After a second successful week of navigating government and private sector websites, I have reached the promised, albeit familiar land: only worrying about the fact that I have non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV. Oh well. What else is new?
Nothing much thankfully so I can continue to try and live the Vulcan philosophy: "Live long and prosper." (Although, I could never manipulate my fingers to support the greeting. My wife, Dina, can however, with ease but she's not a logical person).
I have to be a logical person.
If I am to endure the ups and downs and all-arounds of a "terminal" cancer diagnosis, I have to think as unemotionally as possible about any news or assessments I may receive.
Cancer is too insidious to give it any help from the "diagnosee." Moreover, from what anecdotal evidence exists, providing cancer as inhospitable an environment as possible is said to help.
And aside from maintaining a positive attitude and a good sense of humor, keeping cancer things – good or bad – in some kind of perspective/context, is a trek worth taking. One should be reminded of the never-say-die mantra of the 1978 NBA World Champion Washington Bullets: "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings."
In addition, all us cancer survivors should remember the famous words of Bluto (John Belushi) from 1980's "Animal House" when he implored his fellow Delta Fraternity brothers: "What? Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! ..."
And not that cancer survivors can control our disease any more than the Germans can control this mistaken narrative, funny and famous though it is, but we have to try and laugh – and joke, because it sure beats the alternative. Control? "Hell no!"
And now that I've completed the arduous and tedious – for me – tasks of the last two weeks, I feel as if I've taken back some control.
I've survived the multi-step process required of the Virginia Employment Commission, the Maryland Health Connection, Social Security/Medicare, and the future provider of my Supplemental Medical insurance, all within two weeks. Besides me, and anybody who knows me: Who says I can't step my way through this morass of websites, user names, passwords, mouse clicks and keystrokes? But I did. Somehow. An amazing miracle if there ever was one.
Now life can return to abnormal. But it's an 'abnormal' with which I'm totally familiar.
After 10-plus years of it, as Col. Sherman Potter of MASH said to Major Margaret Houlihan upon her early return to the 4077th from her honeymoon, hearing her awkwardly describe a mishap in the shower: "There's nothing new under the sun, Major."
For a long-time cancer survivor, there's nothing new, really. One's life is likely to be more of the same, only different. And I can live with same – or the different – because after a decade, I've been there and pretty much done that.
Now I can add: succeeded in navigating websites "heretofore" (quoting Ben Affleck from 1997's "Good Will Hunting") thought impossible to do. No more do I have to worry about what I need to do, but rather I can bask in the glow of what I've done.
As I finish this column, I realize this is what us cancer patients need to do: reinforce our positives (successes) and minimize our negatives (failures). As many of us attempt to take all this cancer stuff in stride, the truth of it is we're often teetering and tottering on a very fine line. A 'line' to quote the late Ken Beatrice, on which "you wouldn't want to live."