As an adult, I’ve been pretty lucky health-wise. No major issues regarding illness, disease, prescription meds. Sure, I had major back surgery in 2016. Herniated discs are no fun, let me tell you. And the fear that I’d forever walk with a serious limp was very real, but the surgery happened just a little over a month after I started having the numbness, then the serious pain. Within a couple weeks of the surgery the limp went away.
As a kid, that was different.
I was hospitalized when I was 4 or 5 the week of Christmas with pneumonia. To this day I can’t forget lying in an oxygen tent(imagine a real tent, but smaller and made of clear plastic) as docs, nurses, and maybe my mom stood around it looking in at me. I also had over 6 ear surgeries between the ages of 4 and 11 for chronic ear infections. Besides all that, I had asthma and was prone to getting Bronchitis which I would get two or three times during the winter. My family practice doc was ready to diagnose me with Leukemia because of all the breathing issues I was having at 4-years old before my mom told him to test me for allergies(thanks mom.)
As I got older the illnesses got less. I did have a run of ear infections over a few years, but since 2008 those have all but stopped. So to say I’ve been lucky in my health might be an overstatement, but in the scheme of things over the last decade and a half it has’t been terrible.
But I seem to be reminded of my mortality on a regular basis lately. I come home to a elder dog that seems to be losing his hearing. He no longer greets me at the door like he used to, mainly because he doesn’t hear the garage door go up anymore. Yesterday someone rang the doorbell and he stood silently eating his after work treat. He’s still pretty spry for an old guy, but not seeing him at the door barking at me with excitement is a reality check that he’s not the pup he once was.
Kind of like me.
A month ago my best friend had a health scare and for about two weeks we thought he might have cancer. I won’t go into great detail, but I’ll just say this: fellas, make sure you do daily checks of the family jewels, aight? Well, what he thought was going to be cancer turned out to be something completely different and something that will go away with time. As far as I know, our boy does still have a kidney stone he’s waiting to pass so that’s exciting.
Not more than a couple weeks later one of my other very close friends, and one I’ve worked with for the past 23 years, found out that he does have cancer. He had a spot on his neck that had swollen up, right near where his glands are. He assumed it was from allergies, and when he saw his doc he was sent to get an ultrasound of the lump. Then an MRI and CT scan. Finally the week between Christmas and New Years he went in for a biopsy. A week later he was told the lump was cancerous and he needs to get it removed immediately.
My friend met with both an ENT doc and an Oncologist last night, so I guess I’ll know more about it later today when I see him. He seems overall pretty positive about it, knowing this thing was discovered very early. He had a chest scan earlier this summer as a precaution since he’s been a smoker for probably 40 years. That came up clean, as did a colonoscopy he had in the fall. So this cancer(small cell carcinoma) is pretty fresh and hopefully will be a surgery, a bit of radiation, and that’s it.
With all this aging and medical scares surrounding me I’m feeling pretty raw; pretty vulnerable. It’s like I’m in a gun fight, everyone around me are getting wounded and I’m waiting for that stray bullet with my name engraved on it to find its way to me. I’m hearing about a lot of cancer diagnosis’ lately, and that’s kind of scary. Like, instead of “The McRib is back!” it’s “Cancer is back!” I never liked the McRib. And I absolutely hate cancer.
I’m at the age now where when anything bothers me I’m wondering if this is when that one big, life-changing “thing” is going to happen. So what that means is that I’m on red alert 100% of the time because I’m almost 50 and lots of things hurt, ache, swell, make me uncomfortable, and so on and so forth. Over time things start breaking down; one day it’s my left shoulder, then the next day it’s my right shoulder. Knees swap pain back and forth like the Harlem Globetrotters running down the court with the ball. My dad comes over every Saturday. He’s 76, and seems to be tilted forward a little more each time he comes over. He fell off the goddamned roof of their house in 2019 trying to clear a tree limb that fell in a storm. I guess he’s lucky that he landed in a bush instead of directly on the ground, but his back hasn’t been the same since. And this happened about two weeks before he was going in for a corneal reattachment.
I mean, I guess I’m lucky that the biggest health issues in my parents lives are tendon and joint issues. My dad has had knee, elbow, Achilles heal, and bone spur surgeries over the last 15 years. No heart or nervous system or CANCER issues. Mom, well she had a bone spur removed from the side of her foot. Screws were involved. It sounded painful. Her issues have been her feet, and knowing she’s a lifetime walker I’ve been buying really expensive, comfortable walking/running shoes for the last couple years now. Maybe that will cut down my chances of spurs and hammer toes and whatever else foot ailments are lurking in the dark. Though, I’m already dealing with a bunion, so there’s that.
I don’t know, I think I might be an empath. I take the fear and worry on pretty heavy from others. I mean, I feel it. It’s normal to feel worry for friends and family when they’re going through a crisis, health or otherwise, but I’m on a whole other level. I just want everyone to be well and happy and fulfilled, and when something stops that from happening I’m in the dumps. It’s like it goes beyond empathizing. I take on the fear. Am I a “fear-eater”? Is that a thing? Fear-eating? There’s sin-eaters, but maybe there’s a sub category of fear-eaters. I don’t know. I’m rambling now.
It’s just been pretty heavy lately with the friends in distress, health scares, and just the general reminder that we’re not on this rock forever. The holidays were even stressful, and yet another subtle reminder that everyone is getting older and time alone is becoming more prevalent. I like time alone. A good two, three hours for making art, writing, playing music, or binging on a movie that nobody else wants to watch is solid alone time. But after two or three hours I start to get a little down. It must be why our dog is so much more cuddlier in his old age. He knows time is precious when you’re old, so be as close to those you love as much and often as you can.
I think that’s the key, honestly. Don’t waste time doing what you don’t want or what makes you feel bad. If you don’t want to go that party, or hang out with that person, or go to that event, then don’t. Be responsible to your responsibilities, but short of that don’t waste time on this earth feeling slogged down. Be with those you love and who love you, and make your lives as full as you can. If playing guitar sitting on the bed on a rainy day makes you feel good, then do it. Skydiving? Jump out of that goddamn plane, man. Hiking on trails that feel prehistoric, then by all means indulge in some great hiking shoes and hit the trails. Indulge yourself and your eccentricities. We aren’t made up of things we attend and engagements we make. We’re made up of our eccentricities and how often we indulge them. Do things that matter, not to those around you or the outside world, but that matter to you(not that service to others can’t be what makes you happy, but don’t let that take over taking care of yourself as well.) Do things that set fire to your head and heart. I think that’s the key getting through life without fear and worry eating you up from the inside out.
And also, be as close to those you love as much and often as you can. And give them treats when you go out to the kitchen. They like treats.
2 thoughts on “Check-In 2 : We’re No Spring Chickens”
Hope its good news for you pal J. My dad one time was cleaning snow off the roof and the ladder gave way and he tumbled and broke his leg. ( he had no one holding the ladder of course) and after two knee replacements at the age of 75 its been downhill for him. Now he’s 83 with colitis and my mom has dementia and they both are still at home. This year will be interesting as my sister and I are trying to give them options but they don’t want to leave the house…
See what happens….
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That’s the worst. You hate feeling like you’re running their lives, but at the same time you know it’s for their best interests. My parents are fortunately still in relative good health, but dad certainly couldn’t take another fall like that again. Oddly enough, that’s what did his dad(my grandfather) in. A fall from a roof. Maybe it’s the family curse?
Anyways, hope you can get your parents to a safer situation.
And thanks. His prognosis is very good, but it’ll be a trudge through surgery, radiation and chemo to get there.
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