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Cancer or Aging?

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I had cancer once.  It was hard and beautiful and frightening and interesting.  I experienced so much pain it nearly sent me out of my mind.  Other times the quality of discomfort and strangeness in my body was so curious to me I became a study of myself.  And then twenty-six days ago I turned 50.

Aging Is Weird

Aging is weird.  One day you can do a cartwheel and then the next day you can’t.  Who cares that 20 years have gone by.  Tell that to my brain who still thinks my cousins are all 8-12 ish. (They’re almost the same age as me).  Also, I have readers in every room, my car, and my purse.  You know those spinny racks in the Walgreens at the ends of aisles in the pharmacy holding all manner of magnification within very ordinary frames.  I used to just need them to read fine print. Now I am using them for all print, for baking, for looking in the refrigerator, for mostly everything.  Greg is bugging me to see an eye doctor and I just might do it.

When I had cancer, my eyes were irritated and infected all the time.  It was one of many side effects of chemo that I experienced.  That’s when all the readers began to show up around my house.  And yet, I’m sight challenged more than ever though I’ve been done with chemo for nearly 3 years now.  Cancer or aging?

Cancer Treatments Are Not Easy

And then there are the aches in my body that I wake up to every morning.  Cancer leftovers or aging?  I had a terrible side-effect to one of my chemo medications.  It was one of those moments they give you a form to sign that says something to the effect of, only 1 in 10 billion people experience this possible side effect and if that’s you, please don’t sue us.  I signed the form.  I had been getting chemotherapy for months by that time, and it wasn’t enjoyable, but it also wasn’t gutting me. 

This drug gutted me.  It was the worst searing, cramping pain that I had ever felt.  And I needed to get through too many more sessions of it.  I remember sitting in the chemo room, doubled over, trying to breathe steadily for another hour or so, tears streaming out of my eyes onto the floor.  The lady next to me felt so bad for me.  My nurse offered to stop the treatment, but I knew I’d never finish it if I couldn’t find a way through in that moment.  After that I could either do half doses that would take twice as long, or double doses that would take half the time.  For me, the best way through a thing that is too big for me is straight through it.  I did the double doses and finished with a triple dose.  It was awful but I survived it and then it was done.  After that, though, as the poison spread through and lingered in my body, a wave of pain came with it that did not leave for a too long time. 

Living On The Earth

But living on the Earth for many decades is hard on a body too.  We have to deal with gravity and weird stuff in our food and water.  The longer we’re here the more we fade.  That’s simply the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  It’s like the drug waiver at the cancer center and we all have to sign it to live here.   So when I wake up sore in the mornings, or creak around the house throughout the day, or have that little catch in my shoulders when I reach too high, I wonder if that’s the consequence of cancer treatments talking, or just good old fashioned aging.

I could go on and on.  My brain isn’t as clear as it was.  I mostly can’t multitask anymore.  My fingernails are ridgy and brittle.  And so on, and so on, and so on.  Meanwhile I just turned 50 and an interesting phenomenon is taking place.  I’m not puzzling over the aging or chemo debate as much.  I’m feeling a little more at home in a body that is 10 more pounds than I’d like it to be.  There’s no reason not to go to an eye doctor to get a real prescription for glasses so that I can see the world clearly – maybe it will even give my brain a little boost in clarity. 

It’s Good To Be 50

I’m 50.  I’ve lived here for half a century.  It has been hard as hell.  I have learned and failed and grown.  I’ve been sick and wounded and healed.  I have born witness to beauty that has taken my breath away.  All of this is me.  All of this is me wrapped in a woman-shaped package with scars everywhere and a twinkle in my eyes.  So, I’m owning it.  All of it.  And though some days are harder than others, I’m really glad to be here with you.

If you’ve been really sick, or wounded, or healed, let’s be friends ~

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