Today (November 8), I’m turning 80. With a family that has long-life genes, I’m not surprised I lived this long. However, I doubt if I’ll reach my mom’s age of 105 with no Alzheimer’s. My dad reached 91, but he’d had Alzheimer’s for several years before he died, as did his sister and my mom’s sister. So, with Alzheimer’s on both sides and having had a serious cancer seven years ago, I will probably develop another serious cancer and/or Alzheimer’s and not live as long as my mom. That’s not being morbid, that’s just being realistic. I’ve always been a practical realist who sees the glass as half full.
On this milestone birthday, I will not have a milestone meltdown. I did that when I was 10. On my 10th birthday in 5th grade, the spelling word for the day was “decade.” The teacher explained that is what you called a time span of 10 years. Then she went on to say that people lived about eight or nine decades. I was horrified, I had just used up one of my precious decades and only had seven or eight left. I was devastated for days but kept it to myself. What was actually happening was that I realized that someday I would die. It happens to everybody and is always difficult to accept. So, I had my milestone birthday meltdown at an early age and haven’t had another since.
When I had late-stage lymphoma seven years ago, the doctor told me it had been developing for at least a year and possibly two. I had been too busy with other things to pay close attention to myself. There had been signs that all was not well, but I totally ignored them. Well, not any more. That was one of the life-lessons learned when I survived the cancer. So, I’m trying to pay closer attention to my body these days.
When I had my wellness checkup this past summer with my young, doctor that I’ve had for the past year––ever since my beloved Dr. Pearson retired––I whipped out my list. This is a doctor who listens. So here were my health concerns: Dry eye eye drops not working so good, varicose veins ugly and getting worse, think I should have one more colonoscopy, and since I will probably need cataracts soon, will I need to go through him.
- Dry eyes: He suggested I use the dry eye gel at night as well as the drops during the day, which I’ve started doing. Not much difference so far.
- Colonoscopy: They don’t usually schedule colonoscopies once you’re past 75. I think their reasoning is that most people only live eight or nine decades and because it takes about a decade for a pre-cancerous polyp to develop into a cancer, most people will have died of something else. Well, I sure-as-hell don’t want to die of colon cancer some time in my late eighties when I might have lived longer. I had two pre-cancerous polyps last time plus a number of others removed. So, I’m at risk and asking for one more. I have a telehealth consult scheduled this week.
- My varicose veins six years ago: During my recuperation from cancer after I had completed chemo, Dr. Pearson recommended I see a vein specialist in Eugene. I did. They spent no more than 20 minutes examining me and blew me off by saying I only had spider veins and anything they could do would be considered cosmetic, which my insurance would not cover. That was that, . . . until last year on April 3, 2020. That’s when a vein started spewing blood across the shower and did not stop. It took a heavy-duty pressure bandage to stop it and five months to heal.
- My varicose veins today: The veins are worse and there are many more of them. My new doctor referred me to a different vein specialist in Springfield. This time around, I had to fill out two hour’s-worth of paperwork, and the physician assistant who examined me asked questions based on my paperwork in his hands. He was most impressed with the spewing vein and how long it took to heal. I was then scheduled to wear a heart monitor for two weeks, since I had mentioned in the paperwork that sometimes I have a feeling like I might pass out and thought it might be my heart. Evidently, my heart was not the problem. Then I was scheduled for an ultrasound and an appointment with a surgeon. The ultrasound found I had problems in both legs, of which one problem could be helped with procedures involving a laser that could be done in the office and would not be considered cosmetic. Yay! Since that appointment, the procedures have been scheduled and will take place in Springfield in December during a three-week period.
- Cataracts: My doctor won’t be involved, just kept in the loop. I’ve just had my yearly eye appointment on this, and, yes, I do need cataract surgery. I just filled out the paperwork for that and will be meeting for a consult regarding the surgery here in Florence in December.
- Skin cancers: A few weeks ago, I had my six-month checkup for skin cancers. As usual, my dermatologist found some. Two pre-cancerous skin cancers on one arm were zapped with liquid nitrogen and a biopsy was taken of a potential basal cell skin cancer on my nose. Since it turned out to be a basal cell skin cancer, I have an appointment to go to in Eugene to have it taken care of with Mohs surgery just before Thanksgiving. I will then have a five Mohs nose, as it will be the fifth Mohs surgery on my nose.
So, for the next few months, I’m taking care of me. Because the varicose veins procedure involves five different appointments on both sides of the Christmas holiday, I will not be driving to California like I planned. That is a disappointment.
How am I going to spend my birthday after I finish writing this? Well, after I run some errands this morning, I’m going to do a crossword puzzle, since I just love doing them. Then, I’m going to soak in my walk-in tub and read for as long as I want. Then, I planned to have a seafood dinner that I would fix from what I picked-up at the Krab Kettle. Well, the Krab Kettle is closed from November 1–14. So, I will get their freshest catch on November 15 and celebrate my birthday again. A friend will be taking me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday tomorrow, November 9, since the restaurant we want to go to is closed Mondays. Apparently, I’ll be celebrating all month.
When I look back over my life, I have no regrets. I wanted to be a teacher, and I majored in elementary education while in college and taught second grade for five years and first grade for 17 years in the school district that I wanted to teach in. I got married right after college and that lasted 12 years before ending in divorce. When he wanted to get back together a couple years later, it was not in my lesson plan. I did remarry after a few years and when my second husband retired, we moved to Florence, Oregon, in 1985.
Once in Florence, a neighbor talked me into taking a class in creative writing, which led to joining a writer’s group. That led to becoming a magazine editor and staff writer for the next 21 years for Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines. I loved being able to travel all over the Northwest and up and down the Oregon coast researching and writing stories. During that time, my second husband became seriously ill numerous times and passed away in 2001. I was his caregiver off and on for 14 years, and the last couple, I had to hire a caregiver while I was at work. Those were difficult years.
Since I left the magazines in 2009, I’ve written six books. And that was not in my lesson plan. I got talked into writing the first one, which led to the next one, and so on. And I find that not only do I enjoy writing books, but I enjoy doing PowerPoint programs about them and selling them at various venues. Who knew!
At this point, I’m living where I want to live and doing what I want to do. What could be better! I intend to live the rest of my life to the fullest.
One of my role models is Grandma Moses, who started a career as a serious artist when she was nearly 80!