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LCSC Blog last won the day on August 21 2020

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  1. It may not have been the miracle I was hoping for: shrinkage or tumor disappearance, from my most recent diagnostic scans but no growth and/or new metastases is nothing to be taken for granted. However, I did experience a miracle of sorts when the envelope I received at home from the "State of Maryland, Maryland SafeZones Automated Speed Enforcement" authority specifying and picturing yours truly exceeding the speed limit by 12 mph was for information purposes only. It was not an invoice. It was a warning. And the $40 fine associated with this kind of infraction was left on the cutting room floor. Perhaps this is the extent of the miracle that Solange was able to perform when she prayed for me and my burned feet - and thyroid cancer, on July 20 in the Houston airport. Though this outcome was not exactly the delusional outcome I was hoping for, when we consented to her extremely kind offer to pray for me. Nevertheless, a win is a win. And though a shrinking/disappearing cancer tumor would have been an amazing - albeit unlikely outcome, the tumors remained "stable" and I saved a $40 outlay. On balance, not a bad day's work. For which I am extremely grateful. Soon after I entered the cancer-patient world, I learned that any not-automatically-bad news - whether internally or externally to that world, should be acknowledged and appreciated. Any port in a storm you might say. Moreover, I always sought to find the positive in this sea of negativity. Whatever I could see - through any rose-colored glasses I could find, served its purpose to emotionally support me for the many long and lonely nights that followed. Certainly, there's family and friends to help share the burden brought on by a "terminal" diagnosis, but at the end of the day, literally, it's sort of you and your thoughts. Finding a way to navigate this minefield of unpredictable results and anxiety is paramount. On the one hand, you can't take what the doctors and radiologists say as seriously as a cancer diagnosis obviously is, but neither can you pretend that you're not in the fight of your life. That being said, one must be open to new ideas and unexpected offers. Filtering and interpreting whether any of the suggestions made by your doctors and/or your well-meaning friends and family becomes your lot in life. And it's an awful lot at that. Still, a cancer diagnosis is not nearly the death sentence as it used to be for the previous generation. Though it would be naïve to characterize a cancer diagnosis as an opportunity, nevertheless unceasing research in a variety of hospital/cancer centers, medical schools, clinical trials, pharmaceutical companies and the like have led to an evolution in the treatment in cancer, particularly non small cell lung cancer which is the type of cancer I was originally diagnosed with in late Feb., 2009. (Though I am now being treated for papillary thyroid cancer as you regular readers know. As to whether I ever had lung cancer, the jury is still out, not literally.) And since I have an incurable form of thyroid cancer, as written about numerous times in this space, I am forever open to new experiences that might create a path forward for me. The underlying problem in my situation is the odd circumstances that ultimately led to my more recent diagnosis. Since I had years of heavy-duty chemotherapy while treating my presumptive lung cancer, I have suffered kidney damage which only manifests itself in lab work and in what medications/treatment I can be given. As such when I went to the hospital after my thyroidectomy for post-surgical eradication of the remaining thyroid cancer that the surgeon was unable to remove, the dose of nuclear isotopes I was given was only one-third the dose it should have been had I not been so previously chemotherapy-damaged. As a result, I'm sort of stuck. I have a usually curable type of thyroid cancer which is now considered incurable. The solution? I need to find a clinical trial for patients who have been treated for lung cancer for nine years, perhaps mistakenly, suffered irreparable kidney damage from those years of toxicity, who now has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and who is now unable to process the medicine likely to cure him and thus is: incurable. You bet I need a miracle, and sooner rather than later. Maybe I should fly back to Houston.
