The Golden Years
Most of us will agree we don’t want to grow old. Of course, we never think that when we are young.
Growing up, I wasted my years away, always wishing to be older.
First, it was, I can’t wait to be ten. Ten was a double-digit. Then it was, I can’t wait until I’m sixteen. At sixteen, you learn how to drive and obtain a learner’s permit. In my case, I was given permission to wear makeup and shave my very hairy legs.
After sixteen, it was eighteen (to move out on my own), twenty-one (to drink in a bar), and twenty-nine. I wanted to stop at twenty-nine, but as we well know, that never happens unless we die.
I couldn’t wait until I hit retirement age when I worked all those years.
Now that I’m in my sixties and retired, I wonder who came up with the saying, “these are our Golden Years.”
These so-called ‘Golden Years’ are nothing but. I’m regularly at a doctor’s office, and I hate it.
At forty-seven, I discovered a lump in my right breast. I went to the doctor, who brushed it off as a fluid-filled cyst. Fifteen months later, the lump, the size of a large lime, turned out to be Lobular cancer, undetectable by a mammogram and, apparently, negligent doctors.
For the next nine months, aggressive chemo and radiation caused me to miss my forty-seventh year altogether. It was filled with doctor appointments, treatments, blood work, illness from the chemo, and fatigue from the radiation. On my forty-eighth birthday, my wish was never to live through that year again.
My life changed drastically, though few people know this. I was an avid runner, my joints were too painful to continue my preferred exercise course due to the hormone inhibitors I was taking. So, I took up walking and biking.
The depression, at times, was unbearable. I had gained over sixty pounds from the steroids I received during chemo. It didn’t matter what I did as far as eating healthy or other forms of working out; the weight refused to come off. My bloated face finally subsided, but I was still obese. Morbidly obese, one doctor called me.
I had opted to do a double mastectomy with reconstruction. This was a two-year ordeal. My plastic surgeon tried different ways to get my breasts to look halfway normal. Complications with expanders and radiated breast tissue are normal. Honestly, if I had better self-esteem back then, I would have stayed flat and tattooed my chest into a flower garden.
Finally, the implants worked, and I thought it looked like I had Barbie breasts; I never had to worry about the cold weather or wearing a sweater again. Of course, I couldn’t participate in a wet tee-shirt contest either. Three years later, I purchased my first bra. I dreaded it because I didn’t know how my breasts would look in a bra.
At Macy’s in San Francisco, a saleswoman was an angel sent from up above. I told her my dilemma, and she took good care of me. I found out later that Macy’s and Nordstrom’s have special training for ladies in the lingerie department to deal with breast cancer survivors. Lucky me!
I still had six-month appointments for blood work and yearly appointments for ultrasounds through my fifties. Tumor markers are checked to ensure the cancer isn’t growing some place else. Cancer is sneaky.
Planter Faucitis hit my feet after a sixty-mile walk with Susan G. Komen for breast cancer. By the time I walked into camp on the second day, my feet were numb. Twenty-two miles in one day was too much for my poor, beat-up body. It took years to get my feet back to a somewhat normal place. I still can’t walk barefoot, and my shoes need to have a high arch in them.
Since my fifties, I’ve had numerous other ailments that required surgery. My feet, gallbladder, and implants needed to be replaced. There was constant hissing in my ears. I endured hours of sitting in a dentist’s chair because of my teeth breaking off from the chemo. Most of these gifts are from cancer.
The most recent problem has been the pain in my lower back and hip joints whenever I try to walk. My hips burn, and my lower back pain almost cripples me. Fun times. I can walk half a block before having to stop and rest. The good part is I don’t have to rest long, a few seconds at most, and then I can continue walking another half block.
In March, I told my primary care doctor about my hip pain at my husband’s insistence. He got tired of hearing me complain about it whenever we walked anywhere.
X-rays were taken, but they didn’t show any problems. Hip injections were the next step to see if the pain was coming from my hips or lower back. These injections worked wonderfully. I was instantly out of pain in all areas and felt like Wonder Woman. I spent four hours weeding my back flower beds that weekend. We went downtown and walked around. I was in heaven. I hadn’t realized how long I had been in pain – five years.
The injections lasted thirty days. The pain came back with a vengeance. They scheduled me for an MRI, which showed I have a Labral tendon tear on both sides. Surgery would provide immediate relief if it was successful. However, because of my age, insurance may not approve the surgery. See, it’s a wear and tear issue. The extensive running on concrete and asphalt, the long distances walks, the softball, and the golfing cause a torn labral. All of which I did daily.
And least I forget the cataract surgery I had last summer, which wasn’t as successful as I had hoped. Our eyes have a gelatinous film that sits on the back of our eyeballs. As we age, this glob can come loose, and as it moves around your retina, it causes blurry vision, as cataracts do.
The eye doctor waited almost a year before finally zapping it last week. I saw great for two days, and the glob was back. I feel it’s a no-win situation at this point.
Honestly, I shouldn’t complain too much. Some people have it much worse. Each day when I slowly crawl out of bed and I can feel anything, including pain, reminds me I’m still alive to see another day. I’m still alive to kiss my husband, talk to my grandbabies, and make more memories with family and friends.
So, for now, I’ll pop another Naltrexone or eat another CBD gummy to keep the pain at arm’s length.
And to the advertising company who came up with the slogan ‘these are the golden years,‘ my reply back to them, ‘False advertising!’