All good things must come to an end. That title made for a killer final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it neatly encapsulates my next installment in the Levangie chronicles.
The first phase of my experimental drug trial finished today and, if it began with cautious optimism, it died with a sharp jab and an inaudible sigh. After untold thousands of dollars in injections, I find myself full circle, ending at the beginning, with a benign neuro-endocrine tumor that will continue to grow until it runs out of room and causes serious damage.
If you’re thinking: Wait a second, wait a second! Levangie recently said it was stable, that it hadn’t shown any dramatic signs of growth over the last six months, you’d be correct. During the trial, the medication fought the little bugger — er, I’m sorry, Wall-E, the adorable little neuro-endocrine tumor — to a standstill in a bare-knuckles, barroom brawl. I’d be amiss if didn’t express my gratitude for the exemplary care that I’ve received and this one chance to avoid difficult surgery.
In fact, I’m still avoiding surgery. I have entered the second phase of the study, with the understanding that I’m unlikely to finish it. My charming Kristina and I are going to try to bank some money, and get our financial house in order, so I can go under the knife in the New Year. How sad to say that the almighty dollar will be my guiding light! But we came so close to big trouble in August, and I simply can’t sit through an encore performance. That would akin to suffering through a Bridezilla marathon, and that’s saying something I hate even thinking about.
Of course, I know some of you might hope that, by dint of good fortune or the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary (my family’s Catholic, you know), that this story will end well. And it might. After all, the Bosox did win the World Series again.
But even in my religious days, I’ve never bought into miracles. I trust in science, in all that I can touch and feel. Yet I still believe life holds more than meets the eye. So I’m going to try to fill my life with small joys, and to direct this joy inward and outward, where it might do some good. If the migraines and facial pain diminish in intensity, I will hold fast to the path that brought relief, and hope that the tumor becomes less of an issue in my life.
But it’s highly unlikely to disappear, and so a core truth remains. The drug trial has to end, if not now, then when the drug hits the market in one or two years time, and the bottom line will put it well beyond my reach. Again, I’m left to ponder why the universe decided to make me brilliant instead of rich, since I clearly have a high-maintenance body.
Kristina and I have already enjoyed some interesting conversations. She sees this as nothing more than a complicated carpentry problem that can be solved with a little skill and some fancy drill attachments. I tried to steer the conversation to Kitchen Aid appliances, which somehow feel friendlier and more benign. When she refused to refocus, I decided not to tell her that a mosquito had latched on and was trying to suck her dry.
If we sound a touch unfeeling, we’re not. It is the nature of our relationship. I find an exquisite lightness in her black humor, and she keeps me from feeling sorry for myself in an unfair world where one billion souls go hungry every day.
So it’s time to suck it up, to seek out the steely eyed resolve that I know I possess. It could be a lot, lot worse. I doubt this even falls into my top five challenges. I don’t have any doubt that surgery will be successful.
Mostly it’s a time to be grateful, to laugh easily and often, and to appreciate friends and family, especially the ones who read my never-ending stories. Most of you haven’t met me, yet you still find time to touch me with kind words and a sweet remembrance or two.
Photo: A Portrait of the Artist as a, er, Youngish Man. My 40th birthday.