If this past week's test results (EKG, blood pressure and lab work) pass muster, then I will join the ranks, full-time, of the thyroid cancer community. At present, the medical plan is to pivot, completely, from any lung cancer treatment - which for the past 18 months has been immunotherapy bi-weekly, and focus instead, exclusively, on my stage IV, papillary thyroid cancer. If I can go forward, I'll be taking three pills a day, at home. No more visits to the Infusion Center and, of course, no more infusions. And not that I'm paranoid about getting exposed to the coronavirus, but less exposure to whatever can be transmitted by droplets, door knobs, elevator buttons, etc., can't be a bad thing. The question remains however: Is the medication I'll be receiving likely to have a positive effect? As in, will it cure my thyroid cancer?
What little I already know is that the type of papillary thyroid cancer that I've been diagnosed with recently - after three biopsies, is unfortunately not curable. It is treatable, though, just as my previous lung cancer diagnosis was described. I like curable much better. But, treatable I'll have to live with, hopefully for a long time, as I have for 11 and 1/2 years with the originally diagnosed stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. My attitude then, as it will be now, is to try and stay alive until the next new drug comes along which might actually cure my thyroid cancer. The interim goal, different from the ultimate goal is, stability: turning the incurable disease into a chronic disease, like diabetes, for example. And though curable is the preferred outcome, for those of us with our rear ends in those barcaloungers, stable is perfectly acceptable. In fact, for the many years I was treated for lung cancer, 'stable' became my new favorite word. Shrinkage, cure, remission and N.E.D. (no evidence of disease) was certainly the ideal. But for those of us in the trenches, our reality is often very different.
Living, even in those trenches, is the best reward, and as cancer patients, you learn that any guarantees, presumptions or even entitlements are best left outside the examining room's door. Because once inside, reality takes over (as it likewise does late at night, as you're lying in bed contemplating your predicament, when it tends to get late, early, if you know what I mean?). My friend Sean often jokes by asking me if I'm still on the clock (meaning am I still terminal-ish). I'm on the clock, alright, as I have been since February 27, 2009 when my oncologist first told Team Lourie of my "terminal" diagnosis. Cancer then, as now, is the dreaded disease. Eventually though, the conversation ends and a treatment plan is initiated.
Treatment is often predicated on a series of definite maybes/"we'll sees". Success is measured one lab result, one appointment, one scan and one surgery at a time. No promises are offered and rarely are other patient histories relevant to one's own circumstances. Patients have unique characteristics and it's never quite right to draw parallels. Being a cancer patient is the opposite of being on a "Merry Go 'Round." It's a "Not Very Merry Doesn't Go 'Round" - without the music. Moreover, there's never a brass ring to grab, only an intangible thing called hope.
However, hope is a wonderful thing. Though it doesn't necessarily get you across the finish line, it does enable you to endure the journey. You're where you are and where you're going to be so any kind of assistance - mentally or otherwise - is greatly appreciated. In my mind, the only pathway is forward. And though the challenges seem endless, a proper positive attitude that leaves open the possibilities of living life with cancer rather than succumbing to it creates a kind of karma that reflects off of others and is reabsorbed back into you. It's this positivity loop which makes the unbearable a bit more bearable. At least it does for me.
My father used to say: "Every knock is a boost." Imagine what every boost would mean to a cancer patient? It's almost like medicine, but without the negative side effects. And who doesn't need that? Those of us diagnosed with two types of cancer, that's who!
Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.