Four hours up north with moderate hassle first thing Thanksgiving—Thursday morning. Dinner and all the fixings with family and friends upon arrival, after a midday break. Conversations and such with young, medium, and old (with yours truly being the oldest of our generation) until 1:15 a.m. (a recent time record for many). Up at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast with more casual talk and noshing. Out the door at 9:15-ish heading back for an immediate day-after return trip home scheduled to make an early Friday afternoon chemotherapy infusion. Infusion completed and on the final way home, a stop at the supermarket at 4:00 p.m. - since we had no Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey sandwiches in particular) to satiate the deprived. Dinner as soon as possible since we were both hungry and tired after our up-and-back. Turkey breast, mashed potatoes and peas for our own leftovers, off-and-on television and napping and then we both called it at 9:15 p.m. or so.
Twelve hours later, we were both awake. What a sleep! What a 24 hours! What a wonderful holiday! I wouldn't characterize it as an ordeal. However, it was a bit of an undertaking given my Friday afternoon commitment: my first-ever, post-holiday, having-to-rush-back-from-out-of-town excursion. Though in previous years, we may have occasionally travelled up and back in the same day, when our route was two hours to Pennsylvania where the in-laws lived, we are older and presumably wiser now and somewhat less able and inclined to travel with as little margin and rest. Compounded of course with Kenny-with-cancer being mostly behind the wheel, a permanent designated driver since I don't drink and still see pretty well at night. Still, I'm hardly the driver I used to be and the effect of the holiday festivities on my fellow drivers is always cause for concern.
But all's well that ends well, except for the piles of Thanksgiving day-afters left where we last saw them, miles away. Nevertheless, we are happy to have made the effort, despite the less-than-ideal timing, As difficult as this kind of schedule was/had to be, I can't let, as much as possible anyway, my cancer stuff—infusions, 24-hour urine collection, pre-chemotherapy lab work, quarterly scans and yearly MRIs and quarterly appointments with my oncologist—impact my semi-normal life. In fact, my oncologist has been a major proponent of my "quality of life," an advisory he has regularly encouraged.
I've always felt, from the beginning of my diagnosis/prognosis, that I was not going to live my life any differently than I had previous to 2/27/09. As challenging as that proved to be on many occasions, my goal has been to try and integrate my life around my chemotherapy—and vice versa, and to not let too many chips fall along the wayside. Moreover, my philosophy has been not to bucket a list either, but rather to simply live my usual and customary life and not be affected by my "13-month to two-year prognosis." If I was doing bucket list-type things, things that I would ordinarily not be doing, I felt that would be reinforcing a negative: that I was going to die prematurely, rather than encouraging a positive: that I am going to live. For me, maintaining the status quo and continuing to do the little things that characterize who I am and what I value seemed more appropriate and more Kenny-like. Not sharing Thanksgiving dinner with relatives with whom I've shared a table going on nearly 40 years wouldn't have helped at all. Not now, or ever.
Finding balance and sanity in the midst of a battle royal—vs a "terminal" diagnosis, stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer—is all it's cracked up to be. A little fun, make that a lot of fun, never hurt anyone, especially those of us fighting for our lives.
"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."