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"Extensive Metastatic Disease"



Well, I certainly don't like the sound of that, and I especially didn't like reading it in the "impressions" part of the radiologist's report I received Friday summarizing the previous Wednesday's PET scan. Though hardly a surprise given a thoracic surgeon's description of my original PET scan 11 and 1/2 years ago: "You lit that thing up like a Christmas tree." Still, I would have rather read something a bit less ominous. But I don't suppose being diagnosed with two types of cancer (non-small cell lung stage IV and papillary thyroid, stage II) lends itself to a "bit less ominous." Besides, "less ominous" left the building in late February 2009 when I was first diagnosed with a "terminal" disease: non-small cell lung cancer.

Not to make light of such a heavy dose of reality but, as Tom Sellick says on his recent television commercial for AAG: "This isn't my first rodeo." And neither is this statement of fact from the radiologist the first less-than-encouraging news I've heard and seen. To invoke Jack Palance (Curly) from "City Slickers" (1991): "I **** bigger than that." I've been living with a version of these words for 11 and 1/2 years. Tell me something I don't know.

Nevertheless, I'll find out what it all means soon enough. Though it might be a bit of a re-hash from a few columns ago stating that since all the tumors in my lungs can't be biopsied, practically proceeding, my oncologist will never know for certain exactly how much of what type of cancer I have. And since one medicine - from what I've been told, can't treat both cancers, life expectancy, treatment protocols, etc., are likely unclear at best. Presumably, we'll treat the cancer which is most prevalent, most aggressive and most treatable/curable? I can only hope that as I sit and write this column, two days before my surgical lung biopsy on Monday, seven days, approximately, until I hear from my oncologist,  I'll be able to compartmentalize the worst case scenarios - all of which are out of my control anyway, and try to live life as normally as possible and avoid any rabbit holes of gloom and doom.

Right now, this is just another blip on the cancer radar that has been "blipping" for more than 11 years. Generally speaking, the medical feedback we receive almost always sounds mediocre (and I don't mean fair to middling either). And it never sounds worse than it did in February '09 when I initially was diagnosed and given a "13 month to two year" prognosis. Unfortunately, having outlived my oncologist's expectation by upwards of 10-plus years doesn't guarantee me any favorable news. That was yesterday (yesteryear, actually). This is today, 2020. However, much has changed/evolved in the cancer-treatment world. There have been more drugs approved for the treatment of lung cancer in the last few years than in previous multiple decades, including the introduction of an entire new class of medicine: immunotherapy. It's not exactly game and match, but it is night and day.

Still, it's premature until I'm re-diagnosed and placed in a new protocol and see the results - in future CT scans. This pending biopsy may be the storm before the calm or vice versa, quite frankly. As I await results, my glass remains half full, as always. I just have to hope that while waiting for the cancer business to become clear, I don't get so thirsty/anxious that I empty my glass. That wouldn't help anybody, especially me.

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I keep reading and re-reading this post.  My  great-nephew called  last night to give me a pep talk about staying strong, fighting and never loosing hope. I reached for my notes and read to him:   I just have to hope that while waiting for the cancer business to become clear, I don't get so thirsty/anxious that I empty my glass. That wouldn't help anybody, especially me.

There was a silence at the other end. I am sure that phrase will be engraved in his mind like it was engraved in mine.

Thank you for a great post.

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