I like to close out each year with a mentoring article. Something from the heart, out of the mainstream, and lead into the new year on a positive note.
MarketWatch labeled me a RetireMentor. I enjoy sharing my life experiences, good and bad, in hopes of helping others through their journey.
I’ve had some medical challenges over the last few years. I’ve been blessed with terrific love, support, prayers, and encouragement from our readers. Believe me, it helps…
Around Thanksgiving I sent out a short medical update. Reader Jean F. sent me a link about the origin of the quote, “Old Age Sure Ain’t For Sissies”. No one knows who said it first, however, no one in my peer group would argue with the message.
This year’s message may be a bit different. My hope is people will better understand what aging has become in today’s world.
Coping with life’s challenges and changes while enjoying the rest of the ride is the goal.
We have a group of friends who meet and communicate regularly. Each has their own respective medical issues, cataracts to cancer and much in between. The first order of business is bringing everyone up to date. Modern medical technology has caused a major change in our society, people are living longer.
In 2016, the Social Security Administration told us:
“A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3. A woman turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86.6. And those are just averages. About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95.”
Aging is accompanied by serious medical challenges. Coping with those challenges can not only prolong life, but also quality of life for many years. How many people do we know like friend Chuck Butler who have dealt with cancer for over 15 years, still productive, enjoying life, seeing his children and grandchildren grow up?
What no one talks about
Remember the carnival game “Whack a mole?” A mole pops up out of a hole and you whack it back down with a mallet. Another pops up and you whack it.
The game speeds up and you are whacking away.
As we age, medical challenges are popping up all the time and we keep whacking away, dealing with them. My stepfather passed away in his early 90’s, having dealt with heart issues, lung issues and blind in one eye. He caught a cold and died of pneumonia. Go figure!
In the last few years, I’ve dealt with cancer, prostate issues and recently had a doctor tell me the walls in my heart are thickening. He added, “Perfectly normal for a man your age.” The key is understanding the aging game and get good at playing it. I’m happy to have lived to my age (81), many have not been so lucky.
No one wants to be a burden on their family or endure constant pain. While some diseases don’t go away, the medical field can deal with the symptoms and still preserve quality of life. Things like permanent catheters, pacemakers, wheelchairs, walkers, joint replacements and more have helped millions continue enjoying life for years.
Playing the aging game…
I want to share some tips and experiences that have helped me along so far.
Work hard to keep a positive attitude. When you get a bad diagnosis, it seems normal to react expecting the worst.
When I got diagnosed with cancer, friend and mentor Chuck Butler calmed me down. He helped me realize I know dozens of people with much worse types of cancer, many times uncurable, that have coped, smiled, and dealt with it for years. Dwelling on the negative does not help, look for solutions, whack the immediate challenge and enjoy the rest of your life.
I asked Chuck for some input:
“I realize that I am one of a few that get to live past 5 years, with my original diagnosis… And for that, I am very thankful…
I’ve been fortunate to be treated by good doctors, good medicine, and thousands of prayers on my behalf.
My recent health concern this past summer, had many friends quite concerned… I told them this… “I truly believe that this is the Good Lord testing me to see if I really want to continue to live… And I told him that I intended to live to see my darling granddaughter, Delaney walk down the aisle, to see my grandsons grow to be strong men, and for little Evie to become my best pal, and then I still have more to go when Alex and Grace start having their power children!”
When my tongue cancer disappeared. Chuck didn’t stop there, telling me I am now a cancer survivor and part of my job is to help and mentor others. He wasn’t kidding!
You can’t wish your problems away, but a positive attitude makes a tremendous difference in truly enjoying and appreciating what you have. Some days are tough, but hang in there.
Keep the short term in perspective. When I went through the chemo/radiation, there were plenty of times I told my wife Jo, “I don’t want to live the rest of my life this way.” She constantly reminded me that was why I was going through the treatment, so I could live for many years with a good quality of life. Don’t let short-term pain or discomfort distort the big picture.
You must take responsibility. The hardest part for me is accepting there are certain things you can’t control. No matter how hard you try, you can’t always make bad things go away. I have a friend who has undergone significant challenges, who shrugs her shoulders and says, “What can you do?” Then it is time to explore options for treatment and get on with it with vigor.
Fight the wall of worry. When my kidneys almost shut down, I wore a catheter for three months, accompanied by some unpleasant surgery. In those dark moments, it’s easy to build a wall of worry about the possible outcome. Spending hours constantly worrying does not help one bit. Focus on the solution.
One special tip that helped. I’ve found YouTube to be a blessing. When I get really stressed out, I watch videos of the ocean surf, rain on windows, things that relax the mind and body. Allow yourself to daydream and relax. It works for me.
You can’t change the past. We’ve heard the term, “my life flashed before my very eyes.” Never had that experience, but part of aging is reflecting on our past; good and bad. We can’t relive our youth or change things we wish we had not done. Life does not allow for that. Forgive yourself and others.
We have control over our attitude and behavior from this point forward. If you need to apologize to someone, do it. If you want someone to know how much you love them, tell them. Get rid of the mental baggage, you don’t need to be carrying it for the rest of the journey.
Is the glass half-full or half-empty? I’ve observed many friends who are happy, enjoying the aging process despite a myriad of challenges. I’ve concluded the glass is as full as you allow it to be. Your attitude about life will be reflected by the people around you.
Frank Sinatra sang a wonderful song, “I’m gonna live till I die!” Why not. I mentioned to Chuck how some people feel sorry for me, whispering, “He’s dying of cancer.” Chuck said, “I always try to correct them, telling them no, I am LIVING with cancer.”
Yesterday I went in for the results of my recent Pet Scan. I have one small cancerous spot in my lung which needs a biopsy, and they will zap it with radiation. The doctor told us to go enjoy Christmas with the family in Indiana, have fun, we will deal with it in January. We are ecstatic!
I then headed to the chemo room for my regular infusion. It’s a large room with easy chairs and patients hooked up to bags being treated. It can be very depressing. I overheard a conversation that got to me.
A young man was seated nearby. An attendant said, “I’m really sorry you have to be here for your 25th birthday.” In a very determined voice, he responded, “No, it’s OK, I’m delighted to be here and alive on my 25th birthday.” I couldn’t look up. I shuttered as a tear ran down my cheek.
One of my grandchildren graduates from high school in 2023. I plan on being there. There will be plenty of grandparents attending, maybe with wheelchairs, walkers, and being helped up and down steps. They are the happiest and proudest people in the audience. They get it.
Old age may not be for sissies, but those with a good attitude, making the most of what they have left is what life is all about.
Charles C. sent me a cool quote, “If hard times only make you stronger, I should be able to whip Superman’s ass by now.”
I hope the holiday season is a wonderful time for everyone, cherish the family time together. You are making forever memories. That is cool!
May 2022 be happy, healthy, prosperous and fun for all.