Yup! We’re talking about the number six (6) here, as in 3+3, half a dozen, one boxcar of the gaming craps pair. I wanted to go on and on and bowl you over with my mathematical prowess but I fought the feeling. Six years is six years in any language and definitely longer than eight months. This month of June marks the sixth year I have survived adenocarcinoma non-small-cell lung cancer Stage 4.
In the year 2012, I was quietly minding my own business when cancer came knocking at the door of my existence. Actually, barging in would be more accurate. First, a tell-tale sign it might barge showed up. A dry cough harassed me. I called it allergy, hay fever, asthma, scratchy throat. The word cancer was not in my vocabulary then. Long story short, a visit with a Nursing Practitioner that June led to – in quick succession – an x-ray, a CTscan, a PET scan, a biopsy, a lung cancer diagnosis, an aborted surgery, and finally, an oncologist’s prognosis: Without treatment, 8 months of breathing left in me. With treatment, 11 months maybe a year. The news shook me to the core and brought tears to the eyes of the two men in my life at that time.
Being a veteran of conflicts, I simply squared my shoulders after the unpleasant surprise sank in. I faced the future with aplomb with a view toward fighting. Since time immemorial I had been fighting. Over two decades and two continents, I fought for my place in the engineering and construction world. Which meant I also had to fight laziness. The truth be known, during lulls in the battlefield, my imagination teemed with hammocks in exotic shores where I sipped toddies from glasses with tiny colorful umbrellas. Carousing in balmy breeze instead of fighting for survival in the workplace
I prepared for the battlefield at hand. I read as much as I could to learn about lung cancer. Knowledge of the enemy gave me power over it. It was my catharsis. I maintained my sense of humor. Laughter is also cathartic, excellent for the lungs. My booming laugh probably unleashed each time intensity 9 tremor to the undesirable characters in there. I took chances. I entered a clinical trial for an experimental drug and wrote a blog about it to entertain myself and share the experience. I covered every event in the trial, both good and bad. The good ones outdid the bad ones such as the drug-induced diabetes and the consequent loss of appetite. In time the worst event resolved. The diabetes disappeared and the appetite returned. Feeding my face again was so exhilarating that it inspired me to post “Stoke That Appetite,” a rip roaring account of my medical marijuana adventure.
Whoohoo! It’s been six years since June 2012. In the span of those six years, I experienced important family milestones I would have missed had I dropped dead on or before the Onc-proclaimed expiration date. On the other hand, who knows what exciting happenings I might have missed had I keeled over dead and floated to the other side of the Pearly Gates? Fortunately, everybody – without exception – gets to participate in those events sooner or later, preferably later.
For now I’ll talk about what I know. I’ll reiterate a couple of developments I’m glad I witnessed after beating the prognosis. I saw my only grandchild, a boy, develop from a 6-year-old kid who was unclear on the concept of rhyming to a gifted pre-teen who’ll one day in the future say earth-shattering things. I saw my only biological child, a son, a schooled artist and architect, transition professionally from starvation mode to a commercially competitive sculptor. There’s always hope!
Live, learn, laugh. That’s what I’ve been doing.
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