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  • 2010 November 18
    From the daily archives: Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Any of you boomers out there remember the song, “What a drag it is getting old”  by the Rolling Stones?

    Nowadays when I think of getting old I get so psyched about it!  I was young when I got cancer, truly.  I was only 45, and I felt as if I was in my prime.  I had made a lot of really great, important changes in my life and it felt like a renaissance of sorts.  I had plenty of stress to deal with, but I also had possibility.  I felt that I had the youth and stamina to start over after a nasty divorce.  I was re-creating myself.

    I didn’t know that I was just shedding some skin.  The real re-creation happened later.

    My youth ended in 2007, and I am now squarely settled into middle age.  Cancer treatment brought early menopause, and the loss of a breast cured me of equating my value with being “hot” as my boyfriend at the time thought I was.  This is not at all a bad thing, although it took some getting used to.

    The most important thing for me about getting old is that I get to do it!  My life could have ended in my youth and strength, and I have been blessed to have the opportunity to get older and complain about it.

    Sometimes I attribute things to lingering side effects of treatment that really belong in the “getting old” category, and vice versa.  I guess it doesn’t really matter.  I have to pay attention, I have to write things down, I have to get enough sleep.  It’s kind of nice, not being under pressure to be the firecracker that I was.  I made people tired just watching me!  I don’t do that anymore, although the 2nd and 3rd graders would probably call me a little crazy, and all they know about my age is that I’m older than Jeremy and Kari.  If I go home and take a nap after playing with them so be it, no one’s the wiser.   Naps are nice.  I like to take them.

    I was older when I had my children.  Tom was younger.  He’s 50, I’m 49, and we have five children between us.  In our home there are two children (mine, now ours) and every so often we get to see his eldest daughter, who we are very close to,  and our delicious grandbaby.  My kid have a nephew at 11 and 13!  I have another daughter to love and a beautiful grandson.

    Sometimes I complain about leftover cancer treatment stuff, like achy joints, fatigue, my brain that resembles a sieve, etc.  He tells me, “That happens to me too, honey.  We’re just getting old!”

    My dear friend Anne is 87 years old.  She has a sister in her 90′s, who is still going strong.  Anne walks with a cane (she calls it “my friend”) and she is four feet ten inches of pure piss’n'vinegar.  She wins bets against me because “I know and you don’t”!  She still does the things she loves to do.  She cooks a mean rack of lamb!  She is a wise lady and a blessing to me.  She is not done with her dear husband of 55 years, Glen.  She’s not done with the people in her life that she loves. Glen and I are thrilled that her early stage lung cancer can get a big zap one time, with new technology and precise measurements, and her cancer will be gone and her lung will be spared.

    Anne is just not done getting old!

    One thing I especially enjoy about getting old is my new habit of  going  more slowly, so I enjoy things more.  Once, in my wild youth, I rode a bicycle from Seattle Washington to San Diego, California.  I saw the entire amazing, beautiful Pacific Coast at about 10 miles an hour.

    It just doesn’t get better than that.


    The day of my cancer immersion (Monday) I was talking with my new friend Norine, and she expressed frustration that she was not feeling better faster. She acknowledged that she felt “a bit blue”. I understand this so well!

    After the heroics, there is the plodding back into life as usual, except that usual is not what it was before. The hordes of supporters get back to thier own lives, and the well-wishers relax a bit, seeing that you’ve successfully weathered the storm. It is not uncommon for the blues to set in, as we adjust to our post cancer lives.

    So why is this up for me right now? Maybe because the process continues to be cyclical. There’s the first bounce back, after treatment is over. Then, settling in to survivorship. After settling into that, I now find myself back into the world of cancer awareness, advocacy, research, other people’s stories, and suddenly the thing I hardly thought about at all is constantly on my mind. Concerning myself with educating people about IBC is bringing me back to how I was snatched from the lion’s mouth myself, thanks to a truly excellent team of doctors who had IBC on thier radar. The last few days I have been grappling with the fear of recurrence, as my brain is steeped in the statistics I so successfully ignored when I was being treated. Suddenly I’m worried about blood tests maybe I should be getting that I’m not. Every little ache and pain takes on huge significance. As I write this, I am remembering my last freak out, which was certainly more warranted, because I was in the riskiest time. Dr. Brown practically had to give me a shake, as she said with a chuckle and some exasperation, “Relax! All your doctors are very happy with your test results!” My pathological report was good, my scans were clear, and I was gripped with terror. IBC is known to bite back, and to do it quickly.

    So why the freak out now, nearly four years later?

    The better my life gets, the more there is to lose. Silly perhaps, but there it is. Many hard knocks in the past have taught me that just when things get good, something bad happens. When I was diagnosed, I decided deep in my bones that this was the last time I was seriously getting hit hard upside the head. This was Persephone’s LAST trip to the underworld dammit, I’m coming out now and staying! At the time I was diagnosed, I was blessed with a very deep faith that all would be well. I didn’t know where that came from. I am convinced that I was simply carried by grace. I told myself that if I got the lesson the teacher would not have to reappear. I don’t know if that was strictly true in the logical sense, but my heart and soul believed it, and I think my body listened. As a result of that decision, my life today is vastly different from what it was. I do things that matter to me. I let my heart direct where I spend my time. I have made the decision not to just leave IBC in the past and forget about it, but to have compassion on those who have yet to be diagnosed, and do my part to see that as many as can be will be diagnosed in time to have a real chance at survival.

    So maybe, because my life is so beautiful to me now, I distrust the changes that I have made, and have backslid into fear. My life used to run on fear. My home was full of fear, my past was full of fear, I was afraid for my children, afraid for me. Fear is an old habit that dies hard. To get well I chose love instead.

    I have to continue to remember what a powerful choice that was. I need to keep choosing it every day, because this day is all any of us have really.

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