LUCKY MAN

Today's post will necessarily be shorter than most. Concision is not my strength, but there is much left to do before tomorrow's operation. I have miles to go before I sleep.

I share very little with Lou Gehrig. I certainly don't have any prowess on the baseball diamond (in fact, I was once featured on Sportscenter's Not The Top 10 "highlights" for ducking what should have been an easily caught fly ball -- true story). But I do understand why he was not being disingenuous when, on his final appearance at Yankee Stadium, he proclaimed himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

The Hall of Fame player who would involuntarily provide the eponym for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis had a terrible foresight, Cassandra's curse, and yet he remained thankful for his other gifts: his incredible athletic ability, the adulation of his fans, the preternatural endurance that allowed him to play in over 2000 consecutive games before an insidious debility crept in. ALS may have arrived like a thief in the night but the decline of his legendary motor skills did not strip him of his accolades, nor rob him of his gratitude.

While I cannot honestly say that I am looking forward to surgery, I am also lucky to have this opportunity at all: I would rather go under the knife electively than walk into a buzzsaw. Regrettably, the vast majority of patients diagnosed with cancer are still ambushed by their malignancy, thousands upon thousands finding it too late to be cured. If even one person is able to detect their pancreatic tumor earlier because this blog and my other shameless social media self-promotion raised their own awareness or their doctor's antennae, then all the exhibitionism will have been worthwhile.

Even when pancreatic cancer is found in its non-metastatic state, many patients still have undergo rigorous preparation for the OR. The contemporary approach to borderline resectable pancreatic adenocarcinoma can involve 4 months of grueling triplet chemotherapy followed by a further 6 weeks of chemoradiation before the cancer is ever considered operable. It's like having to run a marathon of combined-modality treatment to qualify for the Ironman of the Whipple. That my dominant neuroendocrine tumor can be removed without any such preamble is no small blessing.

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They say that the second saddest aspect of a funeral is that the deceased isn't there to hear the eulogy. So many nice things have been said and written to me in these last two weeks that I have to keep checking my pulse to make sure I'm still here. The outpouring of support near & far has buoyed my spirits to no end, even if my body is in need of major repairs.

I might have been given a bad break but I have an awful lot to live for. And that remaining time will be spent trying to adhere to the words of my father, who said so wisely, in the face of his own disease, that:

"Crisis affords the opportunity now, however brief or lengthy, to discard the trivial and the shallow, and to fill every moment and relationship with meaning, intensity, and value."

Mark Lewis5 Comments