  2. Life goes on. My warranty has been extended for another 90 days as all three scans from Sept. 23rd indicated stable and/or no new metastases. News with which I am extremely fond of saying, I can live. Though the radiologist's report that I received lists both non-small cell lung cancer and papillary thyroid cancer as "the indication," my endocrinologist feels what I have is thyroid cancer and likely have always had thyroid cancer. I wish I could say that will be for the lawyers to argue, but peculiarities of law and the three-year statute of limitations in Maryland makes a final resolution unlikely. Therefore, I will continue to live with my amazing good fortune and possible misdiagnosis as part and parcel of how I roll. And how I roll, as you regular readers know is chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy once again - in that order, and diagnostic scans every three weeks in the beginning and eventually and presently, every three months. As such, over these nearly 13 years of being a cancer patient, I figure I've probably had at least 50 CT scans and another 20-plus MRIs, plus an occasional PET scan. The point being that over the years, I've done an awful lot of waiting for scan results with my life/immediate future hanging in the balance. And 'balance' is exactly what one needs to endure these incredibly anxious situations. Though I'm fairly experienced at this juncture, the actual moment of truth when I receive the email containing my results is oft-putting to say the least and downright heart-stopping to say the most. However, my personality is perfectly suited for these ongoing challenges. I never presume the worst. I never woe is me. I never bemoan systemic delays in communicating the results to me. As my close friend, John, would most definitely say: "It is what it is, and it will be what it will be." I never put the proverbial cart before the horse. I can take it. No problem. My wife, Dina, on the other hand, cannot. For her, the results cannot arrive soon enough. Granted, immediate feedback would be much preferred. But, that's never been the process. I can accept it. Dina, not so much. That being said, I will admit that after all these years/scans/waiting for results, I have become less able to take it all in stride. It's as if a layer of patience and understanding of the process has been worn away with time. Even though I've mostly received good news (unexpectedly given my original "13 month to two year" prognosis - in Feb., 2009), I have had my share of disappointing news. But on the whole, I've been one of the luckier cancer patients. Still, each scan I wait for results is hardly an adventure in wonderland. I am constantly wondering and worrying when the other shoe will drop (the bad news). In fact, opening up the email that contains my scan results literally takes my breath away. Not to be negative, which I'm not, but during the Team Lourie meeting in late Feb., 2009 when I first met my oncologist and were given all the medical reports/assessments of my recent X-Rays, CT scan, PET scan and surgical biopsy from the pulmonologist, thoracic surgeon, pathologist and internist, it was clear and convincing from all these doctors that I had lung cancer. And my prognosis? Grim, and it was no fairy tale. It was surreal to hear and nearly impossible to process. I have what? When I was told the survival statistics by my oncologist of stage IV non-small cell lung cancer patients (me): 2 percent survive beyond two years, my brother asked if there are exceptions. To which my oncologist replied to me: "Could you be the one? Sure." Little did I know that the doctor was being literal. One was the answer. Ever since I heard that, I felt my days were numbered. All these several years later, I'm not exactly counting days, but neither am I counting chickens. I live quarter to quarter and am grateful to do so.
  3. Speaking of side effects (at least I was in last week’s column, “Enough Already”) being a regular part of chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy; the big three non-surgical options for cancer patients, I am currently experiencing a new side effect which as it happens is a dream come true: weight loss. Which has enabled me to eat to my heart’s content without your typical consequences. Meaning, for now, I can be comfortable in whatever food I eat. As Curly Howard of The Three Stooges might say: “What an experience!” For my entire life, I have not been thin. Growing up, all my clothes were purchased in the “Husky Department." In spite of that accommodation, my clothes always had to be let in or let out and nothing ever fit. I’ve stood over so many piles of clothes in store dressing rooms which didn’t fit, and made so many “walks of shame” out of the dressing room and onto the floor (where my mother would look me up and down to determine if the shirt, sweater, pants or short I was wearing had any redeeming qualities) that it has left a permanent mark. Most of the time, it was hopeless and I was forced to retreat back to the dressing room with even more clothes to suffer yet another indignity. To this day, some 60-odd years later, I am still traumatized by the years of suffering and humiliation I endured as an overweight child/adolescent forced to buy clothes for the fall/winter and the spring/summer. Oh, how I dreaded those shopping trips into Boston to visit Jordan Marsh, Filene’s and Kennedy’s. If it wasn’t for the two Joe & Nemo’s hot dogs I was promised, the day would have been a total loss - for me. However, after years of being fat, tubby, obese (per the health and fitness charts), slow-footed and unable to do even one chin-up during those annual phys-ed exams in secondary school; and moreover, never being able to lose any weight or change my diet to facilitate losing a few pounds, I have stumbled onto a surprising and quite unexpected remedy (of sorts): lenvima, my thyroid cancer medicine. A 10 mg pill I take once a day, rain or shine, seems to induce weight loss. Now that’s a side effect with which I can live. In fact, for an eater like me (challenging), living a scan-to-scan existence when the quarterly results determine my immediate future and/or whether my life hangs in the balance, it doesn’t get any better than that. After nearly nine months on this treatment, in speaking to my endocrinologist last week, she happened to mention in response to a question I asked concerning my shortness-of-breath side effect, about another side effect: weight loss. Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner (without the chicken dinner). The patient (yours truly) who was apparently originally misdiagnosed with a terminal form of lung cancer (stage IV) instead of what would have been a very treatable and curable form of papillary thyroid cancer, known as “the friendly cancer,” finally got some good news. Unfortunately, the re-diagnosis came too late and I’m still on a limited schedule, if you know what I mean? (F.Y.I: the nickname given to papillary thyroid cancer as being friendly is because it’s very curable.) Not that I don’t already eat my share of “comfort” food, but by consuming it so regularly, I usually pack on a few pounds and rarely, if ever, lose weight. My entire life, until this recent lenvima revelation, food had never been just for thought. As a result, lenvima has become my second favorite word after “stable,” (scan results). Now it seems, so long as scan results continue to be stabilizing, I’ll be able to eat what I want and let the chips fall where they may, literally and figuratively.
