Opinion: Column: Questions and “Canswers”
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Opinion: Column: Questions and “Canswers”

"Very interesting," to quote Artie Johnson from "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," that "crazy-kooky" comedy show from the 70s. What's interesting is what my oncologist will say concerning the July 6th CT scan of my upper torso (lungs), the first such scan I will have had in almost six months. That interval being twice the usual and customary three-month schedule I've been on for years. The reason for this abnormally long interval? As you regular readers know, I was being treated for my second cancer: stage II, papillary thyroid cancer. Now that the treatment and all is complete, we can return to the scene of the original crime, if you know what I mean, and begin assessing/treating my underlying cancer: stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer, which presumably has not disappeared in the last six months. To say my life depends on these findings is a bit obvious. Nevertheless, keeping one's eye on the ball is what us characterized-as-"terminal" patients have to do. (We're in constant touch with our mortality.)

Losing sight of the obvious is the ultimate presumption, not unlike one being innocent until proven guilty. In the cancer world in which I live exists the exact opposite: your cancer is never in remission (innocent). Ergo, you are always guilty (of having cancer). Now whether it moves or grows, the results of one's scan will confirm. It's challenging to not expect the worst, even after 11+ years of experience often receiving good news; the inevitability of the eventual bad news is occasionally overwhelming. I mean, one is not characterized as "terminal" because they're expected to live. The writing may not exactly be on the walls, but apparently it's in the handbook that oncologists use to determine the proper protocol to treat their patient's cancer.

Generally speaking, a serious/terminal diagnosis is rarely affected by the advances of modern medicine and/or a patient's disparate hopes and prayers. For us cancer patients, we're only as secure as the results of our most recent diagnostic scan says we are. So yes, July 6th is an important date for Team Lourie, as will be the follow-up telephone appointment with my oncologist on July 13th. That's when we'll learn if the road is hitting back at the rubber and whether or not I go forward in hope or backward in despair.

As much ado about something as I am making this situation to be, it's not as if I haven't been down this road before; many, many times since my original diagnosis in late February, 2009. This is just "another day in paradise" to quote Phil Collins. And though this road is the one most traveled, it still doesn't minimize the stakes. It just means that I've been incredibly and amazingly lucky not to have succumbed to this killer disease (lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer deaths) as so many hundreds of thousands already have. And though experience helps, it doesn't really change the stakes; it sort of maintains them. All I can do in the interim is try not to consider the negative and recommit to the positive. That positive mantra for me has been, "it's nothing until it's something." And if it is something, it will be bad enough to hear about it then, so I don't need to hear about it (presume it's bad) now. For the moment, to quote Sergeant Schultz (John Banner) from Hogan's Heroes: "I know nothing!"

For some reason though, and I may be reading more into it than is appropriate, this July 6th scan seems to be carrying some additional weight. Not that there's anything different in and of itself with this scan compared to the previous one hundred or so that I've had – with or without symptoms – it just seems as if I'm spending more time trying to convince myself that it isn't.