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Opinion: Column: Airing of a Grievance
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Opinion: Column: Airing of a Grievance

Now that I'm back to every-three-week-chemotherapy infusions, getting through the "holiday" season becomes very tricky. One week delay due to unacceptable lab results can have a cascade effect on one's ability to spread any cheer.

And given that I'm scheduled to be infused rather aggressively, a direct result of tumor growth indicated on my most recent CT scan, delaying an infusion to accommodate my non-chemotherapy schedule seems like a non starter. After all, we're trying to keep me alive here.

Therefore, it seems counter-intuitive almost to push my treatment ahead one or two weeks just so I can enjoy a Thanksgiving turkey.

In the scheme of things, enjoying a meal pales in comparison to enjoying a life. And shrinking and/or stabilizing tumors trumps mashed potatoes and gravy. Missing a festive occasion/not being able to taste/eat anything is much less important than beating back my sworn enemy: cancer.

However, considering the unpredictability of my actually-receiving-chemotherapy on the two scheduled infusion dates before Christmas: 11/16/18 and 12/7/18, and the effect of rescheduling one or the other by one or two weeks, depending on lab results, gives pre-holiday chemotherapy infusions a bad name and an even worse connotation.

The patient (in this context, me), is either damned if you do (side effects) and/or damned if you don't (tumor growth, potentially). I need way more than a Festivus miracle.

To invoke Tiny Tim, I need to tiptoe through the tulips, so to speak; to have my chemotherapy infusions allow me to eat/satiate my meals, travel when necessary without having to double-back for chemotherapy (yes, my infusion center is open on Friday, Nov. 23, as well as the day before Christmas and the day after, with their schedule repeating itself for New Year's) and navigate an already challenging five-week turn of events. To be capped off by a Jan. 2 CT scan followed up by a Jan. 11 face-to-face appointment with my oncologist to discuss the results of the January scan.

I can hardly wait. Although I have to, and of course, think about the what-if constantly.

Nearly two months of scheduling twists and turns impacting one's quality of life during the most stressful time of the year: Thanksgiving through New Year's followed by learning one's fate: stay the course or as Yogi Berra said: "Come to the fork in the road and take it." And if I do take it (Immunotherapy), it won't simply be the road less traveled, it will be the road never traveled – by me. Although many other cancer patients have blazed the trail, the prospect of yours truly blazing the next trail (line) scares me, hopefully not to death.

It might not be so bad – and extremely personal, if my best friend's wife hadn't succumbed to her lung cancer within a year or so after being prescribed one of the drugs that my oncologist and I have discussed if my next scan continues to show tumor growth.

I get so emotional at the mere mention of the drug that I can't even pronounce it through my tears. So my oncologist knows my preference, and he's content to respect my wishes, especially considering that according to his experiences, the drugs are fairly similar in their effect/success.

And since mind definitely matters, keeping me in a positive frame of mind is the goal. But I'm getting way ahead of myself here; it's only November. This discussion won't occur for almost nine weeks, Jan. 11, 2019.

The only problem is, the next nine weeks present challenges unlike any similar period during the year. Throw in a few lab tests, a couple of chemotherapy infusions, a diagnostic scan and a few weeks to wait for all of it to shake out and what you're left with is your life hanging in the balance and death rearing its ugly head.

"Cancer sucks" – especially during the holidays.