  4. As I approach my four-week anniversary of "the burning," I do so with cautious optimism that one day soon, I'll be walking upright once again and doing so without the assistance of my walker. No more leaning over at the waist to grab the walker's waist-high grab bars. No more pulling/pushing myself up as I try to gain leverage in order to balance my weight so as not to fall backwards or to the side. And finally, once standing, no more hopping on my right foot as I favor the left; the location where the podiatrist pointed to and said at our last appointment: "You can see where that is ground zero;" meaning, the worst of the burn. And four weeks later, 'ground zero' is still ultra sensitive and not bearing too much weight. The emergency room doctor had said the healing will "likely take weeks, not months." And four-plus weeks into my recovery, I would say her assessment/prediction was spot on. But I'm not there yet. I'm somewhat better than I have been, but I'm still not ready to solo. Although I did drive for the first time yesterday. It was no problem (my driving foot is my right foot so pressing on the pedals was not the least bit painful. However, if there had been a clutch involved, I wouldn't have been up to driving). Still, success, and a feeling of independence once again. Fortunately, the clown shoes that the local emergency room provided finally are proving to be useful. The strappy, cushiony, black, open-toe sandals with the thick white soles I'm now wearing all day were designed to give the foot breathing room along with some support. However, in the early weeks following "the burning," when I placed my foot in the sandal, the insole felt rough as if it were tearing up the bottoms of my feet, exactly where the second degree burns had occurred. Since it seemed like it was hindering my recovery, I rarely wore them and instead put on thick socks (over the bandages lined with medication) and walked around on the heels of my feet while attempting to keep the balls of my feet (where the burns were) elevated and off the floor. It enabled me to mostly get around, but now, being able to wear the sandals, I'm much more ambulatory. And so it finally feels as if the worm has turned, as they say. The sole on my right foot is exhibiting all the proper signs of new skin having formed and is a few days away, according to my nurse-wife, Dina (who has been bandaging my feet up to three times daily since "the burning") of returning to its pre-burned status. As such, I am nearly able to put all my weight on my right foot as necessary as I continue to favor the "ground- zero" left foot. However, if I ever inadvertently place my full weight on my left foot, I am transported emotionally back to July 17 when I first stepped on that hot pavement. I don't exactly see stars, but I certainly feel pain until I lift up that left foot and start to hop on my right. Oh, what a relief that is, as I attempt to retrieve my bearings and find some place to sit, immediately. That being said, I am most definitely on the mend. Getting on my feet, still with the aid of my walker, doesn't conjure the same fear and loathing and pain as it once did. Urges to visit the bathroom are no longer delayed as much as possible. Nor are they fraught with anxiety and exasperation concerning the effort required to make the short walk to water the closet, especially in the middle of the night when the house is dark. But today, I can just about see the future (and a return to normal/independence) which may include a visit to close friends who live in Ocean City, Maryland, a k a the beach. And when I do, I'll certainly be upright and walking normally, but I won't ever be barefoot, inside or out. I can't take any chances. As slow as my recovery has been, I don't suppose its pace has anything to do with my underlying medical condition: thyroid cancer. Nevertheless, I don't see any benefit to stressing my immune system anymore than is absolutely necessary. It already has more than enough to do attempting to keep the cancer in check.
  5. It all started innocently enough: on Crystal Beach in Galveston, Texas while enjoying a family vacation. Due to 11 years of chemotherapy, I have neuropathy in both feet. As a result, I never walk barefoot, especially on a beach, unless of course, I go into the water. Which on the Saturday before last, I did. When I returned to my beach chair, with my feet all sandy and wet, I elected not to put my sneakers and socks on for the 50-yard walk back to our accommodations. Oh (literally), how I wish I had. Not 10 feet from the end of the beach was a narrow strip of road (tar, concrete, I can't remember) which we had to cross to reach the grassy margins which would then take us to our house. No sooner had I stepped left, right, left, then I felt like a buffalo which had been shot on the Great Plains, as I immediately collapsed onto a neighbor's yard swearing in pain as I landed, as the heat of the pavement seared through the bottom of both feet. As I sat on the grass with my heels clenched and my toes pointing skyward, I thought,"I'm not going to be able to walk the 25 yards to our house." Somehow, within a few minutes, I summoned up the strength to stand and somehow I managed to hobble my way home. (I'll spare you the details of the excruciating pain I endured walking up the 20+ wooden steps to get inside our house.) The following day, I remained inside with my feet off the floor and my socks on angling for some kind of relief. The only times I had to move (to visit the bathroom) were sheer torture. Later that day, I relented and let my wife, Dina, look at my feet. She removed my bloody socks and recoiled in horror. To say it wasn't a pretty sight isn't really stating the obvious. It's stating that I was oblivious. I suffered through the rest of the night, taking only Extra Strength Tylenol for pain. It didn't really work. The next day we drove to Urgent Care. I was seen within 15 minutes of my arrival. The physician's assistant on call removed my socks and assessed the damage. He said I had second degree burns on the soles of both feet. He prescribed an antibiotic pill, a pain pill, and some medicinal cream. The cream was to be smeared on a non-adhesive bandage, which then was to be placed on the affected areas and wrapped with a self-sticking, ace-type bandage which was to be changed twice a day. I was given my prescriptions and a set of crutches. Soon I was out the door - via a wheelchair, and then Dina drove us across the street to a pharmacy where we picked up our goodies. Finally, we had a treatment plan and relief was in sight. Oh, (literally) how I wish it were so. The next day was our last day of vacation. Of course I was no use to anybody as the house was cleaned and everyone packed their stuff as the cars were loaded with luggage (and back down those same 25 wooded steps). It was nearly three hours later (after a two-hour car ride) with Dina driving (don't tell the car rental place) as I squirmed in pain, until we arrived at our airport gate with yours truly getting wheelchair assistance. Circumventing lines to drop off baggage and pass through security, with haste and super efficiency, we eventually were deposited at Gate A17 in plenty of time to make our departure. Unfortunately, the pain had not really subsided. In my mind, I knew I was going to Urgent Care later that night after we arrived home in Maryland. These painkillers couldn't kill a fly let alone the pain from a second degree burn. (We were seen that night at a local Urgent Care around 11 pm. They confirmed the diagnosis, but they prescribed a more serious painkiller: percocet. Which so far hasn't stopped the pain. Dulled it, maybe?) Back at the gate, while we waited to board, a woman came over to sit next to where I had stretched out across two seats to minimize the pain. Dina explained to her the reason why I had my legs outstretched was because I was injured. She smiled and said: "Would you mind if I ... ?" Stay tuned to this space for "Still Bedridden in Burtonsville" publishing Wednesday, August 4th.
