, they’re poisoning you, that’s why you feel the way you do.”
But three years later, apparently the chemotherapy has done/is doing enough of its tumor-fighting/shrinking thing to keep me in this chair. And though it may not be my first choice – of where I’d rather be, I’m grateful that at least I still have a choice I’m able to make.
Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers