Welcome to the Club

Kenneth Lourie

"Some club," as my late mother would likely scoff. And the club to which I refer is, to spin an old Groucho Marx joke: a club you'd rather not join especially if they'd have you as a member. This is of course, the cancer club, a club whose membership continues to grow despite worldwide efforts to the contrary. According to Medscope.com, one in two men and one in three women will be affected by cancer in their lifetime. Hardly a statistic to be ignored. And so, even though I had a rather uneventful/healthy upbringing and further on into adulthood, in late middle age, 54 and five months, Feb. 27, 2009, I was impacted and rudely awakened with a non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV diagnosis - out of the blue, and given a "13 month to two-year" prognosis to boot. As a life long non-smoker with no immediate family history of cancer, whose parents both lived well into their 80s, I was more inclined to worry about the Boston Red Sox pitching depth than I was about cancer.

But cancer, for the past nearly nine years has been my life and amazingly, so far anyway, not the cause of my premature death (what death isn't 'premature?). And what brightens my day and lifts my spirits more than anything else (other than a Red Sox World Series Championship) is when I meet a newly-diagnosed lung cancer patient who exhibits the can/will do positive-type attitude necessary to endure the inevitable ups and downs to follow. To be selfish, it empowers me and strengthens my own resolve to live life to the fullest (it's not as simple as saying it) and damn the torpedoes.

Within the last few months, I have met, over the phone, two such individuals. The first man, Lee, I met before he even had his first infusion. The second man, Mark, a bit more experienced, I met a year and a half after his first infusion. Each man was engaging, outgoing, confident, enthusiastic and quite frankly, happy to make my acquaintance. You see, after being given a less-than-desirable prognosis, it's helpful to meet someone who, despite having received a similar diagnosis, has nevertheless managed to live almost nine years post diagnosis. (If he can do it, I can do it kind of feeling.) As for me, the nearly nine-year survivor, meeting cancer patients who are at the beginning of their respective cancer journeys, helps me to reconnect with my routes, so to speak, and share and share alike some memorable experiences, both cancer-related and not. In a way, we get to live vicariously through one another which for me reinforces how lucky I've been to survive for as long as I have.

And not that I need reminding, but it's easy to take for granted one's good fortune and forget - occasionally, the seriousness of my situation and the cloud that hangs over my head. The sword of Damocles has got nothing on me, literally or figuratively. Living with cancer is akin to nothing really. The chance that you'll survive beyond your prognosis, maybe even have your tumors shrink, or see your scans show "no evidence of disease," creates a kind of tease that cause your emotions to run the gamut. The possibility of living after being told you're dying - and vice versa, perhaps more than once, over your abbreviated - or not, life expectancy, is simply too much to handle/absorb sometimes. It's a roller coaster for sure, but one that rarely comes to a complete stop and never allows you to get off. Moreover, it's not multiple rides, it's one long, endless ride with no guarantees about what happens next - or where it even happens.

Meeting people who are ready, willing and able to confront their cancer future is just as important and stimulating as meeting someone like me who hasn't succumbed to this terrible disease. It's a win-win situation. Particularly significant when at date of diagnosis, it appeared to be a lose-lose. I'm proud to be a member of the cancer club, especially so when I meet people like Lee and Mark.


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

Comments

Anything I can learn concerning my stage 4 lung cancer is helpful to me

Thank you! I am a 2 year 2 month 2 week and 1 day post diagnosis of stage IV non small cell lung cancer survivor and am always hopeful to find people beating their odds and shooting for longer!

Three years for me and I SO appreciate this column today. Discovered by accident, with an excellent prognosis following a Thorachotomy, you know the feeling after hearing "your clear" four/five Petscan results, to one day walk in and without him opening his mouth, you know the doctor has news that will once again turn your life upside down. And that happened last Feb. Needless to say I'd like to just wipe the year 2017 off my calendar and pretend it didn't happen, as I dealt with clerical staffs in doctor's offices to Oncologist and Surgeon not agreeing, to Cardiology clearances that for whatever reason took THREE weeks to get from one floor in the medical building to the next. Then another surgery where you get the "easy peasy" post surgery plan only it turns out not to be easy peasy, and now treatment that seemed so promising may have to come to a skidding halt. And of course, just before Christmas when all the docs are off living their well deserved personal lives. And yet.......I'm still here with no plans of going anywhere except to enjoy my grands for a little while, and maybe a long while longer. People, who are actually still in contact, cause we all know the number of friends suddenly start sliding into the woodwork, boost you up with the "you're so strong." Not too sure I know about what that's even supposed to mean! It's not strength. It's my new normal. It's the way God has allowed me to continue to stay on this earth with actually a fairly good quality of life.
So I LOVE your "Welcome to the Club". I think I've found a new friend! ........Janet

I was operated on spot was cancer but no treatment was needed tests and xrays are order every 3 months.

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