  6. (Again, not a cancer column. Given the title, it would be a pretty gruesome reference to my life in the cancer world if it were.) No. Not even close to a cancer column. But I am writing about a similar mind-numbing experience. However, this experience has nothing to do with disease/dying. Instead, it has to do with the effort, patience and excruciating lack of success in attempting to contact, meaning speaking to an actual person, at the Internal Revenue Service and/or at the Social Security Administration. The phone numbers you're "googled" to call are the opposite of hot lines. They are frigid. Almost too cold to tolerate, but since your financial life expectancy may be at risk, somehow you have to hold on for dear life. Or else pay, or rather be unable to pay, the consequences. So I'm on hold for 14 minutes and counting, sort of. More like listening to some unrecognizable instrumental between looped messages that say (A) You're still on hold and (B) They haven't forgotten you and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received. (Actually, you're hoping they remember you.) Unfortunately, you have no choice but to hold on. The answers you seek are only found at these places/numbers and unless you go to the source, you'll be barking up the wrong tree and/or not squeaking the right wheel. I'm fairly certain that if you don't call them, they're unlikely to call - back, or forward, especially if the reason for my two calls is to secure money coming to me instead of negotiating how I'm planning to pay them. So sit tight and be brave - and be near a bathroom to make sure nature's call doesn't interrupt your interminable wait on hold and/or be sure there are enough bars on your phone so a draining battery doesn't end your pursuit. However, presuming the time it will take to speak to someone to be hours, not minutes, it can be an opportunity to while away your wait by multi-tasking and have the music offered up for your listening pleasure to serve as a kind of white noise as you go about some other personal business. In short, you can get things done rather than become increasingly frustrated that you're stuck by the phone accomplishing nothing. But you have to prepare and anticipate. This wait is not going to be a pleasurable experience. It's a means to an end, hopefully a rewarding one, but hardly one that's guaranteed. If you can only talk yourself into realizing how good you'll feel once this phone task is completed. Rolaids has nothing on the relief you'll feel when you're finished with this day's work (almost literally). Moreover, knowing you don't have to call them back tomorrow is nearly motivation enough. Crossing this task off your to-do list free's up not only time but mental space, as well. It's almost as if you've given your life back, at least for a few hours, anyway. As I sit and continue to write this column, it is 38 minutes since I began this exercise in time utilization. And it's just now happened, a representative from the Social Security Administration has just interrupted the music loop and offered their assistance. Let me get my bearings and organize my thoughts so I'm clear in what I'm saying. I don't want to have to make this call again. I already have once before. I have called previously and after telling my tale, was put on hold while the operator researched my claim only to be disconnected when the operator returned to address my question. But this time, there was no disconnect. I received my answer in a reasonably timely manner and off I now go into the rest of my day. Next up: the IRS. Do I dare test my limits and call them on the same day as I called Social Security or do I reward myself and take a well-deserved break? Either way, it's one down and one to go. I think I'll call tomorrow. I don't feel like testing my patience yet again, and besides, I'm finished with this real-time column.
  7. (Not a cancer column.) For the past six months or so, I have been the email-recipient of $50 gift cards to numerous to count/tally. They have run the gamut from Ace Hardware to Zappos.com and everything in between like CVS, Kohls, Walmart; you name it. I have rarely clicked on any of these "giveaways" because the one time I did, the answers required on the site - to claim my winnings, seemed a bit intrusive, as in what they were asking was none of their business. If they truly want to incentivize me to spend money at their store/site, they need to leave my personal business out of their equation. You don't need to know my mother's maiden name or the name of the city where I was born, to give me money, and you definitely are not getting my credit card number into which you'll make "the transfer." I've been down that rabbit hole before, and it's not good. For a time, I was naively open and curious about these presumptive money/data grabs. I figured that in a pandemic world where millions of potential buyers are quarantining at home, and brick and mortar businesses are left fending for themselves, finding an alternate route to my wallet/credit cards while many of us were less inclined to go out and mix with the masses, a gift card teaser seemed prudent and reasonable. Moreover, given the very extenuating circumstances we've all endured these last 18 months, it was safe even; given our collective evolution in terms of purchasing goods and services online over the last decade to buy remotely. Throw in the same day service available with some vendors and there really is very little need to leave your house. But after being nearly hooked and gutted by a phishing expedition once before, I've become extremely cautious about taking any bait/ tipping my toe in the figurative computer water, especially when the offers seem to be pulling at my heart's strings: free/easy money. Certainly I am mindful of the advisory: "If it sounds too good to be true...", yelled from the highest mountain tops in the past decade. However, the fraudulent pursuit of our almighty dollars are not being sent by idiots/innocent target marketers. Hardly. These callers, with whom you eventually have to make verbal or online contact are quite proficient at answering your questions and/or allaying any fears that the about-to-be-extremely-unlucky mark is exhibiting. And once the caller/responder to your query has control of your computer - which you provided (it seemed like the logical thing to do to close/finalize the deal), the gift card party is officially over. The "free" money you had anticipated receiving is now going to cost you real money, as opposed to the offer you initially received which, as it happens, wasn't real/free at all. Still, even with my previous near-death financial wipeout, I did click on a CVS offer. The site had all the CVS bells and whistles and colors which I've come to recognize and the offer seemed genuine: three choices to click on a box to win a $50 gift card. And of course, it was the third and final red box on which I clicked that offered up my $50. That was easy. Too easy. As it soon became apparent, claiming the money was the problem. Once I answered a bunch of questions about my name, rank and serial number of where I live and so forth, I realized I was leading the caller down the garden path to my identity and all sorts of harrowing misadventures which I'd prefer not to experience first hand. Before it got too late/too personal on the sight, I politely backed out before any damage was done. As a result of this near calamity, I am no longer clicking on anything that seems the least bit enticing with unsolicited offers of direct payments/gift cards to me. If however, there are solicitations to me for gift cards to be mailed to my home without any preconditions or questions answered, I'd be happy to receive them. Otherwise, I won't bother. I've been shamed once, I can't afford, literally, to be shamed twice, then it is my fault (a fool and his money ...) .
  8. ... stable, with a side of shrinkage, however modest. No jeopardy here, final or otherwise. Simply more of the same here, but hardly ho hum. A status quo with which I am fond of writing: I can live. Promises and guarantees left the building on that fateful day in late February, 2009 when an oncologist who I had previously never met summarized my condition and identified it as stage IV, non small cell lung cancer. A "terminal" disease if there ever was one, and of course there are many. And along with that bombshell came the excruciatingly unpopular prognosis: "13 months to two years." I was 54 and a half with no history of cancer in my immediate family. Much has happened and many medications prescribed since I infused my initial chemotherapy back in early March, 2009. Most of which you regular readers know. If you recall anything from my 12 years of weekly cancer columns, it is that regular diagnostic scans: CT scans, bone scans, P.E.T. scans and MRIs have been recurring nightmares. Every three months, I am scheduled for some type of scan, sometimes more than one ("BOGO," I call it), which based on its findings will determine my subsequent course of treatment. If the results are encouraging, a change in my treatment is unlikely. If, however, tumors are growing, newly appearing or spreading then it's "Katy bar the door," as we say in New England. Which means, hang onto your hat, among other things, as a new health situation presents, and one without an automatic solution. After years of conversations with my oncologist, I've learned: The best one can hope for is a definite maybe. It's this unpredictability which fills my day - and night. Nevertheless, my life has gone on way longer than my oncologist anticipated. It may be because I was misdiagnosed (as a Georgetown Cancer Center oncologist suggested) and had a slow moving form of papillary thyroid cancer rather than an aggressive form of lung cancer, which kills more often than it cures. Or, I may simply be my oncologist's "third miracle," as he's fond of saying. Presumably, my positive attitude and good humor about my circumstances in conjunction with the many supplements I ingest with alkaline water exclusively have contributed to my unexpected survival. Regardless, as Frankenstein might have said: "I'm alive." As scary as Frankenstein, Dracula or Lon Chaney ever was, a cancer diagnosis tops them all. Being told by a doctor you have never met that you have two years to live, at best, is as you might imagine, nearly impossible to process. It's not exactly what you had planned on or expected hearing when you sat in the doctor's office. Yet, as Ralph Edwards used to say, "This is your life." And as many others have said: "You're stuck with it." And as grim as you feel about your future, this is no fairy tale. As always, reality beats make-believe any day, and in this instance, not in a good way. But I am in a good way. I am still typing, among other activities. And after having just received a "looks good" comment from my oncologist concerning this week's CT and bone scan, my warranty has been extended for another 90 days, when the results of my next quarterly scan will be emailed. Until then, I am in high cotton. To say I'm not worried is of course naïve, but in the interim, between scans, I am in "the rocking chair, good buddy," to invoke a familiar CB-ism. This is how many cancer patients live: from one scan to the next. It's not ideal, but it is a living, and one for which I'm extremely grateful and fortunate to still have. It may not have been the life I expected, but I'm glad to live it nonetheless.
  9. ... and I suppose life is back on, especially for those of us who have been vaccinated. No more hiding your emotions and expressions behind your face-covering as you once again start interacting with the general public. They can see you and, of course, you can see them - and you can hear/understand them, too. Conversations will flow more evenly now that they won't be interrupted by an "Excuse me, I can't understand you," or a "Could you please repeat that?" Conversations that were previously affected by fits and starts will revert back to questions and answers and what abouts. For me, the mask was an impediment to normal conversion. Necessary and prudent during a once-in-a-lifetime, public health emergency, but apparently, the time has comer. Previous directives: masks, social distancing, contact tracing, quarantining and vaccinations were all most of us ever talked about. Now with vaccinations getting into more arms, our lives are expanding. From our living room to just plain living. Though there are still mask-on requirements - in schools, on public conveyances, and in airports, train stations and the like, and while obtaining healthcare services - we are now, especially those of us vaccinated, free to return to our previous life, mostly. Soon, capacity restrictions will be lifted as our lives, so far as the activities which involve large crowds, both inside and out, can open back up in their entirety. Moreover, social distancing will likewise become a thing of the past. Now, all those round stickers marking six feet of distance as well as the plexiglas dividers will disappear as well. However, individual businesses retain the right to require visitors to mask up. As Bobby Brown used to sing: "That is my prerogative," and so too will businesses have their own prerogative to require patrons - or not, to abide by their mask-wearing requirements. All of that being said and understood, even though I'm fully vaccinated, I still feel like I should mask-up. From the national vaccination statistics, there are plenty of people who have not yet been vaccinated and/or are unwilling/unconvinced they need to comply. I can't quite understand the "vaccine hesitancy" or the disinterest in following these most recent public health advisories. It seems like such a small, relatively risk-free/preventing risk step to take. I mean, whatever temporary side effects/discomfort one might experience a day or two after the injection pales in comparison to the effect on your body and/or life expectancy contacting the virus might have. I'll take a definite over a maybe anytime. Besides, I don't want to be responsible for my own demise, or any others for that matter. In this situation, I'm happy/proud to conform to the public health directives. The virus is bigger - and badder, than any one of us; so to be bigger and badder than the virus, literally and figuratively, the more of us who receive the vaccine, the more of us will be able to survive this pandemic and safely embrace our former lives while not fearing the consequences of our inactions. The other day at my local Giant, I happened to walk by the customer service desk where I heard a customer bragging to an employee about not planning on getting a vaccination, like he was proud of it. What a disconnect! I'm proud to have gotten my vaccination, and I'm equally proud to have participated in a national effort to try and combat the greatest health crisis this country has suffered since the Spanish Flu first infected Americans over 100 years ago. I just wish more people would put the country ahead of themselves. For all that we're given here, it really doesn't seem too much to ask. In this circumstance, paybacks are not hell, they're heaven.
  10. until
    The International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference (ILCSC) is a unique virtual conference designed by and for people diagnosed with lung cancer and their caregivers. The conference teaches attendees how to live well with lung cancer and provides opportunities to connect with other survivors, hear from world-renowned researchers on the latest treatments, learn about ways to manage their disease and cancer journey, and much more! The 2021 conference is scheduled for August 27-29. More information and a registration link coming soon. Want to be one of the first to know when registration opens? Sign up to get an email notification here.
  11. until
    Join us on May 6 for a virtual legislative briefing on precision medicine and biomarker testing with @Prostate Cancer Foundation. The briefing will cover the process of prior authorization for insurance approval of biomarker testing and why this can often be a barrier for patients to receive timely access to testing and the appropriate treatment plan. Register Here: www.eventleaf.com/precisionmedicinebriefing.
  12. LCSC Blog

    eRACE Lung Cancer

    Join Team LUNGevity as we eRACE Lung Cancer! eRACE Lung Cancer is a FUNdraising program that brings together runners, swimmers, cyclists, and other participants from across the country with one common goal: to erase lung cancer. Participants will choose their own mileage goal for the month of May, log their workouts from May 1-31, and then come together virtually in June to celebrate. Proceeds from eRACE Lung Cancer benefit LUNGevity Foundation, the nation’s leading lung cancer organization focused on improving outcomes for people with lung cancer through research, education, support and engagement for patients, survivors, and caregivers, and policy initiatives. eRACE Lung Cancer includes: - Free registration ($0 entry fee) - No fundraising requirement - Set your own personal mileage goal - 4 weeks to complete your goal (May 1-31, 2021) - Virtual celebration in June - Exclusive eRACE Lung Cancer rewards - Mobile app to track your workouts, view our leaderboard, earn achievement badges, and fundraise on-the-go - Online community of Team LUNGevity athletes - Fundraising tools and challenges Register: LUNGevity.org/eRACE Questions? Email [email protected]
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    Join Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) Atlanta clinical experts, Dr. Dan Miller and Dr. Herbert Duvivier, as they share resources and information lung cancer patients should know about advancements in minimally invasive surgical procedures as well as treatment options for surgically resected patients. Find out about survivorship and patient support programs offered by CTCA and LUNGevity Foundation. Admission is free for this virtual event, but registration is required to reserve your spot. The deadline to register is Tuesday, May 11, at 5:00 P.M. ET. For more information or to register, visit www.lungevity.org/learnatlanta.
  14. LCSC Blog

    HOPE Summit

    HOPE Summit, a virtual survivorship conference, brings together hundreds of lung cancer patients and survivors from across the country and empowers them with information, resources, and guidance. These tools help people living with lung cancer take control of their life and wellness to increase their quality of life. Sessions will help attendees learn about ways to embrace survivorship and live well with lung cancer, and speakers will cover psychosocial issues, practical issues, and holistic issues. Topics included psychosocial issues, such as navigating mental health and your sexual health; financial issues, such as navigating insurance and legal rights in the workplace; science updates, such as lung cancer and COVID and the importance of biomarker testing, and more! Sessions are for both those in active treatment and those out of treatment to address their specific needs. Sessions will be hosted by inspirational speakers, key experts on practical issues of survivorship, and lung cancer peers. All affected by lung cancer are welcome, including those newly diagnosed, in active treatment, or out of treatment. While this conference is focused on persons living with lung cancer, anyone may register to attend. There will also be meetups for networking for attendees to connect and share common experiences, and opportunities for patients and survivors to hear others’ and share their lung cancer story. Find hope and inspiration while building your community of fellow patients and survivors in this celebration of survivorship. Register at lungevity.org/hope before 12pm on Thursday, May 20 to reserve your spot!
  15. As previously referred to in a recent column, even though I am hardly cancer-free; nonetheless, I am cancer interruptus for the next four weeks. That means I have no cancer-related activities: no lab work, no scans, no infusions, no injections, no appointments, no video visits, no interaction whatsoever. Other than taking my daily thyroid cancer pill (the side effects of which are marginal at worst), with which I ingest another 50-plus pills (supplements and so forth), I am, too quote my late father, "unencumbered" by my less-than-ideal circumstances. I wouldn't say I'm actually on vacation, but I'm certainly willing to say, there's a definite break in the action. It's not exactly a "staycation," nevertheless, it is a positive occasion, and one with which I can live. Not that being diagnosed with "terminal" (originally) cancer and/or still undergoing active treatment is ever fun; tolerable is as grandiose a description as I'll accept. However, four weeks without any involvement with my oncologist and endoicrinologist or with any health care-related staff, puts a real bounce in my step; my neuropathy notwithstanding. Though I have difficulty walking and especially running, I am, for the next four weeks anyway, on easy street, figuratively speaking. The psychological wear and tear us cancer patients (especially the ones characterized as "terminal") endure is ever present and any excuse/opportunity to let one's mind wander to a place other than your presumptive demise, is a mental trip very much worth taking. Oddly enough, a month of not having anything to do with my cancer team/healthcare facility is hardly the norm. Usually, there's more than enough cancer-related activities to keep me preoccupied. In its own unique way, the nothingness is kind of challenging. I keep looking over my shoulder, almost literally, as the great Satchel Page once said ("to see if anybody's gaining on me") , and flipping the pages on my appointment book to see if I've whiffed somehow on some of my usual and customary obligations. I mean: it is so rare to be so disconnected when you've been diagnosed with a "terminal" disease. As you might imagine, cancer treatment is very hands-on. Not much is left to chance. Moreover, cancer is very unpredictable and insidious. Often it is in control, despite the oncologist's best effort. To be thrown into this cancer-centric world after mostly standing still, healthwise, for 54 and a half years, is a fate not worse than death, but one, depending on the type of cancer you have, which could very well lead to a premature death. After decades of neglect, the last 15 or so years has seen a huge increase in funding for lung cancer research which in turn has led to more than a dozen new drugs - and an entire new class of drugs: immunotherapy, for the treatment of lung cancer. The result has been increased survivability and quality of life for those of us so diagnosed. And very directly, I have been the beneficiary of some of these drugs: avastin, alimta and tarceva having been my life extenders. Where despair once dominated the initial prognosis, now there is hope. It's not so much a cure as it is a way to make cancer a chronic disease, one which requires a lifetime of monitoring, like diabetes, as an example; but it's potentially for a lifetime, not for a life with very little time. At this immediate juncture, I am being treated, but still living my life - outside, and rarely ever in a medical facility. Not having to endure the ongoing exposure and reminder that I have cancer and a shortened life expectancy to boot, enables me not only to breathe easier, but also allows me to take an occasional deep breath as well. A deep breath which doesn't lead to a coughing fit, a fit which, for us lung cancer patients is never a good sign.
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